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Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series — ‘Hacks’ Is on a Roll

Last year's Best Actress in a Comedy Emmy winner Jean Smart perseveres, despite the challenge from 'Abbott Elementary' star Quinta Brunson.

Hacks Season 2 Jean Smart HBO Max

Jean Smart in “Hacks”

Karen Ballard / HBO Max


Last Year’s Winner: Jean Smart, “Hacks”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: After Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s record-breaking “Veep” run ended, the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy category has been spreading the wealth. Jean Smart is the latest actress to win, and presumably has a good chance of starting a hot streak in the category again.
Notable Ineligible Series: Allison Janney, “Mom” (ended); Aidy Bryant, “Shrill” (ended); Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me” (Season 3 was 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

The race for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series seems to be one of beginnings and endings. Though Quinta Brunson has really come in swinging with the first season of her ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” becoming the first Black woman to earn three nominations in the comedy categories in the same year, last year’s winner Jean Smart still feels like she has this acting award on lock.

The Season 2 finale of “Hacks” really felt like it could have been a series finale, with Smart’s Deborah Vance giving a pitch-perfect, bittersweet send-off to Ava (Hannah Einbinder), her comedy partner-in-crime throughout the series. The show has since been renewed for Season 3, but who can tell what the actual fate is of any HBO Max original series right now, post Warner Bros. Discovery merger.

What has already wrapped though is HBO’s “Insecure,” and while it would be nice to see mogul Issa Rae get an award from the TV Academy for her breakout role, she already seems to have moved past any Emmys recognition for the show, and is more firmly promoting the projects “Rap Sh!t,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” and “Sweet Life: Los Angeles,” which she executive produces. That is what gives Elle Fanning the edge, as she has really advocated for “The Great” specifically, the Hulu show she executive produces and stars on, leading to an increase in the amount of nominations it received for its second season. The audience for the show still needs to grow though for her to make the next step of actually winning this Emmy category.

Meanwhile, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star Rachel Brosnahan has already won the Emmy before, and the show is still a major Emmys player, but nowadays voters seem much more interested in the other aforementioned performance from an actress playing a pioneering female comedian.

Lastly, one could argue that Kaley Cuoco, a nominee last year, gave an even better performance in Season 2 of “The Flight Attendant” on HBO Max, but it does not seem plausible for voters to look past the overall quality of the show experiencing some major turbulence in order to hand the dependable comedy lead her first Emmy.

Power Rankings:

  1. Jean Smart, “Hacks” (HBO Max)
  2. Quinta Brunson, “Abbott Elementary” (ABC)
  3. Elle Fanning, “The Great” (Hulu)
  4. Issa Rae, “Insecure” (HBO)
  5. Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime Video)
  6. Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant” (HBO Max)

Will Win: Jean Smart, “Hacks”
Could Win: Quinta Brunson, “Abbott Elementary”
Should Win: Jean Smart, “Hacks”

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