Last Year’s Winner: Regina King, “Seven Seconds”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Helen Mirren is the only actress to win consecutive trophies in the Best Actress in a Limited Series category, and even though she’s been nominated six times for playing Detective Jane Tennison in “Prime Suspect” (and won twice), she won her back-to-back trophies for two different programs. She won in 2006 for HBO’s “Elizabeth I” and then again in 2007 for “Prime Suspect: The Final Act.”
Fun Fact: Helen Mirren has the most wins (four) and the most nominations (10) in the category’s history, but it’s worth noting she’s only ever been nominated in this Emmy category — save for in 2002, when she was nominated for Best Actress in a Limited Series and Best Supporting Actress in a Limited series, for “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” and “Door to Door,” respectively. Laura Linney and Patty Duke are tied for the second most wins in the category, and each have been nominated for other Emmys. (Linney even won another Emmy for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.)
Notable Ineligible Series: Sarah Paulson in “American Horror Story: Apocalypse;” Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies;” anyone from “Fargo” or “American Crime Story.”
At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie (listed in alphabetical order). This article will be updated throughout the season, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz from the 2019 race, and read predictions in the other categories as well. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards take place, September 14 and September 15. The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, CA September 22. Fox will broadcast the ceremony.
The State of the Race
It’s a battle of the Oscar winners — and Amy Adams. This year’s contenders for Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie illustrate that TV’s short-term pull on big-time stars remains quite strong. Just look at all the movie stars (Ooo! Ahh!) making an impression on the small screen. Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette doubled down with two miniseries in the last year, Hulu’s “The Act” and Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora.” She’ll submit as Supporting Actress for the Hulu original, which a) leaves this category to co-star Joey King, and b) clears a path for the Golden Globe winner to repeat at the Emmys.
But she’ll have to contend with Helen Mirren in HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” not to mention Emma Stone in Netflix’s “Maniac.” Both are former Oscar winners, and Mirren is an 11-time Emmy nominee with four wins (including one as recently as 2007). Stone may not have any Emmy love so far in her young career, but the three-time Oscar nominee earned all three nods in the last five years — she’s popular, respected, and ready to tackle the TV Academy. Now, they just have to embrace the weird, wild world of “Maniac.”
Michelle Williams may not have an Oscar, but her four nominations with zero wins would be the most egregious snubbing in the Film Academy’s history, if not for Amy Adams’ six nominations without a win. The two will look for affirmation at the Emmys, as Williams reps FX’s Hollywood-friendly bio-series “Fosse/Verdon,” and Adams looks to appear on behalf of HBO’s Gillian Flynn adaptation, “Sharp Objects.” Adams has earned absolute raves for her work, and the series became a 2018 summer sensation. Whether it can maintain momentum over the next few months is up to HBO, which may know a thing or two about the awards game.
So are there any contenders without a long history of Oscar love? Connie Britton is angling for her fifth Emmy nod via Bravo’s podcast adaptation, “Dirty John.” Julianna Margulies wants to get back in the game with “The Hot Zone” on Nat Geo; she’s got three wins and a slew of Emmy nods to back her odds. Ruth Wilson played her own grandmother in the PBS Masterpiece series “Mrs. Wilson” that delved deep into her family’s surprising past, and that hook (plus her committed turn) should help her stand out to voters. Sarah Paulson is always a contender, so long as she’s got a series in the window — but the TV Academy decided “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” qualifies as a drama series this year.
A few dark horses include Florence Pugh in AMC’s “The Little Drummer Girl.” There’s no doubting Pugh’s merits, but enough voters would need to find the fall premiere now in order to give her the votes to break through. Melanie Lynskey needs to overcome genre bias to get in for “Castle Rock,” while voters are just waiting to see “When They See Us” — Ava DuVernay’s Central Park Five miniseries — before deciding who, if anyone, deserves their support. Finally, Vanessa Hudgens turned heads in the right direction for her spirited rendition of “Rent: Live,” but NBC’s special itself wasn’t as well-received. Can voters put blinders on to honor this specific performance, or will it be easier to go with the glitz and glamour of those prestige Oscar winners?
- Amy Adams, “Sharp Objects”
- Patricia Arquette, “Escape at Dannemora”
- Joey King, “The Act”
- Emma Stone, “Maniac”
- Michelle Williams, “Fosse/Verdon”
- Ruth Wilson, “Mrs. Wilson”
Spoilers: Connie Britton, “Dirty John”; Julianna Margulies, “The Hot Zone”; Marisa Tomei, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience”
In a Perfect World: Vanessa Hudgens, “Rent: Live”; Melanie Lynskey, “Castle Rock”; Florence Pugh, “The Little Drummer Girl”