Last Year’s Winner: Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: There has not been a repeat winner in this category since Bryan Cranston won three times in a row between 2008-2010 (for “Breaking Bad”).
Fun Fact: Michael C. Hall, Hugh Laurie, and Martin Sheen have all been nominated six times in this category and never won, the most nominations ever without a win. They all used to trail Jon Hamm, who had seven nominations without a win until he won for “Mad Men” on his eighth nod. (Hall and Laurie have never won an Emmy in any categories, while Sheen won for Guest Actor on “Murphy Brown” in 1994.)
Always a tight race, the Lead Actor in a Drama category will see only one definite opening based on last year’s nominees. “Bloodline” didn’t release a new season in time to compete, meaning Kyle Chandler won’t be snagging his third Emmy nomination for the Netflix series this year. Everyone else, however, is eligible: Rami Malek will try to become the first back-to-back winner in the category since Bryan Cranston; Bob Odenkirk is looking for his third nod in as many seasons for “Better Call Saul”; Matthew Rhys finally broke in last year and has no plans to vacate his seat before “The Americans” wraps; Kevin Spacey is still Emmy-less, despite earning a nomination for each season of “House of Cards” thus far. And Liev Schreiber is looking to make it into the category three years in a row for “Ray Donovan.”
Who’s primed to join them? Before we can say, we need to know who is campaigning in what categories. The ensemble cast of “This Is Us” submitted everyone in the supporting actor categories for the Golden Globes. The move snagged nods for Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz, but the men went home empty-handed. Sterling K. Brown is moving to the lead category at the Emmys, so will Milo Ventimiglia run as supporting? And what about “Westworld”? Will Anthony Hopkins submit as a lead? Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, and Jimmi Simpson feel destined for supporting, but Hopkins is a big enough name — and left a big enough mark on Season 1 — to merit leading man status. And “The Crown” could decide to put Matt Smith up as a lead, if only to avoid pulling votes away from John Lithgow in the supporting category.
Other new faces of definite leading man status include Billy Bob Thornton, who took home the Golden Globe earlier this year for “Goliath,” Dan Stevens in Noah Hawley’s wild FX drama, “Legion,” and Tom Hardy in “Taboo.” And then there’s the wannabe Matthew Rhyses of the world — repeatedly snubbed, but holding out hope this is their year. Justin Theroux leads the pack for “The Leftovers” in a criminally unacknowledged performance. Right there with him is Aden Young in “Rectify,” and 2017 marks his last chance to be nominated for the role he’s dominated for four seasons.
Other hopefuls include Aaron Paul in “The Path,” Paul Giamatti in “Billions,” and Dominic West in “The Affair.” They won’t have to worry about Neil Patrick Harris crashing the party, given the TV Academy’s ruling that his Netflix series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” is a comedy, not a drama.
Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (in alphabetical order), which will be updated throughout the awards season. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz and highlights from the 2017 race, and read the rest of the predictions in all categories, as well.
- Anthony Hopkins, “Westworld”
- Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
- Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
- Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
- Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
- Justin Theroux, “The Leftovers”
Spoilers: Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”; Dan Stevens, “Legion”; Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
In a Perfect World: Aaron Paul, “The Path”‘; Aden Young, “Rectify”