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Emmy FYC: Best Actress in a Drama Series

Team Experience is sharing FYCs as the Television Academy votes on Emmy nominations (voting closes on June 24th). Here's J.B...

 Last year's winner Claire Foy can't repeat (as Emmy likes to do) because she didn't have a TV show this year.I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Emmy category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  As someone who worships at the altar of dramatic actresses, it’s my favorite category, and therefore necessarily the one that causes me the greatest anguish. Sometimes, this category shocks and delights (as it did in 2014, when Lizzy Caplan was nominated for her wonderful work on Masters of Sex, or 2016, when Tatianna Maslany took home the trophy for her dynamic performance in Orphan Black). But more often, as of late, anyway, I’ve been left wounded by egregious snubs and unwelcome surprises on nomination morning and Emmy night.

For example, I like Claire Danes, but did she really need a SECOND Emmy for her performance on Homeland, at the expense of Elisabeth Moss, who somehow never won for her iconic role on Mad Men? If Moss had won for Mad Men perhaps voters could have skipped her in turn for Claire Foy in The Crown, thus clearing the way for Keri Russell in 2018, whose turn as Elizabeth Jennings in The Americans is maybe the greatest dramatic performance of the decade. Keri’s loss, in particular, I still haven’t fully recovered from.

So, to any Emmy voters out there who have realized the error of their ways and are looking to make amend: You CAN’T! You’ve made bad choices, the consequences of which we all will have to live with! Know that. BUT, if you are looking to get on the right side of history this year, start by considering the following four names on your ballot for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series...

Christine Baranski, The Good Fight
Christine is hardly under-recognized by the Television Academy, but she remains such a powerful, elegant and engaging screen presence, and is doing some of the very best work of her career on The Good Fight. She deserves to be validated, for the first time, as the leading lady she has proven herself to be.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Deuce
Of the women on this list, Maggie is who I would like to stump hardest for. She is, sincerely, one of the best, most versatile actresses working today, and been criminally under-awarded for it. The Deuce has gotten a bit of a bad rep, I suspect because of headliner James Franco’s reported #MeToo misconduct, and it’s a shame, because it is actually one of the better dramas to have to premiered in the last few years, and  features a tremendously talented, diverse ensemble (including many women of color) and some very smart and sophisticated storytelling. And at the center of it all is Candy, the former prostitute and now auteur porn director played by Gyllenhaal. Her performance is brimming with heart, skill, honesty and intelligence. Like Robin Wright on House of Cards, she has, through the power of her performance, forced her way to the center of the narrative, where she belongs. It’s no easy feat. And it shouldn’t go unnoticed.  

Toni Collette, Wanderlust
Toni is one of those rare performers who not only is never bad, but is almost always abnormally interesting. She goes to unexpected places as an actress, and imbues her characters, magically, with a dual sense of mystery and relatability. They are equally flawed and endearing, selfish and loving. Wanderlust is no exception. She brightens this wonderful show with that je ne sais quoi-spark of kookiness and gravitas that makes her so remarkable as an actress, and so special. Her performance is raw and real. You want to hug her. You want to slap her. It’s humanity, messy and pretty and everything in between, captured on film. This is a masterclass in acting, and utterly-Emmy worthy.   

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
An absolute dynamo of an actress who brings a tremendous amount of charm and nuance to a very complicated role, and over two seasons of Killing Eve, has not made one bad choice or committed a single false moment to screen. If her work on this show is any indication, she could very well be the next Meryl Streep, so in true Meryl-fashion, we had better start showering her with awards. Not just because she happens to be on a hit show or because she's hitched her wagon to the stars of Sandra Oh and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but because she is, herself, a tremendously skilled performer— sharp and evocative and engrossing— and she deserves them.

It would be foolish to hope that all four of these ladies will make the cut this year, given the stiff competition from bigger names and bigger shows. But perhaps one of them? Comer or Baranski could happen and I would love nothing more than to wake up on nominations morning to see Gyllenhaal and Collette’s names (or, for that matter, any number of other unexpected but welcome ones—Elizabeth Olsen! Suranne Jones! Ruth Negga! Caitriona Balfe!) included as well. It’s high time Emmy voters start mixing it up in this category and make  riskier choices.

Who are you rooting for in this category?


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Reader Comments (27)

Laura Linney in Ozark FTW!

June 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterH

I like most of the picks here, but I have to beat the drum for Mj Rodriguez from POSE. She's the heart of that essential show.

June 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I just got caught up with Harlots and damn Jessica Brown Findlay is on fire in that.

