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Emmy Predictions 2018: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Sterling K. Brown looks to defend his crown from competition within his own show. [Updated: August 13]

THE AMERICANS -- "Urban Transport Planning" -- Season 6, Episode 3 (Airs Wednesday, April 11, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings. CR: Patrick Harbron/FX

Matthew Rhys in “The Americans”

Patrick Harbron/FX

Last Year’s Winner: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: There hasn’t been a repeat winner in this category since Bryan Cranston won three times in a row for “Breaking Bad” between 2008 and 2010.
Fun Fact: Sterling K. Brown was the first black actor to win in this category since Andre Braugher won for “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1998.

“This Is Us” and “Westworld” nabbed two slots each in this category, but do the solo nominees have an edge?

Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia are back in the race for the NBC drama. Brown is the defending champion, and he’s won two years running — first for “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson” and then for “This Is Us.” In fact, he’s never been nominated and lost, so perhaps it’s best to bet on the Emmy favorite.

But Ventimiglia had a big year. His character, the beloved Pearson family patriarch Jack, was given quite an arc in Season 2, and his narrative was the primary focus of the Super Bowl episode. Though the show faced criticism for dwelling on Jack’s death as long as it did, Ventimiglia didn’t see any backlash on his end; the performance is strong, and he could sneak away with the trophy if NBC backs him over Brown. (Usually campaigns back the safe bet, which would be the defending champion.)

So what about “Westworld”? Some speculated the HBO drama would see a dip in nominations with “Game of Thrones” returning to the fray and a confusing second season in competition, but Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris both still broke into the lead acting race. The two performers arguably had the most substantial arcs of anyone in Season 2, and both actors are well-respected. Wright won an Emmy for “Angels in America” and was nominated again last year. Harris snagged his first nod for “Westworld” this year and has been given the nod twice in the past. A case could be made it’s time to reward one of them.

And yet the stronger case for bestowing a belated trophy belongs to Matthew Rhys. The “Americans” star has been doing stellar work for years, and this is his third nomination for the roll (fourth overall). In his final season as Philip Jennings, the Welsh actor could finally earn an Emmy. Meanwhile, the TV Academy also enjoys dolling out acting awards for thespians who work behind the scenes, as well; that could favor Jason Bateman — who produced and directed “Ozark” — but it could also favor Rhys, who directed multiple episodes of “The Americans” over the years.

Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding 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.

The Nominees: 

  1. Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
  2. Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
  3. Ed Harris, “Westworld”
  4. Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
  5. Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”
  6. Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”

Will Win: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Could Win: Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
Should Win: Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”

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