Throughout Emmy season, IndieWire will be evaluating the top contenders for TV’s most prestigious prize, and it all starts here. At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. This article will be updated throughout the coming months, along with all our predictions, to reflect an up-to-the-minute state of the race. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest coverage on the 2020 Emmys, including breaking news, analysis, interviews, podcasts, FYC event coverage, reviews of all the awards contenders, and more. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, September 20. (See our awards calendar for a more detailed breakdown of important dates.) ABC is broadcasting the ceremony.
Last Year’s Winner: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: After six straight wins from Emmy Queen Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amazon’s Prime Video has a mini streak of its own — though not the one many expected. Rachel Brosnahan took home Best Actress in a Comedy Series during “Veep’s” off-year in 2018, but the out-of-nowhere “Fleabag” force propelled Phoebe Waller-Bridge to a victory in 2019. Can Brosnahan reclaim her throne, or is another Amazon surprise in store?
Fun Fact: Helen Hunt has the fourth most wins in this category’s history, racking up four trophies for “Mad About You,” but if she gets one more nomination, she’ll move past Betty White, Tina Fey, and Candice Bergen with eight total nods. (Julia Louis-Dreyfus has the most wins, seven, and nominations, 12, in the category)
Notable Ineligible Series: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag” (ended); Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (ended), Natasha Lyonne, “Russian Doll” (Season 2 has not premiered); Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (competing as a TV Movie)
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The State of the Race
Will Amazon’s eponymous “Mrs. Maisel” be marvelous once more? Rachel Brosnahan is the (very) early favorite in a field now lacking the unstoppable sensation that was Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the inexhaustible champion that was Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” won eight Emmys and snagged 20 nominations in 2019, up from eight wins and 14 nominations in 2018, so all signs point to another big haul for the similarly received Season 3. Plus, Amazon already has old-timey ads up around Los Angeles, keeping the December release top-of-mind during these early days of FYC.
That being said, it’s still early — very early — and there’s plenty of emerging competition. Pop TV will certainly be giving “Schitt’s Creek” a big push in its final season, and Catherine O’Hara may be the cult comedy’s best chance for a trophy. The legend won an Emmy for writing “SCTV” in 1982, but she’s never taken home an acting prize. Pair that with “Schitt’s” late-series surge at awards shows, and it may be enough to catapult the show toward the gold. Of course, Pamela Adlon is in a similar boat for “Better Things.” The do-it-all talent won an Emmy in 2002 for her voice work on “King of the Hill,” but she’s yet to be recognized for her performance in front of the camera. After dropping off the nomination list last year, FX hopes 2020 is the year “Better Things” finally gets the Emmy love it’s long deserved.
Of last year’s nominees, only half remain eligible: Brosnahan, O’Hara, and “Dead To Me’s” Christina Applegate. Though the Netflix comedy’s freshman season didn’t spark the kind of enthusiasm some expected from the TV Academy, Applegate is a voter favorite, and Season 2 should reach an even wider audience. Past nominees like Issa Rae (“Insecure”), Alison Brie (“GLOW”), Allison Janney (“Mom”), Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda (both from “Grace and Frankie”) are all hoping this year will be kinder to them than 2019, when there simply weren’t enough slots for all the deserving talent.
But what about the newcomers? Kirsten Dunst made quite a splash with Showtime’s “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” as the former YouTube original series moved to premium cable and became a critical darling. Merritt Wever could be a double nominee between her Netflix limited series “Unbelievable” and her new HBO comedy, “Run” (and she’s already a two-time winner). Awkwafina followed up her heralded performance in “The Farewell” with “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens,” her own show on Comedy Central, and Elle Fanning is hoping “The Great” will propel her to her first Emmy nomination (though Hulu will also be pushing Zoe Kravitz in “High Fidelity” and Aidy Bryant in “Shrill”). And lest we forget the long overlooked greats, America Ferrera (“Superstore”), Logan Browning (“Dear White People”), and Mishel Prada (“Vida”) all deserve accolades for their unjustly ignored comedies.
1. Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
2. Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”
3. Merritt Wever, “Run”
4. Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me”
5. Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
6. Kirsten Dunst, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida”
Spoilers: Awkwafina, “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens”; Kristen Bell, “The Good Place”; Linda Cardellini, “Dead to Me”; Issa Rae, “Insecure”; Alison Brie, “GLOW”; Elle Fanning, “The Great”
In a Perfect World: America Ferrera, “Superstore”; Logan Browning, “Dear White People”; Mishel Prada, “Vida”