Emmy Predictions 2019: Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Bill Hader looks to defend his title, while a slew of veteran Academy favorites hope to rekindle the love. [Updated September 16]
Bill Hader in "Barry" Season 2 HBO
Bill Hader in "Barry"
Isabella Vosmikova/HBO

Last Year’s Winner: Bill Hader, “Barry”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: Showtime has the longest nominations streak of any network in this category, with eight years in a row earning at least one slot. Spread across three actors, 13 nominations, and dating back through 2011, William H. Macy (“Shameless”), Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”), and Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes”) have all helped keep the premium cable network in the race, year after year. However, a Showtime actor has never won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.
Fun Fact: John Goodman (“Roseanne”), Matt LeBlanc (“Friends” and “Episodes”), and Hal Linden (“Barney Miller”) have the most nominations without ever winning an Emmy in the category. LeBlanc and Linden have never won an Emmy period, but Goodman took home the 2007 trophy for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series for — you guessed it — Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived NBC series “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”!
Notable Ineligible Series: Donald Glover, “Atlanta”; Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”; Zach Galifianakis, “Baskets”

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. 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, CA on Sunday, September 22. Fox is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

Bill Hader may not want to get competitive with his colleagues in the category, but you better believe the networks representing each nominee will fight it out to the bitter end. And Hader has the edge. Last year’s winner pushed his eponymous hitman-turned-actor to further extremes in a well-received Season 2, and the actual actor’s popularity within the TV Academy has never been higher. With HBO behind him, Hader is in good shape.

But one of his heroes may stand the best chance of unseating him. Eugene Levy finally broke back into the Emmy race with PopTV’s cult hit, “Schitt’s Creek.” While you may be wondering what PopTV is, the answer may not matter that much: People have seen Levy’s lovely performance via Netflix, and the voters adore him — he’s won twice before, though not since the ’80s and only as a writer. That makes for a good underdog story.

Of course, Ted Danson also hasn’t won in decades, and he was nominated just last year. “The Good Place” is rising in popularity, and the regularity of which Danson enters the Emmy race indicates a high respect for the two-time winner. NBC’s “Good Place” also benefits from Netflix viewership, along with good broadcast numbers, so awareness shouldn’t be an issue. If Danson can get a swell of support before his final season, perhaps 2019 is his year.

All that being said, the only actor with Netflix’s official backing is Michael Douglas, who also has a good track record with the TV Academy. (Are you seeing a trend here?) The six-time nominee won for “Behind the Candelabra” in 2013, and now he’s back in the running, playing an actor, which is typically a role voters warm to right off the bat. If he can connect with younger voters as well as the ones still swooning over movie stars on TV, he’ll have a good shot at breaking through.

As for Mr. Cheadle and Mr. Anderson, they have steeper hills to climb. Both have held a consistent presence at the Emmys over the last decade or so, but they haven’t been able to rally that consistency into wins. Cheadle has a new show that might boost his profile, while Anderson could claim he’s overdue for some love. Still, they don’t seem to have the buzz just yet to make a run for the top.

Power Ranking the Nominees:

  1. Bill Hader, “Barry”
  2. Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
  3. Ted Danson, “The Good Place”
  4. Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
  5. Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”
  6. Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”

Will Win: Bill Hader, “Barry”
Could Win: Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Should Win: Ted Danson, “The Good Place”

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