Last Year’s Winner: Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Helen Mirren has the most nominations and wins of any actress in this category. She’s also the only actress to ever win in back-to-back years.
Fun Fact: We all remember Meryl Streep winning for “Angels in America,” but she also won for the NBC miniseries “Holocaust” in 1978. Despite just three nominations, Streep is one of only 12 women to win more than once in this category.
A year after Sarah Paulson dominated the awards circuit in “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” FX has a fresh new lineup ready to take her place on stage. The most obvious new contenders will be Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon in “Feud: Bette & Joan.” Focusing on Bette Davis (Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Lange), the classic Hollywood tale about two iconic actresses, played by two iconic actresses, should be catnip for voters. But the TV Academy already knows they love “Fargo,” which should help Season 3 star Carrie Coon land a nod.
HBO has other ideas. “Big Little Lies” should only be big at the Emmys, and — while we don’t know which of the three leads will be submitted as the lead — we’re guessing Reese Witherspoon should be able to go toe-to-toe with any challengers. She’s at the center of the seven-hour mystery, and the producer-star absolutely slays throughout the miniseries to date.
On the movie side of things, HBO has two big contenders: Michelle Pfeiffer as Ruth Madoff in “The Wizard of Lies,” and Oprah Winfrey as the titular star of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Pfeiffer has three Oscar nominations, but has never been up for an Emmy. Winfrey has one acting Oscar nod under her belt, along with five Emmys nominations and two wins… but she’s never been nominated by the TV Academy as an actress. This could be the year — for both of them.
Outside of awards powerhouses FX and HBO, Felicity Huffman is looking to make it three-for-three with ABC’s “American Crime.” She’s been nominated for both previous seasons, meaning she’s already got voters on her side. Showtime has the ’70s resistance fighter limited series “Guerrilla,” starring Freida Pinto, and we’ll have to wait and see if any female leads emerge in “Twin Peaks.” Meanwhile, Cynthia Nixon in “Killing Reagan,” Lindsay Duncan in “Churchill’s Secret,” and Viola Davis in Lifetime’s “Custody” round out the contenders on the movie side of things. Throw in Jodie Comer for Starz’s “The White Princess” and Sanaa Lathan from Fox’s upcoming police drama “Shots Fired,” and there should be plenty of competition in the limited series race.
Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited 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.
- Carrie Coon, “Fargo”
- Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”
- Jessica Lange, “Feud: Bette & Joan”
- Susan Sarandon, “Feud: Bette & Joan”
- Oprah Winfrey, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
- Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”
Spoilers: Viola Davis, “Custody”; Diane Keaton, “The Young Pope”; Michelle Pfeiffer, “The Wizard of Lives”
In a Perfect World: Regina King, “American Crime”