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Emmy Predictions 2020: Best Actress in a Comedy Series

Comedy frontrunners "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and "Schitt's Creek" square off again, but there are plenty of spoilers lurking. [Updated August 14]

Insecure

Yvonne Orji and Issa Rae in “Insecure”

Merie W. Wallace / HBO

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 the week of September 14. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place virtually 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); Kirsten Dunst, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (ruled a drama series by the Television Academy)

The State of the Race

Will Amazon’s eponymous “Mrs. Maisel” be marvelous once more? Rachel Brosnahan is a former Emmy winner and two-time Golden Globes winner competing in a category 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, and now it’s back with 20 more nominations in 2020 — the most of any comedy series. All signs point to another big haul for Season 3, but does that mean Brosnahan is a lock?

Not necessarily. Similar to last year, when “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” took home eight trophies but fell short of the top prizes, Amazon’s awards darling could see a similar haul in 2020 — winning numerous, well-deserved craft prizes while voters try to spread the love in other categories. That’s one reason many expect to see Catherine O’Hara walk away with her first Emmy since 1982 (when she was a writer on “SCTV”) and her first acting win ever. “Schitt’s Creek” broke into the Emmy race last year, but it went wide for its final season. Those 15 nominations PopTV snagged are nothing to sneeze at, and O’Hara’s Moira Rose is a fan favorite. Decades of admiration and newfound appreciation make for a one-two combo that could be hard to beat.

Still, the Best Actress in a Comedy Series trophy isn’t down to just two candidates. Now, I don’t like thinking about Emmy voters as one collective decision-maker, but if the TV Academy’s acting branch really does want to spread the love, they could check the box of Eugene Levy as Best Actor and look to honor another breakthrough 2020 comedy: “Insecure.” Issa Rae’s HBO series landed eight nominations in 2020, which, while far from the totals of “Mrs. Maisel” and “Schitt’s Creek,” still bodes well for the show. Plus, Yvonne Orji also scored a nomination, so actors are into “Insecure.” Given Rae’s rising star, she could fight her way to the top of this class.

And that still leaves three high-level contenders in Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, and Tracee Ellis Ross. Applegate hasn’t won since 2003, but she’s a favorite of the TV Academy and “Dead to Me” saw a boost in nominations for its second season — including a Best Comedy Series nod and Cardellini’s first lead acting nod. (She was first nominated for Guest Actress on “Mad Men” in 2013.) Vote splitting could be a problem for those two, given they come from the same series, which could leave room for a long-time favorite to finally get her due. This marks the fourth nomination Ross has received for “Black-ish,” and she’s yet to win. Though her nomination was a bit of a surprise, this year’s unpredictable race makes anything possible — no one should feel too comfortable.

Power Ranking the Nominees:

1. Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”
2. Issa Rae, “Insecure”
3. Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
4. Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me”
4. Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”
6. Linda Cardellini, “Dead to Me”

Will Win: Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”
Could Win:
Issa Rae, “Insecure” or Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Should Win:
Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”

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