Last Year’s Winner: Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: A nominee from HBO or FX has won this category nine times in the last 10 years — Laura Linney’s victory for “The Big C: Hereafter” in 2013 is the lone standout.
Fun Fact: Helen Mirren has the most trophies in this category. She’s won four times, including two for the “Prime Suspect” series.
Can Laura Dern become an Emmy winner two years in a row? After snagging her first trophy last year for “Big Little Lies,” Dern seems fated to snag another nomination (at least) for her hailed turn in HBO’s “The Tale.” The film earned rave reviews out of Sundance before the premium cable network picked it up, and the beloved Dern is front-and-center in the landmark cinematic memoir.
But she’s not the only one earning early Emmy buzz. Jessica Biel generated a ton of raves for her performance in “The Sinner,” the USA drama that was renewed for a second season. Whether or not the summer release sticks with voters after nearly a year off the air is its biggest challenge, but Biel won’t be forgotten easily. The same goes for Elisabeth Moss. Last year’s Emmy winner for “Handmaid’s Tale” is up for the same role again in 2018, but she’s also got “Top of the Lake: China Girl.” Released in September 2017, it, too, has been out of the public eye for a while.
Sarah Gadon is hoping all that “Handmaid’s” love translates to interest in another Margaret Atwood adaptation, “Alias Grace.” Meanwhile, Hayley Atwell has been earning glowing praise for her work in “Howards End,” and the Golden Globe nominee could snag her first Emmy nod for it. Michelle Dockery is looking for her first non-“Downton Abbey” nod (for “Godless”), and Edie Falco wants her first trophy since 2010 (fifth overall, after “The Sopranos” and “Nurse Jackie”).
But don’t discount the ruling Emmy darling in limited series: Sarah Paulson remains a favorite and starred in Ryan Murphy’s latest much-talked-about season of “American Horror Story.” “Cult” may not be a return to form for the oft-rewarded franchise, but Paulson is still formidable. She’ll have to beat out the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Cocaine Godmother”), Cristin Milioti (“Black Mirror: USS Callister”), Riley Keough (“Paterno”), and Anna Deavere Smith (“Notes from the Field”), but she can do it.
Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie (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 for the rest of the categories, as well.
- Hayley Atwell, “Howard’s End”
- Jessica Biel, “The Sinner”
- Laura Dern, “The Tale”
- Michelle Dockery, “Godless”
- Elisabeth Moss, “Top of the Lake: China Girl”
- Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Cult”
Spoilers: Edie Falco, “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders”; Kelly Macdonald, “The Child in Time”; Cristin Milioti, “Black Mirror: U.S.S. Callister”; Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Cocaine Godmother”
In a Perfect World: Carmen Ejogo, “The Girlfriend Experience”; Anna Friel, “The Girlfriend Experience”; Riley Keough, “Paterno”