Now that Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston are out of the way, and the AMC dominant shows Mad Men and Breaking Bad are off the air, the Lead Actor in a Drama Series race is a wide open affair with no obvious favorite. This could finally be the year two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey finally grabs the gold for his indelible Frank Underwood on House of Cards. The competition is relatively new, with Bloodline’s Kyle Chandler, Ray Donovan’s Liev Schreiber, and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk in just their second year competing, joined by first-timers Rami Malek of Mr. Robot, and Matthew Rhys of The Americans.
With his fifth overall Emmy nomination including his second consecutive nod for this Netflix series, Chandler is the only one of the six nominees to have previously snagged an Emmy in this category—in 2011, for Friday Night Lights. His role as John Rayburn in the increasingly popular show gives him a good shot of getting a statuette, as he is clearly popular with his fellow actors.
If there is a breakout success this season, it has definitely been this first season USA series, which also earned Malek’s Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity employee by day and hacker by night, a Golden Globe nomination and a win from the Critics Choice Awards. He’s the hot new kid on the block, and the fact that his show also made the grade in the drama series category in its first time out gives him a decent shot.
Better Call Saul
This is Odenkirk’s second consecutive nomination in two tries for this Breaking Bad spinoff, in which he once again plays shyster lawyer Saul Goodman—aka Slippin’ Jimmy McGill—in the prequel to the smash multiple-Emmy winning show. Ironically, Odenkirk was never nominated with the Bad gang, and seems way overdue to finally grab a win for this iconic character, who carries on now as the lead of his own show.
There was a collective cry from fans and critics when Rhys finally won his first Emmy Nomination for this acclaimed but oddly Emmy-less show, which managed to run three seasons without a nod for Drama Series or its two leads. This year, that has been remedied, and Rhys—as a Soviet Intelligence agent posing as an American family man—has his shot at last. Will Emmy voters be ashamed it took this long and make it up with a win?
Schreiber is back in the running for the second year in a row, but actually, it’s surprising it isn’t the third year in a row, as the actor was overlooked for the first season of this tough Showtime drama that provides a great showcase for the ever-reliable star. With his character’s name firmly doubling as the title of the series, Donovan is an overpowering and complex role that shouts Emmy.
House of Cards
It’s hard to believe, but this Tony and two-time Oscar winner has been nominated now nine times, and has never won an Emmy—so the odds that he can finally take it home for his iconic Francis Underwood in this very political election year are better than ever, especially now that some of the perennial and tougher competition is no longer competing. He has been nominated for this role in each of its first four seasons, so if he doesn’t win now, he may never win.
PETE’S PICK: Tough call, but toss a coin. Mine came up Bob Odenkirk.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Jonathan Banks was great as Mike in Breaking Bad, but never really got the Emmy recognition he deserved; and now he has, with a second consecutive nomination for Better Call Saul. Last year’s winner, Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones, might be less of a threat for his fellow nominees, as he has to compete for the first time with Kit Harington’s iconic Jon Snow. That pair could cancel themselves out. Michael Kelly is ever reliable and could benefit, like his House of Cards co-stars, from the Emmys falling right in the heart of a heated presidential race, giving impetus to his show. Ben Mendelsohn is simply superb as Danny Rayburn in Bloodline, but will voters watch it in the numbers he needs to stand out? Then there is veteran Jon Voight, returning to the nominees circle as Ray Donovan’s father after being absent last year. This is as solid a group of actor-actors as the category has seen in some time.
PETE’S PICK: Mendelsohn deserves it, but Peter Dinklage will likely – again – ride in on the Game of Thrones gravy train.
This post was originally published August 19, 2016.