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How Morgan Freeman can beat a quartet of ‘SNL’ guys to win his first Emmy

Gold Derby logo Gold Derby 7/20/2021 Joyce Eng
a man standing in front of a building © Erik Voake/Netflix

Our Emmy nomination odds forecasted four of the five Best Comedy Guest Actor slots going to “Saturday Night Live” contenders. And whaddya know? That happened. We just weren’t right about the exact people. “SNL” scored bids for Alec Baldwin, Dave Chappelle, Daniel Kaluuya and Dan Levy, and the fifth slot went to Morgan Freeman for “The Kominsky Method.” As he is the only non-“SNL” nominee, this could be Freeman’s time to take home his first Emmy.

The Oscar winner is in second place in the early winner odds, behind Chappelle, who was in first place throughout the nominations phase. Levy is in third, followed by Kaluuya and Baldwin.

If you go by the odds and “The Kominsky Method’s” Emmy history, Freeman has seemingly done the harder part on paper of getting in. He was in sixth place in the nomination odds (“Ted Lasso’s” Anthony Head, and “SNL’s” Rege-Jean Page and Chris Rock were the other predicted nominees), while the Netflix comedy had failed to produce acting nominees outside of Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin until now — ironically the year Arkin left the show. In addition to breaking into a guest category, the series earned a supporting actor bid for Paul Reiser, who “took Arkin’s place” in the lineup, you could say.

And though there are certainly some name-check-y guest nominees this year for very brief appearances, such is not the case for Freeman. Playing a fictionalized version of himself, the legendary actor appeared in two episodes and has decent material to work with, including acting in a scene in a faux procedural. In his episode submission, “Chapter 20. The Round Toes, of the High Shoes,” he gives a MasterClass lesson to Sandy’s (Douglas) students.

SEE Watch our ‘Kominsky Method’ interviews with Chuck Lorre, Paul Reiser and more

There’s also precedence for someone overcoming four “SNL” nominees in this category. Two years ago, Luke Kirby won for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” defeating “SNL” nominees Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, John Mulaney and Adam Sandler — but the main difference is that that was a field of seven that included Kirby’s co-star Rufus Sewell and “Veep’s” Peter MacNicol. The dynamics are a lot different when you are the only nominee from another show. Freeman is the apple in a bag of oranges, so any anti-“SNL” vote would go to him.

Also helping Freeman is that none of his “SNL” rivals are super strong, though that has never stopped voters from awarding someone in the guest categories. Chappelle’s post-election episode in 2016, for which he won the Emmy, was a lot buzzier and affecting than his 2020 one for obvious reasons. Levy’s bid feels like Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s for “SNL” last year: an afterglow nomination for the comedy darling of the previous year’s Emmys (PWB lost to Maya Rudolph for “SNL”). Kaluuya got great notices for his episode at the time, but that has mostly receded from memory, and he could very well be the Adam Driver of the year: the Oscar nominee/winner with a well-received hosting stint who falls short. And Baldwin is a “been there, done that” since he’s already won an Emmy (in supporting) for playing Donald Trump on the sketch series. He also made his fewest appearances as Trump this season (just four) as we’ve entered the Biden era and Rudolph’s Kamala Harris has become the main “SNL” politico character.

So there are a lot of chess pieces in place that could lead to a Freeman victory, not to mention the fact that he’s never won an Emmy, though how many voters know that? This is just his third nomination after bids for narrating “March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step” in 2018 and information series or special for “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman” in 2016. That being said, “SNL” is a tough beat in the guest categories. Since it was allowed to compete there in 2009, it has won 12 awards — six each — in comedy guest actor and actress.

PREDICTthe 2021 Emmy winners through Sept. 19

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