This may be the toughest overall competition of any Emmy category this year. In fact, in a year where Elisabeth Moss, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Mandy Moore, and many others weren’t nominated, you might be right to get the feeling that the contest for Lead Actress In A Drama Series is going to be brutal. We have an Oscar queen trying to become an Emmy queen, an Emmy-winning sitcom queen going dramatic, a first-timer whose TV work was previously better known on the Disney Channel, last year’s surprise winner matched again against her 10-time Emmy-losing co-star, plus a veteran four-time winner looking to add a fifth. Let’s survey the field and see who gets the Pete’s Winner Pick stamp. Just so you know this one looks like a photo finish to me and the end result is, quite frankly, still up in the air. In other words don’t sue me if I’m wrong. And keep in mind – it is only actors voting for other actors here in the finals.
The Morning Show
Aniston seemed to shock even herself when she won this year’s SAG award for her role as news anchor Alex Levy in the just-debuted Apple+ series The Morning Show. She beat out some very stiff competition in the category, so it was absolutely no surprise that the beloved star would land an Emmy nomination for the same role. She seems to be riding a lot of momentum towards a win, which would only be her second since her Lead Comedy Actress statuette in 2002 for Friends, and a win would be a rare, but not unprecedented feat in triumphing in both key acting Emmy categories.
Colman would probably rate a nomination here as Queen Elizabeth even if she was lousy. She isn’t, of course, and she continues on a career roll since winning the Oscar as a very different queen in The Favourite a little over a year ago. Of course, she still has another season in the role before it changes hands once again, so voters may feel they can wait a year to bow down.
Coming off her surprise win last year against more favored co-star Sandra Oh, Comer can’t be counted out to repeat. Her role as Villanelle is one for the ages, as loopy as it gets, and voters love to watch this kind of all-stops-out performance. The competition here is just lethal though, so a repeat might be asking for too much.
I don’t have to explain to you that Emmy voters love Laura Linney—her four gold-winged ladies for four different shows proves it better than I could. But she just may be topping herself in Ozark as Wendy Byrde, taking on devilish Shakespearean shades. As always, she is riveting to watch, and the writers of the series clearly know it as they keep giving her so many choice scenes to play.
Oh is now an 11-time Emmy nominee, and so far zero for the 10 previous nominatons. That has to change, surely, but it probably won’t happen this year as she seems overshadowed by her co-star, not to mention the stiff competition in the rest of the field. That said, Emmy has been known to spread the wealth sometimes between series stars, and she’s awfully good as the title character—would it kill voters to give Eve a shot?
Virtually no one predicted that Zendaya would break into this race for a series that aired almost a year ago, and for which initial buzz had presumed to have faded. To their credit, voters saw things differently and decided to crown this former Disney Channel star with a key nomination in a category that left many bigger names at the starting gate. The nomination for this daring series is the only win here: the race is between Linney and Aniston, and it’s a close call.
Like its male counterpart, this category is jam-packed with contenders—another eight-pack, to be specific. Among the group are four past Emmy winners, including two who have Oscars on their mantel. The frontrunner is the feisty upstart who pulled off the win on her first nomination last year. However, a British princess played by a former queen might just grab the crown from her and the queen of the Academy Awards as well. Of course, the latter would be Meryl Streep, as the conniving mother-in-law in Big Little Lies, but this year she has to compete directly with another Oscar and Emmy winner in Laura Dern, who is looking to make bookends for Renata in the same show.
Both may be eclipsed, however, by last year’s winner, Julia Garner in Ozark, or four-time Emmy nominee Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret in The Crown. Otherwise, Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve), Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale), and past winner Thandie Newton (Westworld) are back, while first-timer Sarah Snook (Succession)might be a dark horse…
The Winner: Julia Garner, Ozark