Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Split ‘Succession’ Vote Tees Up ‘Squid Game’?

"Squid Game" lead Lee Jung-jae benefits from "Succession" stars Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox splitting Best Actor in a Drama Series votes.
Succession Jeremy Strong dinner Brian Cox Kendall Logan
Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong in "Succession"
Graeme Hunter / HBO

Last Year’s Winner: Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: The main streak that will continue this year is that it has been over a decade since this category has had someone win for back-to-back seasons. The last to do so was Bryan Cranston in 2008-2010. Coincidentally, the “Breaking Bad” star is also the last actor in this category to win more than once for a specific role, but Jeremy Strong or Sterling K. Brown could change that this year.
Notable Ineligible Series: Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason” (Season 2 is not eligible)

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 2022 Emmys race. The nomination round of voting took place from June 16 to June 27, with the official Emmy nominations announced on Tuesday, July 12. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out over two consecutive nights on Saturday, September 3 and Sunday, September 4, with an edited presentation on the ceremonies to be broadcast on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 8:00 p.m. ET on FXX. Finally, the 74rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place on Monday, September 12, and air live on NBC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

The State of the Race

While the 2022 nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series were mostly predictable, it’s hard to tell if there is a clear frontrunner. “Succession” is the TV Academy favorite, earning 25 Emmy nominations, more than any other show this year, but Season 3 was not as much of a talent showcase for Jeremy Strong as the previous season, which he won the Emmy for in 2020.

On the other hand, Brian Cox had plenty of memorable scenes as patriarch Logan Roy, ranging from his dazed shareholder meeting to his menacing dinner with son Kendall (Strong). If the thought was to spread the wealth among the cast of awards-worthy actors that make up “Succession,” it would make sense to hand the Emmy to Cox this year.

What seems more likely to happen though is the TV Academy spreading the wealth in a way similar to what happened at the Screen Actors Guild Awards this past February. While “Succession” won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series that night, the equivalent of Outstanding Drama Series, the award for Male Actor in a Drama Series went to “Squid Game” star Lee Jung-jae.

With votes split between Strong and Cox, Lee emerges as the frontrunner, and is more than deserving given how much his character carries the international hit. It is worth noting too that “Squid Game” was not initially conceived as having more than one season, so Lee’s performance goes for broke, and offers a satisfying conclusion. With “Succession” Season 4 already filming right now, voters know they will have another chance to award Cox soon, but “Squid Game” Season 2 is much further out, so the timing makes more sense for giving Lee the award.

Speaking of timing, Bob Odenkirk is definitely the critical favorite as “Better Call Saul” comes to an end, but this back half will still be eligible next year. There is still another year to give Odenkirk his just due. Obviously, there is the argument that he should win this year and next year, but the TV Academy has held out this long on voting for him to win the the Emmy, it just doesn’t seem like there is any interest in giving him the award until it represents his overall work on the beloved “Breaking Bad” spin-off.

Jason Bateman is in a similar boat with “Ozark,” which actually did fully end this season, making this his last shot to win in this category, but given how he already won for directing on the show, which was likely a way to again spread the wealth, it is more likely he will receive another Emmy in that category instead.

Lastly, while it is great to finally see Adam Scott as an Emmy nominee after years of great work on other acclaimed shows like “Big Little Lies” and “Parks and Recreation,” it does feel too early to award him for “Severance” when the first season has only scratched the surface on what his character’s arc will be.

Power Rankings:

  1. Lee Jung-jae, “Squid Game” (Netflix)
  2. Brian Cox, “Succession” (HBO)
  3. Jeremy Strong, “Succession” (HBO)
  4. Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
  5. Adam Scott, “Severance” (Apple TV+)
  6. Jason Bateman, “Ozark” (Netflix)

Will Win: Lee Jung-jae, “Squid Game”
Could Win: Brian Cox, “Succession”
Should Win: Lee Jung-jae, “Squid Game”

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