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Emmy Dream Ballot: A Voting Guide for the Best Drama Nominees Eligible in 2018

With Emmy voting underway, these are the series and performers worth serious consideration in 2018.

Emmy Voting 2018 - Dream Ballot Sandra Oh Killing Eve Matthew Rhys The Americans Susan Kelechi Watson This Is Us

BBC America / FX / NBC

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Ballots are out and Emmy voting 2018 is underway! But with 728 programs on the ballot (18 more than last year) and 2,372 performances (92 more than 2017), there’s quite a bit to sift through.

IndieWire is here to help. After picking through the ballot, these are the shows and performances that stand out. Every one is on the ballot (no write-ins necessary) and each is more than worthy of your vote, dearest TV Academy member. And if you haven’t seen these picks, there’s still time — Lord knows the screeners are out there, and voting doesn’t close until June 25 at 10 p.m. PT.

For those of you not voting on the Emmys, take a look and share your enthusiasm. Now is the time to be loud and proud about your favorite TV shows, so head to Twitter, Facebook, the comments section, or the streets with your support. Who knows who might hear you.

THE AMERICANS -- "Start" -- Season 6, Episode 10 -- (Airs Wednesday, May 30, 10:00 pm/ep) Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. CR: FX

Best Drama Series

  1. The Americans
  2. “The Chi”
  3. “Counterpart”
  4. “The Deuce”
  5. “Halt and Catch Fire”
  6. “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  7. “Killing Eve”

Praise for “The Americans” has built to a crescendo over six years of exquisite television, and the final season didn’t disappoint; if anything, it amped up the action and elevated the emotional stakes to new highs. “The Chi” and “The Deuce” told important stories in fascinating ways, featuring a slew of sterling performances, while “The Handmaid’s Tale” continued its reign over Hulu. “Counterpart” stood out not only for its dueling J.K. Simmons (Simmonses? Simmons²?), but for a sharp original script captured with enthralling pizzazz. But two under-viewed dramas join “The Americans” at the top of the must-watch list: “Killing Eve,” the new BBC America series from writer/creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and “Halt and Catch Fire,” the cult favorite that ended its magnificent run on a high note last summer.

Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh)

Best Actress in a Drama Series

  1. Mackenzie Davis, “Halt and Catch Fire”
  2. Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”
  3. Laura Linney, “Ozark”
  4. Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  5. Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
  6. Keri Russell, “The Americans”

Luckily, no one has to choose between Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) — not yet, anyway. As far as nominations go, both of these expressive performers can (and should) get a vote. But don’t sleep on Mackenzie Davis’ nuanced turn in “Halt and Catch Fire,” as a renegade computer programmer who finds her calling but has to blend it with the business world. Davis brings such life to the character, building Cameron into a multifaceted, unpredictable, but deeply known person in the show’s final season. Laura Linney did something similar on “Ozark,” slowly moving from an embarrassed and frightened wife to a motivated and authoritative partner. And if you’re looking for agency, look no further than Maggie Gyllenhaal’s empowering turn on “The Deuce.” As for Sandra Oh, she can speak for herself.

Best Actor in a Drama Series

  1. Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
  2. Hugh Dancy, “The Path”
  3. Jason Mitchell, “The Chi”
  4. Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
  5. J.K. Simmons, “Counterpart”
  6. Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”

After securing a nomination in the Supporting Actor category last year, some may have been skeptical about Jeffrey Wright’s move to the Lead race for “Westworld.” But it’s clear his central role merits the shift, and his layered, human performance as a malfunctioning host warrants a vote. Matthew Rhys’ work in “The Americans” is simply unparalleled — and don’t forget he’s been doing an American accent this whole time. Jason Mitchell moves through a multitude of emotions with impressive speed and authenticity in “The Chi,” while J.K. Simmons creates two distinct characters without so much as a wig to help distinguish the two physically. Sterling K. Brown isn’t going unnoticed on the awards circuit, but he deserves each and every accolade. Finally, “The Path” may be over, but there’s still one more chance for Emmys voters to give Hugh Dancy his due. As an aspiring cult leader who goes from top to bottom and back again, Dancy infuses Cal Roberts with magnetism and fear, a tricky balance to strike that he does time and time again.

