With the 2008-09 TV season pretty much over, it is now time to get ready for the Emmys. Emmy nominations are due out in about a month, but to be nominated, actors have to be on the official Emmy ballot. Terry O’Quinn has been on that ballot for a few years now, as the Lost star has usually been foremost among those in the running for Best Supporting Actor Drama. But when the official Emmy ballot was released, Terry O’Quinn’s name was not among the supporting actors. This shocked fans and pundits in the know, since Terry O’Quinn was supposed to be one of the Emmy favorites again.
Was it an unfortunate glitch that took Terry O’Quinn’s name out, or some sort of failure to submit? Without an official comment from O’Quinn or Lost, it’s hard to be sure. But the popular theory is one that speaks to the heart of a common Emmy problem. Terry O’Quinn may have chosen not to be nominated because he doesn’t want to keep winning for the same part. Many nominated actors over the years probably wish the likes of James Spader, Kelsey Grammar, Jeremy Piven and others were so generous.
O’Quinn first won the Emmy as John Locke in 2007. He could have easily won two, but got upset in 2005 on his first time out. O’Quinn did not get nominated in 2008, but this season, he was considered a favorite to get back in the mix. For the episode “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” O’Quinn and Locke took center stage as Locke escaped from the island, got hurt emotionally and physically, died, and seemed to be reborn again. Capping it all off was a scene with arch-rival Ben Linus, played by fellow frequent Emmy nominee Michael Emerson, that was the most talked moment of the year on Lost.
For this episode, O’Quinn was considered a front runner to be nominated, and possibly to win the Emmy again. In addition, Michael Emerson’s likely Emmy nominated tape, for the episode “Dead Is Dead” had a lot of Locke in it too. A popular theory is that O’Quinn won in 2007 not only for his tape, but for being a prominent, scene-stealing figure in Emerson’s Emmy submission that year as well. This year looked to be exactly the same, with such a strong tape for O’Quinn, and with a big presence in Emerson’s likely-to-be nominated tape as well.
However, with O’Quinn’s name not even in the Emmy ballot, it would mean he won’t even be up for consideration. If he had just put his name in there, he would have been a favorite to win. There doesn’t seem to be much logic to it, unless he just forgot to put his name out. However, an interview on The View, of all places, might be the clue to understanding it.
O’Quinn gave an interview to the ladies of the The View in 2008, before Lost’s fourth season. In talking about the Emmy, he said that someone who already won an Emmy shouldn’t be considered for another one, at least not for the same part. By that logic, he shouldn’t win another Emmy for playing John Locke. If O’Quinn stuck to his guns, then he took himself out of the running on purpose, passing up what could have been a good shot for Emmy number 2.
Out of the many common complaints about the Emmys, one of them is that the same people win every time. James Spader keeps winning as Boston Legal’s Alan Shore – even in James Gandolfini’s farewell year as Tony Soprano – and few critics and pundits can make sense of it. Kelsey Grammar won four Emmys as Frasier, Tony Shalhoub won three as Monk, Helen Hunt once won three years in a row, and Jeremy Piven is on a three year Emmy streak.
Once Emmy blesses an actor, they rarely stop nominating them or letting them win. Commonly, critics bemoan how an Emmy winner keeps getting nominations and wins for the same part year after year, while other new deserving actors get shut out. Emmy favoritism takes some of the suspense out of the nomination and winning process, since the same old usual suspects are involved. But while critics are just moaning about it, Terry O’Quinn seemed like he was doing something about it by taking himself out, if the theories about this are true.
O’Quinn is hardly as bad as the other Emmy favorites. He’s only won once and only been nominated twice, so he’s low on the totem pole. But that might not have made a difference. Unless he or anyone else gives out an official reason to O’Quinn’s Emmy ballot absence, this will likely be the winning theory. And it does leave at least one spot open for another nominee to get in.
Though the Emmy race is in the very early stages, the Best Supporting Actor Drama category is already more wide open. Michael Emerson, William Shatner and John Slattery are probably still favored to get in yet again. William Hurt will probably join them for Damages, despite being on the show for just over half a season – perhaps a case of Emmy favoritism for a big name. With O’Quinn gone, this leaves one or possibly two slots open for other contenders. Names like Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad, Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men, John Mahoney of In Treatment, and fellow Lost supporting actor Josh Holloway are being talked about to take O’Quinn’s spot early on.
For the second straight year, a past Emmy winner is out of the running before the nomination phase got started. Katherine Heigl took herself out the year after winning the Emmy, which sparked a lot of controversy. Heigl’s defense was that the Grey’s Anatomy writers didn’t give her good enough material to submit for the Emmy, which sparked yet another Heigl-Grey’s Anatomy controversy – though most agreed she was right about her lack of good material that year.
O’Quinn’s withdrawal hasn’t sparked that kind of buzz, since his reasons for doing it are only speculation so far. But if the popular theory is correct, and he took himself out so as not to win again as John Locke, it will be worthy of another debate over just what it takes to be considered for an Emmy. And if the withdrawal makes it easier for Emerson or Holloway to take the Best Supporting Actor Emmy instead, O’Quinn is sure to be thanked on the Lost set, at least.
The Envelope- “HERE is the OFFICIAL Emmy ballot (Who’s Missing?) goldderbyforums.latimes.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/1106078764/m/407104192
YouTube- “Terry O’Quinn on The View” www.youtube.com/watch