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.
Elisabeth Moss finally won her first Emmy in 2017 (plus her second, as a producer of “The Handmaid’s Tale”), and she hasn’t slowed down this year. Even when Bruce Miller’s follow-up season stumbled elsewhere, Moss’ performance still earned raves. She’s the frontrunner this year until proven otherwise.
But there are not one, not two, but three challengers with one last shot at an Emmy for their landmark roles. Tatiana Maslany may have already won once, but this is her last season of “Orphan Black”; that the Academy didn’t forget about her after a year off is telling of the impact she’s had on them. Then there’s Claire Foy. After just two seasons on “The Crown,” she’s done; Season 3 is expected to cover the Queen’s life from 1964 into the early ’70s, so Olivia Colman is taking over. That means this is Foy’s last chance in the category, and she’s been universally praised for her two-year turn.
And yet… it’s nothing compared to what Keri Russell has done over six seasons on “The Americans.” After being blanked for her work in “Felicity,” Russell has snagged three consecutive nominations for Best Actress in the series’ final three seasons. To say she’s acclaimed is an understatement; people are combing the dictionary to find words that best describe her accomplishment. It’s time the TV Academy does its part and hand over the gold.
That being said, there are still two more nominees in the field, and neither can be so easily dismissed. Evan Rachel Wood landed her second straight Emmy nomination for “Westworld,” and she’s only gaining admirers. In a dense narrative, her vicious turn stood out — as did Sandra Oh’s work in BBC America’s breakout hit, “Killing Eve.” Oh earned respect for her work on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but she took things to a new level with a nuanced take on a cop pulled toward the wrong side of the law. She’s not broken, but she sees the appeal in breaking, and Oh has so much fun dancing along the line. In a year filled with bleak competitors, “Killing Eve” could stand out for having a good time.
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.
- Claire Foy, “The Crown”
- Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
- Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
- Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
- Keri Russell, “The Americans”
- Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”
Will Win: Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Could Win: Keri Russell, “The Americans”
Should Win: Keri Russell, “The Americans”