Starlets With Statues: Claire Danes & 11 Other Actresses Who Won 3 Emmys Before 40

From Tina Fey to Mary Tyler Moore, here are some of TV's greatest female performers.

October 5, 2015
Photo: Shutterstock

Having already won four Golden Globes and three Emmys for her wonderful work on the small screen, Claire Danes is no stranger to award season glory. But what you might not know is that the “Homeland” and “My So-Called Life” star is on pace to be one of the most decorated television performers of all time.

The Manhattan-born thespian has a ways to go before catching up to Cloris Leachman (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Malcolm in the Middle”), who has eight Emmys to her name, but there’s no reason to believe Danes can’t or won’t win quite a few more. She’s still 36, after all, and Leachman didn’t nab her first trophy until she was in her late 40s!

In fact, the recent Stern Show guest is one of only a few actresses to win three performance Emmys before hitting 40. Here are the rest of the women who accomplished the feat:

Valerie Harper

Valerie Harper in "Rhoda" Valerie Harper in “Rhoda” Photo: CBS

Familiar to many as Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its eventual spin off, “Rhoda,” Valerie Harper has won four Emmys over the course of her career. She was one of the youngest to do it, too, with her third coming at the age of 34.

Tracey Ullman

Tracey Ullman on "The Tracey Ullman Show" Tracey Ullman on “The Tracey Ullman Show” Photo: Fox

Tracey Ullman technically has seven Emmys to her name, but many of those were for writing and executive producing her comedy series, “The Tracey Ullman Show” and “Tracey Takes On.” Three of those Emmys were the result of on camera work, however — the last of which came in 1999, just months before her 40th birthday, for her multi-episode arc on David E. Kelley’s legal drama “Ally McBeal.”

Helen Hunt

Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser on "Mad About You" Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser on “Mad About You” Photo: NBC

While starring opposite Paul Reiser on the long-running NBC sitcom “Mad About You,” Helen Hunt earned up seven nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, taking home four of them before the age of 36.

P.S. – Hunt is a double-threat, she also won an Oscar for her work in the 1997 film “As Good As It Gets.”

Laurie Metcalf

Roseanne Barr and Laurie Metcalf on "Roseanne" Roseanne Barr and Laurie Metcalf on “Roseanne” Photo: ABC

The actress won three Emmys before her 40th birthday for knocking it out of the park as Aunt Jackie on “Roseanne.” She played a cop who was equal parts sweet and neurotic, and wound up carving out one of the more memorable supporting characters in sitcom history. Metcalf went on to secure four more Emmy nominations over the course of her career, with her latest coming after a guest stint on “Desperate Housewives,” but has not yet won again.

Patricia Wettig

Patricia Wettig on "Thirtysomething" Patricia Wettig on “Thirtysomething” Photo: ABC

Patricia Wettig has starred on tons of compelling TV shows, from “Prison Break” to the Stephen King miniseries “The Langoliers,” but she’s probably best-known for playing Nancy Krieger-Weston on the eternally optimistic ABC drama “Thirtysomething.” Wettig won three Emmys for her turn as Timothy Busfield’s wife, with the last one coming just a few months shy of her 40th birthday.

Michael Learned

Michael Learned on "The Waltons" Michael Learned on “The Waltons” Photo: CBS

Actress Michael Learned won her first three Emmys by the age of 36 playing the soft-spoken mother on CBS’s Depression-era drama “The Waltons.” A few years later the actress earned a fourth statue as the titular medical worker in a CBS hospital drama called “Nurse.”

Edie Falco

Edie Falco on "The Sopranos" Edie Falco on “The Sopranos” Photo: HBO

The “Nurse Jackie”/”Sopranos” star was technically 40 when she won her third Emmy for playing Carmela Soprano, but the actress has been nominated so many times over the course of her career (13!) that we’re going to let it slide.

Rhea Perlman

Rhea Perlman as Carla on "Cheers" Rhea Perlman as Carla on “Cheers” Photo: NBC

“Cheers” was filled with iconic characters, but none of them were more memorable than Rhea Perlman’s Carla Tortelli. She won four Emmys for playing the ill-tempered cocktail waitress, with her third coming in 1986 when the actress was still just 38. When all was said and done, Perlman wound up getting nominated 10 times for the role, so we’re actually sort of surprised she didn’t nab more wins.

Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett on "The Carol Burnett Show" Carol Burnett on “The Carol Burnett Show” Photo: CBS

Carol Burnett, another of Howard’s recent guests, has six performance Emmys to her name. Five of them came on the back of the work she did on various variety shows, including “The Garry Moore Show,” “Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall,” and, of course, “The Carol Burnett Show.” Burnett was 39 when she took home her third Emmy, so she just barely makes the cutoff.

Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore on "The Mary Tyler Moore" show Mary Tyler Moore on “The Mary Tyler Moore” show Photo: CBS

What list of celebrated TV actresses would be complete without Mary Tyler Moore? She won seven Emmys over her career, with six of them coming before her 40th birthday. In addition to her Lead Actress in a Comedy wins for her work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” Moore also won a vaguely awesome “Super Emmy” in 1974, which hasn’t been given out to anyone else since.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on "30 Rock" Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on “30 Rock” Photo: NBC

And, finally, there’s the wonderful Tina Fey. The “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star took home seven Emmys before her 40th birthday, though many of them were for writing and executive producing the NBC shows. Still, Liz Lemon is one of the greatest TV characters ever, so there’s no chance we’re leaving her off the list.

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