Jalal Haddad looks at the Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy race filled with overdue actresses and a new performance ready to reign.
Fresh off of one of the biggest upsets in Emmy history, the Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy race is gearing up to be an interesting race. Thus far, the race appears to exist between Claire Foy and multiple actresses ready to cash in their Emmy IOUs. Anything could happen with last year’s winner Tatiana Maslany on hiatus and Viola Davis, the 2015 winner, left out by SAG voters. This is where the race stands at the moment.
Claire Foy (The Crown) Netflix won’t have to engage in a lot of strategic campaigning for Claire Foy seeing as she gives the type of performance every actor will be jealous of once they start binging The Crown. We haven’t seen a portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II quite like this at the beginning of her reign. Once we were introduced to Foy in her Golden Globe and SAG speeches, it’s clear just how good she is. She really doesn’t have a fault in this race.
Keri Russell (The Americans) Who would have thought it would take sixteen years after Felicity cut off all of her hair to become an Emmy frontrunner? Now that the Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy race is unpredictable and The Americans is a frontrunner to win the top award, Keri Russel might be on her way to win her first Emmy. In the new popular vote system, it definitely helps to be a well-liked actress who has worked in Hollywood for decades (just ask Regina King) so 2017 might finally be Russell’s year.
Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder) Viola Davis is at a very contradictory position in this year’s Emmy race. On the one hand she is fresh off of her first Oscar and is adored by everyone in the industry. However, over the past year, she lost the Emmy to Tatiana Maslany and was left out of the SAG race for a role she had already won twice. This might mean that voters love her but aren’t watching the show which will likely lead to more nominations but not another win.
Claire Danes (Homeland) Falling far from relevancy, Homeland is finally on its way to being kicked out of the Drama Series race for good. After being left out by SAG voters, the same could be said for Claire Danes. Luckily for the 9-time Emmy nominee (and 3-time winner), the Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy race doesn’t have a lot of major competition, setting Danes up for a tenth nomination over a 22-year span.
Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) Some of the biggest dramatic casts of the 21st century from Mad Men to Game of Thrones received subdued first years at the Emmys, so it’s hard to imagine Emmy voters will go all-in and nominate the entire cast of Westworld. On top of that, Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores had one of the more polarizing storylines for many reasons, so it’s hard to imagine voters will nominate her for the first season. Still, the Emmys have embraced sci-fi/fantasy shows more than ever before, and with no clear frontrunner to break into the race Wood could sneak in.
Taraji P. Henson (Empire) Two years ago, Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie prematurely went down as one of the best characters on television, but just like Glee, that flame burned out quickly. Now after abandoning their King Lear-ian quest to control Empire Records, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who actually enjoys Empire – even with the bizarre casting of Rumer Willis. It’s time for Taraji P. Henson to leave the show in search for material worthy of her talent, and after two nominations, Emmy voters will likely move on.
Mandy Moore (This Is Us) Last year no one would have believed that an early 2000s popstar on a network family drama would be a contender for a lead actress nomination, but with so much love for This Is Us brewing she might be able to sneak in. The only thing stopping her is that there is no clear consensus on whether or not she is actually good. She has a great episode submission choice with “The Trip,” but even her performance throughout the episode is so inconsistent that voters might skip over her completely.
Christine Baranski (The Good Fight) Emmy voters nominated Christine Baranski more than any of her costars throughout the entire run of The Good Wife (even more than 2-time winner Julianne Margulies) automatically putting Diane Lockhart in the conversation for the first season of The Good Fight. Her huge detractor is that voters are most likely not going to pay attention to yet another streaming service when they barely acknowledge ones like Hulu. CBS is bound to campaign Baranski heavily as a way to market the new streaming app, but in the end it likely won’t be enough.
Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls: A Year in The Life) The Gilmore Girls fandom has been waiting years for the return of their favorite mother/daughter duo. As a result, it might not even matter how tepid the reactions were to the show’s long awaited return. They might just vote give Lauren Graham her first Emmy nomination just because they can. In the years leading up to the Netflix reboot, Graham has been mentioned in just about every article detailing the most glaring snubs by Emmy voters, and there are probably a lot of fans within the Television Academy that want to correct that. Unfortunately for Graham, most of the show’s buzz died back in November, and in a category with more relevant performances, she will likely be forgotten.
Yet to Premiere
Robin Wright (House of Cards) The final shot of last year’s finale of House of Cards brought Claire Underwood into direct contact with viewers basically promising us an upcoming season with Claire in control. That is basically what we have been begging for all along. No matter how good Wright’s material is, she will still have to somehow overcome the Television Academy’s complete refusal to award the show in any major category. She lost when she had the best tape, and she lost when voting was opened up to the entire branch. So, it’s hard to imagine anything different happening in 2017.
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) If early reviews are any clue, The Handmaid’s Tale might be the most politically relevant show on TV. As Hollywood tries to find relevancy in a disastrous political climate, Hulu’s new drama might have an advantage. More than the show itself, Elisabeth Moss might be at a major advantage after repeatedly being snubbed of a trophy throughout the run of Mad Men. The only thing blocking her from being a frontrunner is Hulu’s terrible luck earning respect throughout the industry. If Moss can overcome that she might become one of the biggest surprises of the year.
1. Claire Foy, The Crown
2. Keri Russell, The Americans
3. Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
4. Robin Wright, House of Cards
5. Claire Danes, Homeland
6. Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
7. Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld
8. Taraji P. Henson, Empire
9. Mandy Moore, This Is Us
10. Christine Baranski, The Good Fight
Other Names in The Race: Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers)