Last Year’s Winner: Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: Since Claire Danes took home back-to-back trophies for “Homeland” in 2012 and 2013, there has been a different winner every year.
Fun Fact: Elisabeth Moss won her first lead actress Emmy in 2017, but it was also a first for Hulu. It was the streaming network’s first nomination and first win in the category. Meanwhile, Netflix’s Robin Wright had snagged a nomination five years in a row — and the streaming giant had another nominee last year, as well, in Claire Foy — but it has yet to win.
The Best Actress in a Drama Series race has been extremely tight for the past five or so years, and it’s not loosening up in 2018. Of late, there’s been a lot of year-to-year overlap, including Robin Wright’s active five-year streak for “House of Cards,” Viola Davis’ three-year streak for “How to Get Away With Murder,” and Keri Russell’s back-to-back nods for “The Americans.” Only two of the three have strong cases to continue their runs, with Davis (a former winner) and Russell (entering her last year on the FX drama) with particularly appealing cases for voters.
With “House of Cards” seeing a delay in production after Kevin Spacey’s termination, the final season isn’t likely to be released in time for Emmy consideration. That would put Wright out of this year’s race, opening up a slot for… who? Last year’s crop of new nominees don’t look to be going anywhere. Claire Foy returned as strong as ever in “The Crown” Season 2, Evan Rachel Wood should be more popular than ever in a “Westworld” season where her character is running wild, and Elisabeth Moss isn’t likely to disappoint in “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season 2, either.
Does that mean Tatiana Maslany could make her way back in after taking last year off? She won in 2016 and the final season of “Orphan Black” is eligible for this year’s awards. She’ll have to edge out Kerry Washington in the last season of “Scandal,” a two-time former nominee herself, as well as three-time nominee Emilia Clarke, who’s expected to switch categories form Supporting Actress to Lead for the latest season of “Game of Thrones.” Plus, Mandy Moore is a threat after that big scene in the Super Bowl episode — perhaps it’s enough to put her over the edge for voters.
Newcomers proved to be popular last year, so it’s good to keep an eye on freshman contenders in 2018, too. There’s Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Deuce,” a past nominee for “The Honorable Woman” who snagged a Golden Globe nod for her role in the HBO drama, and Laura Linney is also gaining traction thanks to a Screen Actors Guild nomination for “Ozark” and the series’ ongoing positive buzz. Throw in a few fan favorites like Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”) and Mackenzie Davis (“Halt and Catch Fire”), and the fight for one nomination is going to be fierce.
Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (listed in alphabetical order), which will be updated throughout the season. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz and highlights from the 2018 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well.
- Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”
- Claire Foy, “The Crown”
- Laura Linney, “Ozark”
- Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
- Keri Russell, “The Americans”
- Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”
Spoilers: Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”; Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”; Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”; Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”; Kerry Washington “Scandal”
In a Perfect World: Mackenzie Davis, “Halt and Catch Fire”; Claire Danes, “Homeland”