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? After three years of nominations, Lily Tomlin has yet to be rewarded for “Grace and Frankie.” Tracee Ellis Ross has been given the nod two years running for “Black-ish,” as has Ellie Kemper for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” And that’s just three slots that seem to be spoken for; both of last year’s first-time nominees are eligible again. Pamela Adlon returned with a stronger season of “Better Things” — she may score multiple nominations for directing and writing — while Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”) and Allison Janney (“Mom”) are out to prove their breakthroughs weren’t a one-time deal.
If all of these women get nominated, that’s six slots filled before any new faces are even considered — and some really need to be. Rachel Brosnahan is riding high with Amazon’s breakout hit, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” especially given its hourlong runtime and the wide-ranging demands on its star. Frankie Shaw is looking to benefit from a challenging role in “SMILF,” and Alison Brie has a lot of buzz behind her after scoring Golden Globe and SAG Award nods for “GLOW.”
But in a race that’s been tight for many, many years, there are a slew of actors who’ve always been on the edge without ever breaking in. Rachel Bloom has been snubbed twice for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and Aya Cash once more than that for “You’re the Worst.” Michaela Watkins deserves recognition for “Casual,” and she just might get it for the Hulu original’s final season. Constance Wu has made her “Fresh Off the Boat” matriarch into a sitcom mainstay and remains as sharp as ever. Meanwhile, Issa Rae has only been shut out once, but the “Insecure” star already feels overdue for Emmy recognition.
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”
- Alison Brie, “GLOW”
- Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
- Allison Janney, “Mom”
- Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”
- Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”
Spoilers: Kristen Bell, “The Good Place”; Logan Browning, “Dear White People”; Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”; Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”; Debra Messing, “Will & Grace”; Frankie Shaw, “SMILF”
In a Perfect World: Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”; Aya Cash, “You’re the Worst”; Minnie Driver, “Speechless”; Michaela Watkins, “Casual”; Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat”