Emmys Fresh Faces: 25 First-Time Nominees

by IMDb-Contributing-Writers | last updated - 15 Jul 2016

Congrats to first-time Emmy nominees, including Rami Malek, Aziz Ansari, Ellie Kemper, Kit Harington, and Tom Hiddleston. Check out the other newcomers vying for Emmy awards this year. — by Sharon Knolle

26 images

Rami Malek in Mr. Robot (2015)

Rami Malek, "Mr. Robot" (Nominated, Lead Actor in a Drama Series)

It's no surprise that Malek, who's already been nominated for a Golden Globe and SAG award for his mesmerizing turn as hacker Elliot, would add an Emmy nomination to his growing list of accolades.

"As an actor, you look for a role like this," Malek said in a recent interview. "This is like the joker in the deck. It's the card everyone wants. I look forward to that, every day to play a character with such substance. He's so conflicted, he's dark and grieving and in pain, and still trying to change the world."

Season 2 of "Mr. Robot" premiered on July 13.

Matthew Rhys in The Americans (2013)

Matthew Rhys, "The Americans" (Nominated, Lead Actor in a Drama Series)

"In Russia, FOURTH time is apparently the charm," Rhys joked of not getting his first nod until the fourth season of the critically lauded FX spy series. "That and if you throw enough Borscht, something sticks," he added. "Failing that, do what I did and send Liev Schreiber to visit Emmy voters with a baseball bat," a reference to Schreiber's hard-hitting character on "Ray Donovan," who is competing with him in this category.

Keri Russell in The Americans (2013)

Keri Russell, "The Americans" (Nominated, Lead Actress in a Drama Series)

She won a Golden Globe in 1999 for her title role in "Felicity," but the Emmys overlooked Russell, until now. Her performance as resourceful Russian spy Elizabeth Jennings is the role of her career, netting her non-stop accolades and possibly her first Emmy statue.

Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager (2016)

Tom Hiddleston, "The Night Manager" (Nominated, Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie)

Hiddleston is terrific as a hotelier-turned-spy in this mini-series based on the John le Carré novel. The role sparked talk that the actor, who's drawn raves for his portrayal of villainous Loki in "Thor" and "The Avengers," might be just the man for another spy mission: The next 007.

Cuba Gooding Jr. in American Crime Story (2016)

Cuba Gooding Jr., "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" (Nominated, Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie)

Since wining a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 1996's Jerry Maguire, great roles have been elusive for the actor. Until now. "It took me a month and half to shake O.J. Simpson from my psyche," he told Deadline. "It really did, because it was the darkest role that I had ever done, and yet I still am proud of what I did, even though I still feel the residual in my psyche."

David Schwimmer and Courtney B. Vance in American Crime Story (2016)

Courtney B. Vance, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" (Nominated, Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie)

The actor, who was a stand-out on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Flash Forward," told Interview magazine, "It's one of the roles of a lifetime to be able to play someone like Mr. Cochran who was so influential. People knew about his work in regard to police brutality. He was very much a staple in the community — someone who, if there was trouble, people knew, 'Go get Johnnie Cochran.'"

Kit Harington in Game of Thrones (2011)

Kit Harington, "Game of Thrones" (Nominated, Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)

Looks like dying and coming back to life made an impression on Emmy voters. Viewers were thrilled that Jon Snow wasn't really dead after all. Harington, along with the rest of the cast, has previously been nominated for four SAG ensemble awards.

His reaction to the nomination? As he said in statement: "It is a serious understatement to say that I am somewhat stunned. For my work on 'Game of Thrones' to be recognized in this way is an emotional moment for me. I could not be more humbled."

Sterling K. Brown in American Crime Story (2016)

Sterling K. Brown, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" (Nominated, Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie)

Brown was so good as prosecutor Christopher Darden, we sometimes forgot we weren't watching the real trial. Sarah Paulson, who was also nominated for her role as Marcia Clark, told AP she was far more excited for Brown's nod than her own.

The NY Post raved, "The real scene-stealer was Sterling K. Brown. As odd-man-out Christopher Darden, he had the audacity and talent to move us."

Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones (2011)

Maisie Williams, "Game of Thrones" (Nominated, Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)

As Arya Stark's story gets more harrowing — she's lost nearly her entire family along with her eyesight — it's fantastic to see Williams get some recognition. Williams, now 19, made her professional acting debut on the show, and whatever happens to Arya, we see great things ahead for this actress.

