Last Year’s Winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Julia Louis-Dreyfus has more awards and more nominations in this category than anyone in Emmys’ history. She’s won six of her seven trophies for “Veep” — and she won those six in a row.
Fun Fact: Not only has Julia Louis-Dreyfus won six years straight, but none of the series from the last time someone else won (Melissa McCarthy for “Mike & Molly” in 2011) are even on the air. (“Nurse Jackie,” “30 Rock,” “The Big C,” “Raising Hope,” “Parks and Recreation”)
For the first time in six years, there’s going to be a new Best Lead Actress winner in the comedy category. No, “Veep” isn’t over, nor is Julia Louis-Dreyfus going to lose — she’s just not in contention this year. With the HBO comedy taking a year off, the unofficial Queen of the Emmys (OK, it’s all-but-official) is resting up for one more run in 2019. Until then, someone else gets a shot at the gold.
So, who’s up? Rachel Brosnahan’s turn in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” sure has captured the zeitgeist; it seems like everyone is talking about Amazon’s hourlong period comedy, and Brosnahan’s performance is one of the big reasons why. Working from Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialogue-heavy scripts and being asked to shoulder quite the dramatic and comedic loads, Brosnahan is still light enough on her feet to charm your socks off.
But then there’s Tracee Ellis Ross. Often picked as the dark horse to upset Louis-Dreyfus, could the “Black-ish” star finally get her gold with “Veep” out of the picture? She picked a good year to try, given how much her character, Bow Johnson, went through. Of course, the same could be said for Allison Janney and Lily Tomlin; Janney, a seven-time Emmy winner is always a threat, and Tomlin, a six-time Emmy winner, has never won an acting trophy. Plus, “Mom” and “Grace and Frankie” deftly balance comedy and drama in their own unique fashion.
And yet two relative newbies to the race could pose the biggest threat to the rest of the clan. Issa Rae surprised people by snagging her first nomination in Season 2, and HBO will give her the full push in a year without Louis-Dreyfus. Then there’s Pamela Adlon, who earned the only nomination for “Better Things” last year, and the only one again in 2018. She moved up to full-time director in Season 2, as well, putting her list of hyphenates at “too many to list.” If voters start to realize they overlooked one of television’s best shows, Adlon (who’s already well-liked in the Academy) could sneak in and take this one.
Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy 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.
- Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
- Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
- Allison Janney, “Mom”
- Issa Rae, “Insecure”
- Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”
- Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”
Will Win: Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Could Win: Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”
Should Win: Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”