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Emmy Predictions 2019: Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie

Oscar winners are looking to break big at the Emmys, but this field is more crowded than Hollywood Blvd. during the Academy Awards. [Updated: June 10]

Chernobyl HBO Episode 1 Jared Harris

Jared Harris in “Chernobyl”

Liam Daniel/HBO

Last Year’s Winner: Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: An actor from “American Crime Story” has won for each of the FX franchise’s nominated seasons. Darren Criss won in 2018 for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” and Courtney B. Vance won for his role as Johnnie Cochran in “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.” “American Crime Story” is also the only program to win more than one trophy in the Best Limited Series or TV Movie category.
Fun Fact: Benedict Cumberbatch is one nomination away from tying the record for most nominations in the category. Currently, he’s at six nominations — six nominations in seven years, mind you — while Hal Holbrook has the most with seven. He’ll need a few more wins to threaten that champion, however. Laurence Olivier has four wins to Cumberbatch’s one.
Notable Ineligible Series: Cody Fern, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”; “American Crime Story”; “Genius”; “Fargo”

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actor 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 rest of the categories, as well. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15. The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, September 22. Fox is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

Hoo boy, this race is crowded! There’s no shortage of candidates and very few contenders who could consider themselves locks, to boot. Take Mahershala Ali in “True Detective.” By most standards, he’s the early frontrunner. This season of “True Detective” marked a return to form for the franchise all-around, Ali just won his second Oscar, and he earned rave reviews for his moving work in Nic Pizzolatto’s timeline-bending new entry. But “True Detective” premiered in January, he’s not the network’s only contender, and who knows how time will affect the intensity of voters’ feelings for his turn.

Sam Rockwell is in a similar position with “Fosse/Verdon” — coming off an Oscar nomination, new to the TV Academy, and earning solid reviews for his turn. But the series’ mixed reception could affect his odds, just like they could for “I Am The Night.” Chris Pine has earned plenty of accolades, though, and the well-liked movie star should make quite an impression on the awards circuit. Anthony Hopkins’ only issue to overcome is exposure — how many voters saw “King Lear,” or are even aware the knighted actor starred in a BBC Two production picked up by Amazon?

No one has seen Ian McShane in HBO’s “Deadwood: The Movie” — not yet — but he’s still a top contender, as expectations are sky high for the long awaited sequel. Same goes for Christopher Abbott in Hulu’s adaptation of “Catch-22” and Jared Harris in “Chernobyl” — but both have a history of impressing critics and voters alike, so they’re already part of the mix.

They may even have better odds than a few of the remarkable turns we saw months and months ago. AMC’s  “The Little Drummer Girl” has two worthy contenders in Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Shannon, while Jonah Hill hopes viewers have warmed to his weird, experimental journey in Netflix’s “Maniac.” Hugh Grant got a boost from the Golden Globes — and quite a bit of love for “Paddington 2” — but will it be enough to keep “A Very English Scandal” in the conversation nearly a year after its original release?

Peter Dinklage is looking to be a dual nominee between “Game of Thrones” and his HBO passion project, “My Dinner with Hervé.” Andre Holland deserves some love for “Castle Rock,” but the horror genre doesn’t do as well with the TV Academy unless its title includes the words “American” and “Story.” Ashton Sanders got Sundance buzzing with “Native Son,” but the film’s HBO debut didn’t cause quite as many waves. (Neither did Jeffrey Wright’s exquisite turn in “O.G.,” sadly.) Benedict Cumberbatch is looking to keep his Emmy hot streak alive with his transformative turn in “Brexit,” and the continuing political turmoil across the pond could help keep him in the discussion (even if the movie didn’t exactly light the world on fire in January).

But there is one late 2018 release that looks to have enough juice to make it through the Emmy calendar: “Escape at Dannemora,” Ben Stiller’s Showtime limited series, features a number of great performances, including Benicio del Toro — another Oscar winner who’s never been up for an Emmy. Is this the year that changes? Anything can happen with this field.

Predicted Nominees:

  • Mahershala Ali, “True Detective”
  • Jared Harris, “Chernobyl”
  • Ian McShane, “Deadwood: The Movie”
  • Chris Pine, “I Am the Night”
  • Sam Rockwell, “Fosse/Verdon”
  • Benicio del Toro, “Escape at Dannemora”

Spoilers: Hugh Grant, “A Very English Scandal”; Jharrel Jerome, “When They See Us”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “Brexit”; Peter Dinklage, “My Dinner with Herve”; Christopher Abbott, “Catch-22”

In a Perfect World: Andre Holland, “Castle Rock”; Jeffrey Wright, “O.G.”; Michael Shannon, “The Little Drummer Girl”; Ashton Sanders, “Native Son”

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