‘Big Sky’: Why One Star on the ABC Drama Started Her Own Emmy Campaign

by Jon D. B.
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After the actress behind Big Sky‘s Merilee Legarski learned she wouldn’t be up for Emmy consideration, she decided on a risky move.

Brooke Smith is no stranger to film. In fact, her catalogue for both film and television is one many actors can only dream of. Since her breakout role as kidnapping victim Catherine Martin in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, Smith’s gone on to garner acclaim in everything from Ray Donovan and Grey’s Anatomy to Bates Motel. So why, then is she one of the thousands of actresses who’s never been nominated for an Emmy?

Smith is wondering that herself. As Merilee Legarski in ABC’s new hit drama, Big Sky, she’s appeared in 8 of the 16 total episodes in Season 1. Yet no nomination for “Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series” came her way. Meanwhile, leads Katheryn Winnick and Kylie Bunbury are up for “Best Leading Actress.”

Yet Smith learned directly that she would not be submitted for Emmy consideration by ABC. So, as IndieWire points out, she “took matters into her own hands.”

“Why is it that it’s so hard to self-advocate?” Smith tells the trade. “I had a feeling of, ‘Well, how lucky am I that I even got to play this part. Isn’t that enough?”

It’s a risky move for the Big Sky actress. Self-campaigning is often seen as narcissistic and/or results in pushback from networks. But after 30 years of remarkable work in the industry, Brooke Smith feels it’s now or never.

Yet none of this explains why Smith has to do what she feels is necessary: submitting herself for Emmy consideration.

Why is Brooke Smith Submitting Herself for a ‘Big Sky’ Emmy?

According to an internal document obtained by IndieWire, ABC did congratulate Smith on her work as Merilee. As a “recurring character” and not a “series regular,” however, she is unable to participate in FYC (Emmy) panels. The network did not respond to IW for comment.

This is wholly contradictory, though, to the Television Academy’s own guidelines. If an actor appears in less than 50% of episodes, they are eligible for “Guest Actor/Actress” nominations. In Smith’s case, she appears in 50% (8/16) episodes of Big Sky. This makes her eligible for the “Best Supporting Actress” category.

“I felt like this arc of this character had enough going on that I felt like I should push, that’s all,” Smith says of her decision. “It’s also that weird feeling of being, you know, you’re in a David Kelly show… So you feel like, OK, I’m with all the popular people, but I’m still somehow the freak.”

David E. Kelley, the prolific creator of Big Sky, however, does not see Brooke Smith as a “freak.” Instead, he sees her as beyond deserving of said Emmy.

“As a show, you want to put your best foot forward and Brooke is certainly a part of that,” Kelley says. “She did incredible work for us. It was nuanced and complicated; she was driving drama one moment and dark comedy the next. Good acting is good acting and character actors are hard to find. You’re looking for people to play adult roles, complicated roles where the human pathology is nuanced. It’s the reason Brooke keeps getting hired: She’s an extremely smart actress.”

Outsider.com