Emmy Drama: Lead Actress
As Annalise Keating, Viola Davis has won every peer-voted award for which she has been nominated. At first glance, that makes her an obvious choice to once again take home the Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy for the second time. After years of carving out her space in Hollywood with unforgettable supporting roles in film, she is the reigning winner and likely front-runner. In addition to possibly winning an Emmy, an Oscar could be in her future for her role in the upcoming adaptation of Fences. The only thing getting in the way of her second Emmy is the lack of excitement around the second season of How to Get Away With Murder. As a Shondaland production, the show has its fans, but Emmy voters and critics largely ignored Season 2.
In what might be the closest major race of the year, Robin Wright has the chance of being the only upset of the night. The lack of enthusiasm around HTGAWM and the actor adoration for House of Cards makes this year’s lead actress race the performance race to pay attention to come Emmy night. Robin Wright has slowly been gaining momentum over the years and had an indelible arc with storylines revolving around her dying mother, a trip to Russia, manipulating her way into the VP slot, and that chilling final scene where she joins Frank in breaking the fourth wall. On top of her performance, she also directed nearly a third of the season, something a lot of actors will admire. As much as season four revolved around Claire Underwood, voters might not want to award both lead races to House of Cards and end up following their SAG choices instead (Davis and Spacey).
Wright and Davis might attract similar enough voters that they end up splitting the vote and making room for one of the biggest shocks of the night – à la Adrien Brody at the 2002 Oscars. If that’s the case an argument could be made for Keri Russell, Tatiana Maslany, and even Taraji P. Henson. After years of work on television starting with Felicity, Keri Russell might just be even more well-liked than expected. If the jury system were still in place, Tatiana Maslany would be the front-runner with countless performances that would be too good for actors to pass up. Taraji P. Henson, the most lively of any nominee, would give the best speech and after running around with cookies at the Globes a lot of voters might want it to happen again.
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Keri Russell, The Americans
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Claire Danes, Homeland
Emmy Drama: Lead Actor
After being enamored by Breaking Bad for so long, the acting branch has a lot of catch-up to do in the lead actor race. They started last year by finally awarding Jon Hamm after years of snubs. With Mad Men done, the most obvious performance to turn to is Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood. As a two-time Oscar winner and the SAG winner for the past two years, it’s clear he is beloved by his peers. With a southern drawl right out of a Tennessee Williams play, he gives the biggest performance, and it makes him standout even more to his peers when they sit down to fill out their ballots.
Unlike the lead actress race, the lead actor race is seriously lacking in exciting nominees. In their second seasons, Bob Odenkirk and Kyle Chandler don’t have the momentum behind their shows to pull off a win. Matthew Rhys seems to be a critical favorite, but he doesn’t seem to make himself as publicly available in interviews and press tours to get enough attention for a popular vote. Ray Donovan seems like it might have a silent majority of supporters within the Television Academy, but the show doesn’t elicit that much enthusiasm outside of its fan-base.
Of the contenders, Rami Malek seems to be getting the most buzz and visibility. He and Odenkirk are the only two nominees nominated throughout the entire TV awards year (Critics’ Choice, SAG, TCA, Golden Globe, Emmy), and he seems to have taken advantage of his new found success by getting his name out there with countless appearances. It doesn’t hurt him that the second season of Mr. Robot aired during the voting period either. In the end, a lot of voters might have trouble awarding a lead race to Malek, a relative newcomer, compared to a two-time Academy Award winner on one of their favorite shows.
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Emmy Drama: Series
In a year where thousands of voters are merely checking off their favorite show without having to put much effort into seeking out all seven nominees, Game of Thrones, the most popular show on TV behind The Walking Dead, appears absolutely unstoppable. The HBO fantasy’s total nominations might be slightly down, but it over performed in the acting races, making the show even harder to bet against. The show does have its weaknesses, however, and if enough voters feel a Game of Thrones fatigue, as unlikely as that sounds, a couple of shows could pull off their first series win.
The acting branch loves House of Cards and nominated it more than any other ensemble for the second year in a row. The political drama’s fans were so passionate about the fourth season that that actors without any name recognition made it into the race for the first time such as Mahershala Ali, Molly Parker, and Paul Sparks. Unfortunately for House of Cards, the acting branch doesn’t hold as much power as they do at the Oscars and most of the below the line branches completely left out the new season, most notably the directing and writing branches for the second year in a row.
Downton Abbey is another industry favorite that used to carry a lot of weight in the acting branch (and still does amongst SAG voters) and could collect a sentimental vote in its final season. Unfortunately, the period piece severely underperformed in nominations, and if they couldn’t excite the Television Academy in the nominations stage it probably won’t happen when voters are tasked with choosing the best drama of the year.
The Americans, Better Call Saul, Homeland, and Mr. Robot are all easily dismissible for the simple fact that none of them were able to reap anywhere near as many nominations as the main three contenders. In fact, Game of Thrones still has more nominations this year than all four of these shows combined. Without universal support across the academy in the new voting system, the path to a win is incredibly difficult. The argument could be made that Mr. Robot and The Americans have the passion behind them but both of the fresh nominees have big obstacles to overcome. The Americans is on the radar of the entire academy now, but to actually win most of them probably need a year to fully catch up on the series, which makes the show more of a threat next year when Game of Thrones isn’t eligible. Mr. Robot is probably the most exciting choice in the group and benefits from the second season airing during the voting period, but the second season has been divisive for fans.
In the end, Outstanding Drama Series is not the category to go out on a limb in your Emmy ballots. No other show has dominated pop-culturedom in its off-air months like Game of Thrones has and from an excitement standpoint the show is an obvious choice.
Game of Thrones (23 Nominations)
House of Cards (13 Nominations)
Downton Abbey (10 Nominations)
Mr. Robot (6 Nominations)
The Americans (5 Nominations)
Homeland (4 Nominations)
Better Call Saul (7 Nominations)