Pete Hammond’s Emmy Predictions 2021: Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series – Will Voters Make The Smart Choice In A Strong Field?

Jean Smart
Anne Marie Fox/HBO Max

Like the Lead Comedy Actor group, this category only sports five nominees, including veterans Tracee Ellis Ross and Allison Janney, but also two new HBO Max shows providing sensational roles for a couple of TV sitcom veterans. Deservedly, the Emmy last year went to Catherine O’Hara of Schitt’s Creek, showing that voters do like to honor their icons when they can. However, this is a category that usually resists change: Julia Louis Dreyfus won it six times in a row for Veep, and Candice Bergen took it five times in a row for Murphy Brown. This year there is one former Emmy winner who carries the odds to be back in the winner’s circle for a new show that broke just as the season came to an end. Here is the rundown of the nominees and then scroll down for the predicted winner, followed by analysis and a predicted winner in the corresponding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category.


Aidy Bryant, Shrill

Bryant is just fine in this Hulu comedy, but how many voters have even seen it? Her nomination was a surprise, but the less competitive nature of the category, and the fact several shows that might have made the cut were not on the air this season, helped her get this bid. Good as she is, there is little chance of winning. Voters love her though, and she is also up for SNL in supporting.

Kaley Cuoco
Collin Hutton/HBO Max

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant

After 12 seasons of The Big Bang Theory, Cuoco took matters into her own hands, found Chris Bohjalian’s 2018 novel, took it to Warner Bros. and got a deal for her new series. Her efforts paid off: she landed it smoothly and got her first ever Emmy nomination for a role that takes her off into new directions, where the sky’s the limit. She could be a sleeper here, but there is some stiff competition on the flight path.

Monty Brinton/CBS

Allison Janney, Mom

Janney won a couple of supporting Emmys for the first couple of years of this great sitcom, but then decided to go for lead status, regularly earning more nominations (she has 15 in her career and seven wins). A win here could tie her with Cloris Leachman in rarefied territory, and the series gets to end on a high note. Will that be enough? Or do voters think Janney already has enough?

Traces Ellis Ross
ABC/Richard Cartwright

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Ross has proved herself and has been racking up Emmy nominations since 2016 for this sitcom, which only has one more year to go. Will voters wait to honor her on the final season, or will they throw what would be a major upset in the series’ seventh inning?

Read All Of Deadline Award Columnist Pete Hammond’s Emmy Predictions Here

Jean Smart, Hacks

Smart has nailed the most memorable role of her career as Deborah Vance, an aging Vegas female comedian (think Joan Rivers meets Elayne Boosler with a bit of Debbie Reynolds), in this darkly funny and biting series. She’s so good in this it would be a shock if she doesn’t pick up a fourth career Emmy.



Aidy Bryant has little chance of winning in the Lead category, and not much chance here either as one of three SNL nominees that also include two-time winner Kate McKinnon and another SNL vet Cecily Strong. I doubt any of them can win against some killer competition that also includes two more members of the Ted Lasso cast. Both are simply superb, but Hannah Waddingham as the team owner probably has the advantage over equally fine Juno Temple.

Rosie Perez is always fun to have on board and she doesn’t disappoint in The Flight Attendant, but for edgy brilliance check out Hannah Einbinder, who is the other ‘hack’ in Hacks—believe me, she goes toe-to-toe with Jean Smart, and that’s no small task. With 20 noms for Ted Lasso and 15 for Hacks, it comes down to a question of which new show got more eyeballs from Emmy voters. If Temple can pull just a few votes away from Waddingham, who has been a precursor favorite on the awards circuit, that could open the door for Einbinder. I’m really torn. Can we call it a tie?

THE PREDICTED WINNER: HANNAH WADDINGHAM, TED LASSO. In a battle between a pair of Hannahs, momentum for Ted Lasso probably tips the scale in Waddingham’s favor.

Hannah Waddingham

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