Since The Emmys Ignored Them, Our Own Tribute to the Best Child Actors of 2014

Call me idealistic, but every year, no matter all the reason not to, I hold out hope that the Emmy Awards will prove me wrong. The morning of the nominations, I say to myself: surely, this will be the year that Parenthood gets a drama nod, or Tatiana Maslany gets honored for Orphan Black, or Parks & Rec finally takes home an award not just for Amy Poehler, right? And, of course, every time, I'm let down. After years of this, I've gotten used to the pain of my favorite underrated shows being overlooked yet again, but no matter how many Emmys I sit through, I don't think I'll ever understand the show's biggest snub of all: child actors.

Year after year, in both drama and comedy, child actors give some of the best performances on TV. The talent displayed is hugely impressive, and not just in a "for a kid" sense; many of these actors give weekly performances that rival those given by co-stars at least twice their age. And yet, despite this, child actors are rarely, if ever, nominated for Emmy Awards. This year, the youngest main acting nominee is a 28-year-old, Lena Dunham. Last year wasn't much better, with 26-year-old Emilia Clarke as the baby of the group. No matter how good child actors are on TV, it seems, the Emmy Awards forget they exist.

So I've decided to take matters into my own hands. Introducing Bustle's 1st Annual Child Actor Emmy Awards, honoring the very best of today's young TV performers:

Best Achievement in Eye Acting

Recipient: Maisie Williams, as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, for the episode "The Children."

Simply by staring, Williams managed to convey a hundred different emotions, from fear to satisfaction to uncertainty, and still kept viewers in the dark about what Arya was really feeling. That's some impressive eye work.

Best Achievement in Emotional Breakdown-ing

Recipient: Max Burkholder, as Max Braverman in Parenthood, for the episode "The Offer."

Burkholder has given one of the most solid performances on Parenthood since the show's beginning, but in March's "The Offer," he blew everyone else out of the water. From Max's initial stoicism, to his slow unraveling, to that eventual huge, heartbreaking breakdown, the actor was simply phenomenal. 

Best Use of Little Material

Recipient: Kiernan Shipka, as Sally Draper in Mad Men, for the episode "A Day's Work."

Because she managed to make five words — "Happy Valentine's Day. I love you" — into one of the most meaningful, affecting moments of all of Mad Men season seven.

Best Ability to Make Us Care About a Character We Intensely Hate

Recipient: Jack Gleeson, as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones, for the episode "The Lion and the Rose."

As TV villains go, King Joffrey might've just been the worst. He was violent and ruthless and cruel, and fans wanted nothing more than to see him pay for his crimes. Yet when he did, choking to death from poison, he looked more like a terrified teenage boy in way over his head than the brutal murderer we'd come to know and hate. In this incredible scene, Gleeson did the impossible: he made us pity the most hated character on TV.

Best Achievement in Character Redemption

Recipient: Morgan Saylor, as Dana Brody in Homeland, for the episode "One Last Thing."

It was never Saylor's fault, but for much of Homeland, Dana Brody was an extremely disliked character. A good kid, she didn't truly deserve the hate; the moodiness that had fans so annoyed was reasonable for a teenage girl dealing with intense family trauma. Dana just had the bad luck of being given unforgiving storylines and dialogue — whiny monologues, dalliances with bad boys, car crashes that distracted from the plotlines viewers actually cared about. Yet in "One Last Thing," Dana earned back our respect, all thanks to Saylor. As she screamed at Brody for coming home, crying and heartbroken, she made Dana seem like a real, sympathetic person — an angry and messed-up one, sure, but a person. She gave Dana a redemption, and suddenly, her impending exit from the show became a lot less anticipated.

Best Display of Emotional Maturity

Recipient: Chandler Riggs, as Carl Grimes in The Walking Dead, for the episode "After."

In an ensemble full of talented actors, Riggs is a stand-out, and "After," in which Carl and Rick found themselves back on the road, is a prime example. As his father laid unconscious, Carl was furious and scared and defiant all at once. It was a feat of acting, with Riggs bringing his A-game.

Best Achievement in Clone Dancing

Recipient: Cynthia Galant, as Charlotte in Orphan Black, for the episode "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried."

Look, I love the actress who plays Kira, Skyler Wexler. She's had a ton of responsibility these last two seasons, and she's held her own against Tatiana Maslany just fine. But from the moment we met Galant, I was hooked. In just a few short minutes, she made her Charlotte magnetic, and sure, some of that was due to the hair and makeup team who made her look so eerily similar to the adult clones, but most of it was her innate skill. If that's not enough, though, just watch the dance scene she re-created from the finale; how could you not want to root for her after that?

Images: HBO (3); NBC; AMC; Showtime; BBC

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