She said she was "beyond words" over her first nomination.

Constance Zimmer

Constance Zimmer, "UnREAL" (Nominated, Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)

The actress (whose previous credits include "Entourage" and "House of Cards") nearly passed on the role of ruthless reality TV show producer Quinn King. She told The Hollywood Reporter, "To be perfectly honest, when it came to me, I said, 'I'm not doing a show on Lifetime!' I didn't even read it." Good thing she changed her mind!

How would her character react to the nomination? "I think Quinn would have popped a bottle of champagne and drank it herself," said Zimmer. "She wouldn't return any calls or reply to any texts. There'd be some sort of 'I told you so, period' email that went out to everybody at the network."

Kirsten Dunst in Fargo (2014)

Kirsten Dunst, "Fargo" (Nominated, Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie)

This FX series, writes the NY Post, "offered Kirsten Dunst, as batty beautician Peggy Blomquist, the chance to reinvent herself as a comic actress and Dunst embraced the change. She was hilarious."

"I knew from the beginning it was going to be special," Dunst told an interviewer. "The writing on that show is so great and the character was so unique. Things just don’t get written that often for women to play. It was just so fun and there was so much for me to do and play in that role."

Olivia Colman in The Night Manager (2016)

Olivia Colman, "The Night Manager" (Nominated, Supporting Actress, Limited Series or Movie)

Hard to believe Colman wasn't nominated for the emotional turn on "Broadchurch" that won her a BAFTA, but she was too good for Emmy voters to ignore in this terrific mini-series as a dogged agent determined to bring down a ruthless arms dealer at all costs.


John Travolta, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" (Nominated, Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie)

Travolta, who hadn't done TV since his breakout role on "Welcome Back, Kotter" in the '70s, told Parade that what appealed to him about playing legendary attorney Robert Shapiro was his ego. "I’ve been around enough of his type of man in the legal world and in the show business world ... I felt like I could get an angle on it that would work."

His favorite scene? "In Episode 7, I actually blackmail Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer, who is also nominated), which was the most despicable moment I’ve ever had in my acting career. I can’t believe that the character actually leverages him to try to settle, to convince the team to settle."

Jesse Plemons in Fargo (2014)

Jesse Plemons, "Fargo" (Nominated, Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie)

Plemons is long overdue for some awards recognition after solid supporting work on "Breaking Bad" and "Friday Night Lights," and the role of small-town butcher Ed Blumquist proved to be the ticket.

The actor told Vulture, "It seemed like a part I'd never really done before and a part that definitely has an interesting arc and journey. It was kind of a no-brainer, taking this genuinely good-hearted man and dragging him through this horrible ride and seeing how he manages."

Ellie Kemper in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)

Ellie Kemper," Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" (Nominated, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)

Last year, her co-star Tituss Burress (who's nominated for the second time this year) called the fact that Kemper didn't get nominated "the snub of all snubs."

Upon hearing she got the nod, Kemper was quick with the jokes, saying, "By the way, with this nomination, I’ve already won… a complimentary round-trip flight to Los Angeles, plus accommodations!" That's the spirit!

Tracee Ellis Ross in Black-ish (2014)

Tracee Ellis Ross, "Black-ish" (Nominated for: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)

Anthony Anderson got to announce not only his own nomination (his second) this year, but that of his TV wife on the ABC sitcom.

"I clapped like a crazy person when Anthony’s name was said and screamed like a crazy person," Ross told the LA Times. "And the fact that he got to say my name was so special. I danced around my coffee table and opened my front door and walked outside. Then I realized I didn’t know where I was going, so I walked back inside. And I called my mom."

Aziz Ansari in Master of None (2015)

Aziz Ansari, "Master of None" (Nominated, Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)

The former "Parks and Recreation" star is up for 3 nominations for his Netflix series in its first season. Not too shabby!

He shared his reaction to the nominations with THR: "The win for me really was getting to make this show, which is so personal, and having people respond the way they did when it came out. Yeah, there's someone who could watch an episode of our show like the parents episode and say, 'this is too weird' or 'this won’t relate to a mainstream audience,' but it's like, 'You know what? F— you. We got nominated for Emmys. It worked.'"

Thomas Middleditch in Silicon Valley (2014)

Thomas Middleditch, "Silicon Valley" (Nominated, Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)

"It feels pretty strange," the actor said of being nominated, and then shared that the morning of the nominations was straight out of a sitcom.

