Last Year’s Winner: Zendaya, “Euphoria”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: There hasn’t been a repeat winner in nearly a decade — since Claire Danes took home back-to-back Emmys for “Homeland” in 2012-13 — and only two networks have won more than once in that same time span: Showtime and BBC America, which saw Tatiana Maslany win for “Orphan Black” in 2016 and Jodie Comer take home the trophy for “Killing Eve” in 2019.
Fun Fact: Apologies, I’m well-aware this is a rather widely known “fun fact,” but it’s still absolutely wild to think about the run “Cagney & Lacey” went on in the ’80s. The CBS cop drama won this category for six years in a row, between 1983 – 1988, taking home the Best Drama Actress trophy every season after its freshman run. Not only that, but both titular actors — Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless — were nominated each year. Daly won for the first three seasons before voters handed the Emmy to her co-star Sharon Gless twice, setting the table for an even split between Cagney and Lacey heading into its final season… before the TV Academy gave the last trophy to Daly one more time instead. Such dominance may never be seen again in the category, as “Cagney & Lacey” is tied with “Murder She Wrote” in all-time nominations (12) and maintains a comfortable lead in wins with six. (Second place is a five-way tie between “The Loretta Young Show,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Picket Fences,” “The Sopranos,” and “The Waltons,” all of which have three wins.)
Notable Ineligible Series: Zendaya in “Euphoria” (Season 2 is not eligible); Jennifer Aniston in “The Morning Show” (Season 2 is not eligible); Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh in “Killing Eve” (Season 4 is not eligible); Laura Linney in “Ozark” (Season 4 is not eligible)
At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Actress in a Drama Series. This article will be updated throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2021 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys was held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.
The State of the Race
Like so many other Drama races, the Best Actress category comes down to one question: Will “The Crown” dominate, or will there be room for other contenders? If the answer to the first part is “yes,” expect to see Emma Corrin take the stage for her first win (after her first nomination). As Princess Diana, Corrin broke out in a big way and stole the spotlight. So despite having an Oscar on her mantle and four Emmy nominations to her name, Olivia Colman seems to be in the passenger seat — she could still win, especially if voters remember they haven’t yet given her a trophy, but Corrin appears in charge.
But if “The Crown” is indeed fallible, Mj Rodriguez could capitalize. Riding a small surge of nominations for “Pose’s” final season, the leading star earned her first nomination (and became the first transgender performer to receive an Emmy nod in the category). Critics and fans have been vocal about her performance for years, though, so Rodriguez and Corrin aren’t exactly coming from the same place: The latter was a relative unknown prior to “The Crown,” whereas Rodriguez has been pushed into the spotlight for three seasons, including plenty of industry events alongside super-producer Ryan Murphy. Her name and work are out there; the TV Academy may very well want to reward it, especially as a major honor for FX’s landmark series.
And that still leaves a trio of heavy-hitters. Elisabeth Moss is a 14-time Emmy nominee leading a series that received more nominations in 2021 than any prior year. Should “The Crown” split votes and voters rally around “The Handmaid’s Tale,” it’s certainly plausible she takes home her third trophy. Uzo Aduba, meanwhile, already has three Emmys (and two more nominations); she’s beloved, and “In Treatment” is the kind of performance-centric series that actors should respond to — with a big push from HBO, she’ll definitely earn a fair share of the vote. That leaves “Lovecraft Country’s” Jurnee Smollett, who certainly delivered the goods in the one-and-done drama series. Its cancellation could work in her favor, as the same voters who pushed the show to 18 total nominations rally around one of its leads, or it could leave her on the outside looking in, given TV Academy members may be less inclined to support a show that the network has already axed.
By the time the category comes up September 19, we may already have a sense of where things are going. “The Crown” could start its dominance at the Creative Arts Awards and snag a few early wins at the Primetime ceremony, setting the table for a widely expected run of victories. But if a few surprises pop up, keep your eye on this one. Things could still get interesting.
- Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
- Mj Rodriguez, “Pose”
- Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
- Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
- Uzo Aduba, “In Treatment”
- Jurnee Smollett, “Lovecraft Country”
Will Win: Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Could Win: Mj Rodriguez, “Pose”
Should Win: Mj Rodriguez, “Pose”