A returning champ vs. another past winner sets up the possibility of a repeat victor for Lead Actor in a Drama Series, but there are a couple of veterans in the mix who have 13 acting Emmy nods between them and no win, so sentiment could be a factor. There’s also a brilliant Scottish-born star whose time may have come after being Golden Globed—but he has a co-star first-timer to contend with. Who will it be? Here is a look at the contenders and the one who gets the Pete’s Winner Pick stamp.
Between this series and Arrested Development, Bateman has had five Lead Actor nominations, and last year won the Emmy for directing with his Ozark episode “The Toll”. This year he is not in the running in the directing category but has two acting nods, one for Ozark and another for Guest Actor in a Drama Series for newbie The Outsider. Because Ozark has been so widely sampled this year, and due to his exposure on the other series, Bateman is clearly respected by his peers, so don’t count him out.
What 'Succession's Rebel Son Jeremy Strong Learned From Working With Daniel Day-Lewis, And How Kendall Roy Finally Became A Killer
Sterling K. Brown
This Is Us
Brown won for this series, in the same category in 2017, after taking a Supporting Actor Emmy the year before for The People v. O.J. Simpson. This represents his fourth consecutive nomination in this category for This Is Us, and, like Jason Bateman, Brown is a double nominee this year—he is also being recognized for his Supporting role in a Comedy Series for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Another win here seems unlikely, though, as the Emmy heat for This Is Usappears to be dwindling.
The Morning Show
The big shocker in this category was the omission of Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk, and that snub may be down to Carell, who landed his first bid in the Drama Series race for his predatory anchor in The Morning Show. Let’s face it, after losing six times as Comedy Lead Actor in The Office, Emmy voters owe him one, but his character here was pretty despicable. Actors, however, might recognize the mean feat of going so far against type for this likeable and talented funnyman.
Coming off a Golden Globe win, having not seen Emmy glory since the miniseries Nuremberg nearly two decades ago, Cox is riding a late wave of newfound success as a Rupert Murdoch-type mogul in this critically acclaimed show. The only drawback is that he is pitted against an equally talented co-star (Jeremy Strong) playing one of his sons. The gravitas of the part, though, and Cox’s veteran status, could potentially help him overcome that.
No one scored a more popular, and, to some, surprising victory at the Emmys last year than this Tony-winning star who came in and immediately conquered TV with a groundbreaking role in Pose that clearly channeled the zeitgeist. He could repeat the win here if only because voters might want to see what he’s wearing, no matter how virtual the show may be.
Strong is riveting as the ambitious and duplicitous son of Brian Cox’s formidable patriarch in this water-cooler smash. This is Strong’s first nomination, and he has always been memorable in a number of movie roles, but this means he has to compete directly with Cox. I suggest you look back to what Jodie Comer achieved last year in her shocker win for Killing Eve—there is a solid chance of that dynamic repeating here.
A crowded field—eight nominees—could cause a massive pileup on the Emmy highway, since three of them are from Succession and two are from The Morning Show. There’s a reasonable chance for each of that Succession trio (Nicholas Braun’s Cousin Greg, Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom Wambsgans, and perhaps most notably Kieran Culkin’s Roman Roy), but will they just cancel each other out? Three’s a crowd, buddy.
The pair from The Morning Show—Billy Crudup and Mark Duplass—also could crash and burn due to the competition from each other. That leaves three contenders with a clearer path to victory, including Westworld vet Jeffrey Wright, Bradley Whitford for The Handmaid’s Tale, and Giancarlo Esposito—inexplicably repping the sole acting nod for Better Call Saul this year. Esposito, though, is also Guest Actor nommed for The Mandalorian, and might stand a better chance there. If Westworld was more buzzed this season, I might say it was Wright’s time for the win, but Whitford—a three-time winner for three different shows—seems to have Emmy’s number.
The Winner: Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
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