"To be truthful, I was kind of sleeping [when the nominations came out]... Actually, I had just gotten up because one of my dogs had peed in the bed. So I was actually cleaning urine out of my sheets when I checked my messages. And then I saw there were enough missed calls and messages that I was like, 'Oh no, did someone die?' I really thought something terrible had happened. But it was a pleasant surprise that it was a bunch of congrats."

Louie Anderson and Martha Kelly in Baskets (2016)

Louie Anderson, "Baskets" (Nominated, Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series)

On the FX series, the comedian plays Christine Baskets, the mother of an embittered rodeo clown (played by Zach Galifianakis).

"I feel like this part gave me an opportunity to play the most real person — a really real person," Anderson told NPR, revealing he drew on memories of his late mother for the role. "I really loved playing this part for a big reason that my mom gets to come to life."

Matt Walsh in Veep (2012)

Matt Walsh, "Veep" (Nominated, Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series)

After five seasons of abuse, Mike McLintock, the put-upon press secretary to president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is finally getting some respect. Or at least the actor playing him is, thanks to his first Emmy nomination.

"He gets beaten up a lot," Walsh told Gold Derby. "I think the writers enjoy that and I enjoy playing it. He is constantly being humiliated."

Bokeem Woodbine in Fargo (2014)

Bokeem Woodbine, "Fargo" (Nominated, Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie)

The role of '70s mob henchman Mike Milligan, "was something I didn’t see coming," Woodbine told Variety. "It was kind of like dreaming with your eyes open. From the moment I first saw the audition sheet, throughout the entire process, up 'til now, it almost doesn’t seem real. ... I've been doing this 27 years now, that makes me pretty savvy. I generally know what’s coming next. It's hard to sneak up on me. This came out of nowhere and really knocked me for a loop in the best possible way."

The actor calls himself a "lucky, lucky cat" to have been able to play the part.

Kevin Spacey and Mahershala Ali in House of Cards (2013)

Mahershala Ali, "House of Cards" (Nominated, Guest Actor in a Drama Series)

The actor, who has a recurring role as Presidential-aide-turned-lobbyist Remy Danton, was floored by his nomination, saying, "Words cannot express how grateful and humbled I feel. Working on 'House of Cards' alongside so many great talents has been one of the highlights of my career, and it brings me so much joy to see the show continually recognized by everyone. Thank you to the Academy for this tremendous honor."

Kevin Spacey and Molly Parker in House of Cards (2013)

Molly Parker, "House of Cards" (Nominated, Guest Actress in a Drama Series)

"I don't think that this character is a sociopath, I think that she has a conscience," the "Deadwood" alum told The Guardian of her recurring character, Jackie Sharp.

"She is a strong woman," says Parker. "She came up through the military, she came up through a patriarchal system, and she knows how to be in a room full of powerful men and demand respect."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Martin Mull, and Matt Gulbranson in Veep (2012)

Martin Mull, "Veep" (Nominated, Guest Actor in a Comedy Series)

"Martin Mull is someone I have admired forever," says "Veep" showrunner David Mandel. "You can’t be a comedy writer and not admire Martin Mull." The "wonderful and hateful" character he plays, Bob Bradley, was only supposed to be in an episode or two, but, says Mandel, "the stuff that spouts out of his mouth became so enjoyable that he stuck around for like four more episodes just because we fell in love with it."

Mull starred as Colonel Mustard in the cult comedy Clue. His career dates back to the '70s with roles on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," "Fernwood Tonight," and "Roseanne."

Lou Diamond Phillips at an event for The Night Stalker (2016)

Lou Diamond Phillips, "The Crossroads of History" (Nominated, Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series)

Hard to believe the versatile veteran of shows like "Longmire" had yet to be nominated, but Phillips finally got a nod for his role as a Chieftain in the comedic History Channel series about lesser-known events that changed history.

Deadline raved that this series "might be the funniest show you're not watching."

Oscar Nuñez

Oscar Nuñez, "The Crossroads of History" (Nominated, Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series)

Congrats to "The Office" star, who guest-starred in the "Columbus" episode of the History Channel series.

"Not to pat ourselves on the back, but I think our casting has been spot-on," Elizabeth Shapiro, the writer and creator of the show, told The Comic's Comic. "Part of that is I have some insanely talented friends, and they've been awesome to be a part of it."