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Who will win the Emmy for Leading Actress in a Drama? 

By Spencer Coile 

The Leading Actress in a Drama Series category has been an embarrassment of riches this past decade. With previous winners including Glenn Close for Damages, Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife, Claire Danes for Homeland, and Viola Davis for How to Get Away with Murder, the Emmy’s are giving the gays everything they want. 

This year is particularly competitive, an eclectic diverse group of actresses at the top of their game. We have two previous winners, two who only have one last chance to win, one on an HBO blockbuster, and one making history as the first Asian American actress in the category. In a perfect world, they would all be victorious. Yet only one can win...

Best Leading Actress in a Drama Series Nominees: 

Claire Foy as “Queen Elizabeth II” on The Crown: “Dear Mrs. Kennedy” 

Tatiana Maslany as “Sarah Manning, Cosima Niehaus, Alison Hendrix, Rachel Duncan, Helena, Krystal Goderitch, Veera Suominen, Camilla Torres, and additional characters” on Orphan Black: “To Right the Wrongs of Many” 

Elisabeth Moss as “June Osborne/ Offred” on The Handmaid’s Tale: “The Last Ceremony”

Sandra Oh as “Eve Polastri” on Killing Eve: “I Have a Thing About Bathrooms” 

Keri Russell as “Elizabeth Jennings” on The Americans: “The Summit” 

Evan Rachel Wood as “Dolores Abernathy” on Westworld: “Reunion” 

Will Win: This could potentially be the most difficult race to call. As great as they are on their respective shows, it’s safe to count out Maslany and Wood. While Maslany is a previous winner, she might just be lucky to be here after missing out last year. Meanwhile, Wood, while impressive on Westworld,was not a stand-out this season.  

That leaves four, and they'd all be worthy winners. This is Foy’s last season on The Crown, and on top of her being showered with acclaim for her performance, she's having a banner year with First Man, Unsane, and The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Given her prolific run this is a perfect tiem to award her. Russell is fresh off a TCA win on a beloved series that just ended its six year run. If voters are compelled to cast a win for The Americans, she could come out on top. 

Sandra Oh’s nomination is historic. Not only is she a previous Emmy darling for her work on Grey’s Anatomy (without ever winning), she is the first Asian American woman to be nominated in this category. This, matched with her riveting performance on Killing Eve, could be enough for her to finally clinch a win. 

That leaves Moss, last year’s winner. It feels strange, because years ago, many Mad Men fans were denouncing the Emmy’s for never rewarding Moss for her performance as Peggy Olson. Now, she is a frontrunner to win for the second year in a row. And just watch her performance in “The Last Ceremony” and you’ll figure out why. It truly is a winning tape. Still, with a variety of equally incredible actresses in contention, it feels predictable to give it to Moss again. But these are the Emmy’s we’re talking about, so expect Moss to prevail. 

Should Win: Again, this is tough, because everyone is astonishing this year. That said, for six seasons of layered and haunting work, this should go to Russell. Her enigmatic Elizabeth Jennings culminates into  a final explosion. I haven’t been able to shake her menace, compassion, and disillusionment. She earned her TCA and deserves her final chance at Emmy glory. 

Could Spoil: Literally anyone could win. That’s what makes this race so exciting.  

Your turn! Will Moss win again? Most importantly, are you heartbroken that Mandy Moore’s performance on This Is Us wasn’t nominated?

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Reader Comments (31)

If Keri Russell doesn’t win, I will scream! I think Tatiana Maslany should t be counted out either. Her submission tape, also the series finale, is killer. She is on fire that entire episode.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

The only one who don't have a chance at grabbing the trophy is Evan Rachel Wood. Regardless of who wins or not, the quality of this category is enormous. Is this the first year where all the nominees are deserving? I do think so.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Hoping against hope for his & hers wins by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys...

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

I'm surprised you quickly discounted Tatiana as she wasn't skipped over last year - rather she wasn't eligible. This is her first time back since winning.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBview

Wow I may be the only one but I'm all in for Claire Foy, and so glad they chose the episode "Dear Mrs Kennedy" which I have watched at least 3 times; it's so well done. This actress has the ability to convey emotion with the nuance of a raised eyebrow. Yes there are others as deserving, and admittedly I am a royal nerd, but I really hope she takes it this year.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrrrich7

My chips are stacked on Russell, though I would concede Moss is the safest bet. I can totally fathom Oh too.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

I thought Moss was wonderful on Mad Men, but I feel her performance could use more subtlety here (e.g., she seemed so obviously out of her element when she was on the run, and there are only so many times she can stare intensely into the camera at the end of the episode before it loses its impact). This is a huge problem I have with the show overall, though, so it may be a directorial issue. That said, I feel that most of the supporting actresses on the show are quite good or outstanding.

I love Russell's performance and she would be my choice, but I would be thrilled for Sandra Oh as well. I wish that they would get the opportunities afforded someone like Claire Foy. At least it seems as though Russell has a couple of film projects on the horizon.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Jennings, Elizabeth was Russell's second best episode in the whole series, after that one act play with Lois Smith.

I love Moss, but Russell is beyond any competition. Rhys must win, too.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Of course it's The Summit, not Jennings, Elizabeth.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I have Foy winning, though I'm not tottaly confident. And yes, Mandy Moore should have been nominated (as well as Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz in their respective categories).

