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EGOT Watch: The 2017 Emmys

Who will add the “E” to the most prestigious acronym in the arts this weekend? We take some guesses.

Robert De Niro, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon Getty Images/Ringer illustration

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As a wise man named Tracy Jordan once said, while pointing to the gleaming “EGOT” chain around his neck: “This necklace is a life goal. I’m going to win me an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.”

Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan in ‘30 Rock’ NBC

Although the term “EGOT” didn’t originate with Tracy Morgan’s character on 30 Rock (it was coined, oddly enough, by Miami Vice actor Philip Michael Thomas, who has yet to win any of the aforementioned awards), Tracy Jordan’s Season 4 obsession with and subsequent Season 5 achievement of the EGOT helped cement its status as the peak pop-cultural ambition. EGOT is a verb, a noun, and an aspiration so holy that it transcends the laws of grammar. And at this year’s Emmys on Sunday night, several prominent actors just might add that gilded “E” to their proverbial necklaces.

The Oscar-to-Emmy leap used to be one of the trickier parts of the EGOT. Plenty of screen actors dabble in theater long enough to earn a Tony, and with categories like Best Spoken Word Album, Best Comedy Album, and Best Compilation Soundtrack (an award Zach Braff won for basically just making a mixtape with several Shins songs on it), it’s not that hard for someone who’s already incredibly famous to win a Grammy. Unless you’re Robert De Niro. I feel confident in saying Robert De Niro will never, ever win a Grammy.

One unspoken byproduct of prestige TV, though, is that Oscar-caliber actors are no longer seen as “slumming” when they make the move to television. That means that the Emmys are particularly star-studded this year, especially in the A-list-friendly “limited series” categories. And in the spirit of all that is holy about the EGOT, I’ve compiled a list of five actors who have already snagged the “O” (arguably the most difficult of the four) and could possibly win their first-ever “E” on Sunday night.

A note on the methodology: I’m talking only about Oscar-winning actors who have never won Emmys before but are nominated this year. This leaves out such EGOT-hopefuls as Feud: Bette and Joan nominee Jessica Lange (EOT—get cracking on that spoken word album, Jessica!), because she’s already an Emmy winner. Additionally, my methodology on just knowing that Robert De Niro will never win a Grammy is a gut feeling. But seriously, can you picture it? I honestly wish I could.

Anyway, LET’S DO THIS!

Reese Witherspoon

EGOT Letters Already Acquired: O (Best Actress in a Leading Role, 2006, Walk the Line)

Likelihood of Getting That E on Sunday: Pretty high. Although she will most likely lose Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie to her Big Little Lies costar Nicole Kidman, Reese will win as an executive producer if BLL wins Outstanding Limited Series or Movie (and it probably will). And anyway, when Kidman wins there will probably be an adorable cutaway to Reese triumphantly punching the air with the hand not holding a glass of wine that she somehow smuggled into the theater, and then there will be a GIF of that moment, so honestly we will all be winners.

What She Would Have to Do to Finish the EGOT: Is there a Grammy for dancing at someone’s wedding?

No? That seems like an oversight.

Regardless, Reese learned to sing for her Oscar-winning performance in Walk the Line, and while she’s not an amazing vocalist, she continues to contribute to the soundtracks of her movies (like the 2016 animated movie Sing, in which she played a mommy pig who sang Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” with Nick Kroll. … Yes, that really happened). She’ll pick up a Grammy eventually, and I can see her on stage someday—perhaps playing Paulette in a revival of Legally Blonde: The Musical? We can dream. The point is, Reese Witherspoon will someday EGOT, and on that day the sun will shine brightly and the air will smell ever so vaguely of strawberries.

Kevin Spacey

EGOT Letters Already Acquired: O (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, 1996, The Usual Suspects; Best Actor, 2000, American Beauty)

T (Best Featured Actor in a Play, 1991, Lost in Yonkers)

Likelihood of Getting That E on Sunday: This is the fifth year that Spacey is nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for playing Frank Underwood on House of Cards, and if he finally wins in the fifth season of that never-ending, godforsaken show, I will drive my car into a butt-shaped water tower.

What He Would Have to Do to Finish the EGOT: Interestingly enough, Kevin Spacey was already nominated for a Grammy for his vocal performance on the soundtrack of the 2004 Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea. (I told you it’s absurdly easy for famous people to get nominated for Grammys.) So it’s very much in the realm of possibility that he could portray another singer someday, and this time he might just win. That’s not the problem. What seems to be eluding Spacey, though, is that Emmy, for which he’s been nominated so many times in a row but never won.

What a cruel fate it would be to simply GOT. (Or in this case, GOOT.) What if House of Cards lasts another 30 seasons and the Emmys keep pulling the Charlie Brown football routine on him and he keeps showing up in a tux, but unlike Susan Lucci, he never actually wins? Actually, I would not even wish that on the star of my least favorite TV show. Forgive me, K-PAX. Best of luck.

Susan Sarandon

EGOT Letters Already Acquired: O (Best Actress, 1995, Dead Man Walking)

Likelihood of Getting That E on Sunday: As much as I adored her performance as Bette Davis on Feud: Bette and Joan, her chances aren’t looking great in this insanely stacked category. She’ll probably split the Feud votes, too, with the also-excellent Jessica Lange. (I’d give my vote to Sarandon, given a choice between the two.) Still, much like the Oscars, the television academy loves a performance self-mythologizing its own profession, so I wouldn’t count her out of this race.

What She Would Have to Do to Finish the EGOT: She has a steep climb ahead of her, especially given her not exactly Grammy-caliber performance of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (She was playing an apathetic Bette Davis, I know, I know!) But Sarandon was nominated in 2000 for Best Spoken Word Album for Children—a real category! She's a fighter both on and off the ping-pong court, and I believe if she wants to EGOT, she’ll go out and get the damn thing.

Robert De Niro

EGOT Letters Already Acquired: O (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, 1975, The Godfather Part II; Best Actor, 1981, Raging Bull)

Likelihood of Getting That E on Sunday: C’mon, give Bobby a goddamn Emmy. Riz Ahmed of The Night Of and Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch present the strongest competition in Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie, but The Wizard of Lies is a favorite to win Outstanding Television Movie, and as an executive producer, that would indeed count for a De Niro E. Also are you going to look Robert De Niro in the eye and tell him that Benedict Cumberbatch won an Emmy before he did?

What He Would Have to Do to Finish the EGOT: Only three things are certain in this life: Death, taxes, and the fact that Robert De Niro will never win a Grammy. Would I love for him to record an award-winning Shatneresque album of standards instead of starring in Dirty Grandpa 2? Sure, and I’d also like a Grammy of my own. Ain’t gonna happen.

Nicole Kidman

EGOT Letters Already Acquired: O (Best Actress, 2002, The Hours)

Likelihood of Getting That Sweet, Sweet E on Sunday: I mean, stop for a second and behold this screenshot from Nicole Kidman’s Wikipedia page:

Screenshot of Nicole Kidman’s Wikipedia page showing sections called worldwide recognition, continued success, independent films and biopics, and resurgence

Setting aside the chance that the titles of these sections were written by Keith Urban (50/50, honestly), the point is clear: Nicole Kidman stays winning. Her searing performance as Celeste in Big Little Lies was an absolute highlight of a stellar career. Oh, Pat? I’d like to buy a vowel.

... AN E.

What She Would Have to Do to Finish the EGOT: She sang passably in Moulin Rouge, and is married to a multi-Grammy winner with whom she could easily knock off a duet so—next? Of course she’ll return to Broadway at some point. Even though everybody will know it’s just a Tony vehicle for her subsequent EGOT, she won’t be annoying about it the way some actors would, and she’ll bring a focus and gravitas to the performance that surprises even her most diehard fans (like prominent Wikipedia editor Keith Urban). Kidman is on such a roll right now that she’ll not only EGOT, but she’ll invent a new acronym of achievement and then achieve it before anyone else does. BEGOT? I don’t even know what the B stands for yet. Only Nicole Kidman does.

An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for Best Performance by an actress in a Supporting Role; she won in the Leading category.