June 19, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

J.B.: Even if Elisabeth Moss had won an Emmy for Mad Men, I think she still would have won for the first season of The Handmaid's Tale. That show was huge that year and I really don't see how she could have lost that particular Emmy. I also don't think they would let Claire Foy go Emmy-less for her work on The Crown, so if Keri Russell was going to win for The Americans, it probably would have been for earlier seasons. The way I would have fixed it was to nominate and then give the Emmy to Tatiana Maslany for the first season of Orphan Black (which was the year Claire Danes won her second for Homeland) and then give Keri Russell the Emmy for season 4 of The Americans (which was 2016), or even nominate her and give her the Emmy for season 3 instead of Viola Davis (who is a great actress, but not in How to Get Away to Murder)...

June 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I love Jodie Comer and killing eve as much as the next gay and if they recognise Oh, they need to recognise her - you don’t have one without the other - but her accent work (particularly that American one) proves she is definitely not the next Meryl Streep.

I’d cry if Collette was nominated - she just seems like the best person.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

I agree with Morgan.
Also I find Maggie Gylleenhal quite limited.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKl

Was Wanderlust renewed for a 2nd season??

Shldn't Collette compete under Actress in a Limited Series instead?

So far there's no award nom for Toni in this show, not even at Bafta TV awards

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

I too am still realing from the ignoring of Keri Russell's Elizabeth but she sits in a great list of characters who never won an Emmy.

This year I'm completly behind everything Pose and MJ Rodriguez is stunning and were she a known actor she would be a near lock for a nomination. I too am pulling for Gyllenhaal, Baranski and Comer to get into the category over boring expected choices like Wright (HOC), Clarke (GOT) and Linney (Ozark).

The drama field does feel rather weak this year and still there are lists of leading actress contenders. God help us actressexuals when we have to deal with a category featuring Olivia, Nicole, Reese, Elisabeth, Regina and so many more that we are no where near seeing.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

I might be the only person in the world who didnt'l like The Good Fight S3 at all.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

"whose turn as Elizabeth Jennings in The Americans is maybe the greatest dramatic performance of the decade"

- Drop the "maybe"

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

HUH -- finally! I wish people would have actually watched that. It's such a juicy show and everyone is terrific on it.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Emmy voters are notoriously lazy. Keri Russell should have received at least one gd statue, for the wig work alone!

This year, I’m betting on the Brits, Comer and Jones, both of whom are doing remarkable work with equally remarkable and well-written characters (though Anne Lister was a real person).

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Suranne Jones, get that Emmy nom!

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

Sandra Oh. I am rooting for Sandra Oh.

If Comer is the next Meryl Streep, she'll have plenty of opportunities. Oh has already been denied too many times.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Huh -- I too am CRAZY about Harlots! But unfortunately, it seems Hulu didn't submit anyone from the show for consideration. Such a shame.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJ.B.

Claire Danes's second Emmy win for "Homeland" was better than her first one, BTW.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLaurence

Huh, JB, and Nathaniel - Harlots is so good! Also, I wish American audiences could see how extraordinary Lesley Manville can be in comedy too. I binged all three seasons of Mum. Perfection.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPam

J.B.--your analysis of Toni Collette's gifts is so right on the money. Lovely writing bout a unique artist. I am still in pain that she was snubbed by Oscar for Hereditary.

The standard for Best Actress in a Drama Series, for me, will always be Kathy Baker in Picket Fences. That performance is beyond anything I've ever seen in a TV drama series.

I do have a soft spot for Lindsay Wagner's win for The Bionic Woman.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Count me as someone who believes that Claire Danes deserved her second (she truly stepped up her game in S2) and that Moss and Foy have been awarded correctly.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterShmeebs

Wanderlust performed terribly in the UK ratings (despite a prime spot in the schedule), received mixed-terrible reviews and was completely ignored by BAFTA.

There is no way the BBC will provide funding for a second series - anyone who loves it (and/or Collette) will need to pray that Netflix feel differently and go it alone...

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

I'd like Mandy Moore to be nominated for "This Is Us" at last.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I also agree that Claire Danes' second Emmy win is her most deserved one. She was stellar in the first season of HOMELAND, don't get me wrong, but I think they chose the wrong episode submission for her. However, she really stepped up her game in the second season. While her episode submission for season two wouldn't have been the one I had chosen, it still is a vast improvement over the season one, one.

Keri Russell should totally have won though, last year! Her performance on THE AMERICANS was extraordinary! The last season in particular really allowed her to shine.

4 leading ladies I want to be noticed by the Emmy's:

Mj Rodriguez - POSE
Christina Hendricks - GOOD GIRLS
Emilia Clarke - GAME OF THRONES

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

Christine Baranski!!!!
and Robin Wright as the last goodwill

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFadhil

Julia Roberts in homecoming - stepping up her game

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMcv

Christine Baranski as a lead nominee sounds to good to be true… PROOF ME WRONG, EMMYS!!!

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Suranne Jones, Gentleman Jack. Everything about her portrayal is note perfect.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

I know it's wishful thinking but Suranne Jones in Gentleman Jack should get an Emmy nomination.

June 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEddy

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