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Oh wins with ease,she's really great in the show.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I will forgive all the poor choices for winners that are bound to happen on Emmy night ... IF they give this award to Sandra Oh. No question that Russell should have already won (at least) one, and is worthy yet again for her work on The Americans ... and I'm aware that this category is wall to wall of worthy performances ..but Oh's work on Killing Eve was absolutely my favourite performance of the year. Though, in a perfect world Jodie Comer should also be nominated alongside Oh for her genius work too. Though I won't be too sad if any of the other worthy ladies win, I would be genuinely ecstatic to see Sandra Oh make history with a worthy & overdue win on Emmy Night. #fingerscrossed

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTroy

I'm pulling for Sandra OH....Killing Eve was Fantastic!!

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterceebee


September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

Claire Foy must win this one, especially given this year when she basically blowed up.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

Really strong category, I'd have loved to see Mandy Moore here but I am way more heartbroken because of Justin Hartley snub, he was given such strong material to work with in season 2...anyways, my brain says Keri Russell (overdue factor) but my heart belongs to Elisabeth Moss ( brilliant, she says more with a glance than most actors with a hundred words) and Sandra Oh ( carrying Eve with that flawless dry humor and wit of hers)...and looking forward to see what the future holds for the terrific Jodie Comer.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEder Arcas

Maslany wasn't snubbed, she was ineligible.

I feel unfortunately for such a competitive category, Moss is far and away the frontrunner. Her popularity is still huge and the show only grew in nomination count. Even if the series fails to win again (I'm not even sure it will), she should be an easy win for the show. See Claire Danes even when Homeland failed to pick up a second trophy.

Part of the reason is that there's 4 contenders and none emerged as the true alternative. There's different reasons to argue why Russell, Oh, Maslany or Foy should win, only making it harder for one to upset. Foy is probably the likeliest, with the biggest show of those four. And I think if anyone upsets it'll be her given her banner year, but her episode submission did her no favors and I don't expect any undecided voters who go by the tapes to side with her (Moss also has the "best" submitted tape).

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

Will Win: Elisabeth Moss
Should Win: The Amazing Sandra Oh

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Sandra Oh is Asian Canadian (born and raised) , not Asian American. She has won Best Actress twice in the Canadian Oscars, and she continues to live in Toronto. Tatiana is also Canadian, born and raised in Regina Saskatchewan. Since Maslany has already, deservedly, won, I hope Sandra Oh wins this time because she is fucking great in Killing EVE!

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIsmael

I have such deep love for Sandra Oh and Tatiana Maslany.

But I hope the winner is Keri Russell. Year after year, (unrewarded), she surprised and shocked with a character no one can forget, or confuse with anybody else.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Alex D makes a good point.
Especially with Handmaid Tale’s whopping amount of nominations, the conversation seems to be Elisabeth Moss or Foy. Or Oh. Or Russell. But Moss is always the consistent co-front runner. One single alternative hasn’t emerged so Moss likely wins again.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I'm pulling for Keri or Sandra. Also, Mandy Moore is beyond average on 'This is Us'. It's a solid show, but if anyone thinks Mandy Moore is even close to the league these 6 women are in, they're delusional.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterZach

Keri Russell will never get this chance again because she will never get a role like Elizabeth Jennings again. She has to win.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

This category is my big 'no guts, no glory' pick of the Emmys - Claire Foy. I think the Emmys will recognize the fact that she's not going to be around for another season unlike Elizabeth Moss.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterConMan

For the love of God, give it to Keri Russell. She’s not only the best, but I’ll go further and say that she has crafted one of the most complex and unforgettable female characters in television history.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

I say Sandra will and should win.

After her, Keri Russell.

Claire Foy could be the spoiler, but I think they may go for Vanessa Kirby for The Crown in supporting.

I was a never a Moss fan and thought she was overrated on Mad Men and continues to be. I was more a fan of Christina and January.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBia

This category could go several ways. Give the award to Moss for her performance but to make up for Mad Men. Give it to Maslany, Russell, or Foy since this is the last time, or give it to Oh and make history. Honestly, they could all split and Wood ends up winning.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

I would love for this to go to Russell, who not only would be deserving for her work on The Americans this year, but who is overdue and for whom this is a last chance. I agree, though, that Moss will repeat. Foy and Russell are both such strong competition to Moss that neither has really pulled out ahead of the other.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

Claire Foy is a masterpiece!

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLucio

You thought The Handmaid's Tale was depressing?

Look what it's done to Emmy's actress categories.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMiz Miz

If Keri doesn't win, we riot at dawn. Other than Foy and Maslany (who already has a well-earned trophy), she is the only nominee who gives a truly excellent performance on a truly excellent show. Moss is good on HT (and of course deserved the recognition she never got for Mad Men) but that show is uneven at best and borderline unwatchable, and I have no time for repeat winners in a category as stacked as this, in a landscape like today where so many incredible women are giving rich, compelling performances on television. It's such a waste to give multiple trophies to the same performer for the same performance when there are so many who are deserving. Wood is an excellent actress and occasionally quite good on WW (a show that is also wildly inconsistent), but her performance pales in comparison to Thandie Newton's, and everyone loves Sandra Oh, rightfully so, and while it would a be thrill to see her win, she was consistently out-acted by Jodie Comer on Killing Eve. Mandy Moore gives, without question in my opinion, the best performance on This Is Us (a show I despise), but her work does not compare to that of the six women nominated. If anyone was snubbed in this category, it was Comer, followed by Laura Linney (and even more egregiously, Julia Garner) for her work on Ozark.

If Russell goes unrewarded for her six seasons of sophisticated, devastating work on one of the best dramas of the century, it will be a true travesty. But we all know the TV Academy loves to hand out a consecutive win, so we should all prepare ourselves to see Moss take the podium once again.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJes V.

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