The Crown - Margaret - Margaret waits for Tony at his studio

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  1. Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  2. Julia Garner, “Ozark”
  3. Susan Kelechi Watson, “This Is Us”
  4. Vanessa Kirby, “The Crown”
  5. Thandie Newton, “Westworld”
  6. Constance Zimmer, “UnREAL”

Ann Dowd is Ann Dowd: Her Emmy-winning performance dives even deeper in Season 2, and that seemed impossible a year ago. Thandie Newton is still steamrolling through “Westworld,” and Constance Zimmer deserves a return to the Emmys for her iconic role in “UnREAL.” Two supporting Netflix stars stole the show from their leads: Julia Garner is still earning raves for her work in “Ozark,” while Vanessa Kirby’s performance in “The Crown” Episode 4, “Beryl,” is an unforgettable blend of boldness and vulnerability. But perhaps the star most in need of a shout-out is Susan Kelechi Watson; not because she’s gone unnoticed in “This Is Us,” but because the entire ensemble is so well-regarded that individuals need their own recognition. Watson deserves hers after Season 2. (And if you’re going for the “Americans” sweep, as everyone should be, don’t forget about Holly Taylor and Margo Martindale.)

TRUST -- Pictured: Brendan Fraser as James Fletcher Chace. CR: Kurt Iswarienko/FX

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  1. Asia Kate Dillon, “Billions”
  2. Noah Emmerich, “The Americans”
  3. Brendan Fraser, “Trust”
  4. Toby Huss, “Halt and Catch Fire”
  5. Zahn McClarnon, “Westworld”
  6. Jonathan Tucker, “Kingdom”

Three of these actors have been doing industry-best work for years and have yet to be recognized: Noah Emmerich (“The Americans”), Toby Huss (“Halt and Catch Fire”), and Jonathan Tucker (“Kingdom”). All three shows had fairly low viewership (to be kind), but over the course of three or more seasons, there’s no good excuse for these men to be left off the ballot. On the opposite end, “Fargo” favorite Zahn McClarnon just stunned audiences in his own episode of “Westworld” (which aired the day before voting opened). Asia Kate Dillon pulled off a similar trick in “Billions,” as the Showtime drama ran all the way up to voting — though their role is memorable, no matter when it aired — and Brendan Fraser made the most noise for FX’s “Trust,” and rightfully so. Not everyone can look into the camera and remain grounded, but his cowboy kept his boots in the dirt throughout the charming stylistic flourishes.

The Deuce Season 1 Episode 1 James Franco Pilot

Best Directing in a Drama Series

  1. Ana Lily Amirpour, “Legion” (Episode 2, “Chapter 10”)
  2. David Fincher, “Mindhunter” (Episode 10, “Episode 10”)
  3. Lisa Joy, “Westworld” (Episode 4, “The Riddle of the Sphinx”)
  4. Lesli Linka Glatter, “Homeland” (Episode 12, “Paean to the People”)
  5. Chris Long, “The Americans” (Episode 10, “START”)
  6. Michelle MacLaren, “The Deuce” (Episode 1, “Pilot”)

Michelle MacLaren had never worked with David Simon before “The Deuce,” and wow-oh-wow what a feat the two pulled off in the opening episode of HBO’s new period drama. The way she blends VFX shots of the NYC marquees with on-the-ground realism to recreate the look and feel of the ’70s is astonishing, but what she does with the actors (including two James Francos working in one-shots) is extraordinary. But beyond MacLaren, this race is tight. Lesli Linka Glatter keeps rocking in “Homeland,” and David Fincher pulls off another coldly stylish Netflix series in “Mindhunter.” But Ana Lily Amirpour put on one helluva show with her stint in “Legion” and Lisa Joy made a powerful directorial debut (that, per sources, has made her the buzz of the town) in “Westworld.” Last, but certainly not least, Chris Long worked in silence on a real train and with nothing but dialogue in an immobile nine-minute scene to create an intercontinental race that remained emotionally devastating. They’re all terrific, and not a wrong choice for the winner.

The Chi Season 1 Episode 3 Alex Hibbert and Jason Mitchell

Best Writing in a Drama Series

  1. Amy Berg, “Counterpart” (Episode 8, “Love the Lie”)
  2. Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, “Halt and Catch Fire” (Episode 10, “Ten of Swords”)
  3. Dan Dietz and Carly Wray, “Westworld” (Episode 8, “Kiksuya”)
  4. Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, “The Americans” (Episode 10, “START”)
  5. Lena Waithe, “The Chi” (Episode 1, “Pilot”)
  6. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Killing Eve” (Episode 1, “Nice Face”)

This category was a bit easier to whittle down given which episode were actually submitted, but it’s still bursting with elite contenders. Phoebe Waller-Bridge should be a given, considering how strong the opening of “Killing Eve” is; so much personality comes through so quickly, and yet the intense dynamic between the leads also proves gripping unusually fast. Lena Waithe captured the essence of Chicago — and introduced the city in its complicated glory — within one hour, while “The Americans” and “Halt and Catch Fire” writers nailed endings to two shows that set a pretty high bar for their finales. “Counterpart” is a mind-bending delight throughout, though Amy Berg’s episode is a stand-out, and the same can be said for “Westworld.”

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