From ‘Queen Charlotte’ Breakouts to ‘Shrinking’ Young Faces, Meet the New Emmy Contenders

From Jennifer Coolidge and Brian Cox to Sheryl Lee Ralph and Henry Winkler, this year’s Emmy race is filled with past winners hoping to pick up another trophy from the TV Academy. However, there is also a plethora of talent entering the awards conversation for the first time, thanks to their work on series including “Queen Charlotte,” “Shrinking” and “The Last of Us.”

After the success of “Bridgerton,” it’s no surprise that Shonda Rhimes’ spinoff series, “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” is filled with talented new faces. India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest portray Queen Charlotte and King George III while Arsema Thomas portrays the young Agatha Danbury.

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Together, the three actors were able to find comfort in leaning on one another, which helped with the pressure of joining a series with an established audience.

“For a lot of us, this was our first big job so there was this shared camaraderie. We were all like the new kids at school,” says Thomas. “Because of that, we kind of came into it as equals even though this is like a space that is quite competitive. It was extremely disarming to know that we could voice our honest insecurities to each other and realize that the other person is feeling quite the same. That was one of my favorite blessings of the whole experience.”

Neither Mylchreest nor Thomas watched “Bridgerton” before being cast —an intentional decision on both their parts.

“I’m just naturally an anxious, nervous and over-analytical person, so it was an advantage for me personally to just remove myself from the narrative that had already been made from ‘Bridgerton,’” Thomas explains, noting that she felt more pressure due to playing a royal and being part of the story with Adjoa Andoh and Golda Rosheuvel, who play the adult Lady Danbury and Queen Charlotte, respectively. “These are big roles and big shoes of people who’ve been in this industry for so, so long,” says the actor, who starred in the 2022 film “Redeeming Love.” “These people are proper professionals, and to be acting alongside them, it can be a moment of massive impostor syndrome and self-doubt.”

Mylchreest, who recently appeared in Netflix’s “The Sandman,” considers “Queen Charlotte” a “different beast” than “Bridgerton,” due to its storylines about mental health. “It has darker moments to it. It’s a little bit grittier. It feels like its own thing,” he says. “I feel like we pay homage rather than feeling pressured by the show being in the zeitgeist.”

Unlike her counterparts, Amarteifio had watched “Bridgerton.” But she was told from the beginning not to emulate anything Rosheuvel had done, making her life a little easier.

“Shonda has done such a good job, which is probably the understatement of the year,” she says. “As an actor, we’re not always blessed with scripts that are just so easily accessible and make sense without having to dissect it to shreds.”

They couldn’t ignore the success of the original series, which has received 15 Emmy nominations, including bids for drama, casting and lead actor in a drama. “Bridgerton” won outstanding period/character hairstyling in both 2021 and 2022.

“Career-wise, it’s something that has boosted the likes of Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page,” adds Amarteifio, who appeared on Variety’s 10 Brits to Watch list this year and has appeared in series such as “Doctor Who” and Sex Education” in addition to acting on London’s West End. “They’re kind of household names, so I knew that it would be not only a challenge in terms of taking on the role, but also it can transform life and what that means afterwards — which is quite scary, but also incredibly exciting.”

Bella ramsey the last of us episode 1
Bella Ramsey in “The Last of Us”

Like Amarteifio, “The Last of Us” star Bella Ramsey was selected for Variety’s 10 Brits to Watch this year. The 19-year-old star, a breakout on the HBO series, isn’t new to the scene exactly; she starred in “His Dark Materials” and “The Worst Witch,” among other shows and films. Before “The Last of Us,” she was best known as noblewoman Lyanna Mormont in nine episodes of “Game of Thrones.” However, that role didn’t give her the spotlight that the latest series does, as her character, Ellie, is as integral to the series as lead actor Pedro Pascal.

She has also been vocal about Ellie’s sexuality, as the character shared a kiss with Storm Reid’s Riley in the emotional seventh episode of the show. And she’s not afraid to continue telling those stories in the future — and hopeful that audiences will come along for the ride.

These new contenders face tough competition. Amarteifio and Ramsey will be vying for the lead actress drama trophy, competing against heavy-hitter contenders including “Succession” star Sarah Snook, “Yellowjackets” actor Melanie Lynskey and “1923” actor Helen Mirren. It’s also possible Coolidge could change from supporting to lead for her role in “The White Lotus,” as could Rhea Seehorn for her part in “Better Call Saul.”

On the comedy side, “Shrinking” is a breakout hit. Many of the actors and the team behind the scenes are accustomed to the awards spotlight — Jason Segel, Harrison Ford and co-creators Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein — but the supporting cast shouldn’t be ignored.

Luke Tennie and Lukita Maxwell, who portray Sean and Alice, respectively, have large and equally important roles in the series. Tennie, 28, previously played a lead role in SyFy’s short-lived series “Deadly Class,” and starred in “Players” and “The Nickel Boys.” Maxwell, 21, appeared in 16 episodes of HBO’s “Generation,” but is a still a bit newer to the scene.

Luke Tennie and Lukita Maxwell from “Shrinking”
Luke Tennie and Lukita Maxwell from “Shrinking”

Jessica Williams, who portrays smart and witty therapist Gaby, has chemistry with every person in the show. Williams isn’t new to the business; she was a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” for four years and starred in numerous series and films, including “Girls” and “Love Life.” But this is unlike any other role she’s done. She worked with creators Lawrence, Segel and Goldstein to completely make it her own.

One of the first lines I improved was when Jimmy [brings a client to a boxing ring], and Gaby’s like, ‘You took a young Black man to go fight people in this cultural atmosphere?’ Bill was like, ‘Please add stuff like that all the time,’” she recalls. “So anything where I’m talking about being Black is probably something I added myself.”

This Emmy season, she has two projects in the race: she also voiced a role in Netflix’s “Entergalactic.”
In Prime Video’s “Daisy Jones & the Six,” Camila Morrone portrays Billy’s wife, Camila. Known as mostly a model, Morrone previously starred in “Bukowski,” “Death Wish” and “Never Goin’ Back.” With a supporting role in “Daisy Jones,” she stole the spotlight as she became impossible to ignore.

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