Last Year’s Winner: Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: The Best Actor in a Drama Series category hasn’t seen a repeat winner in over a decade, and it won’t see one again this year. Bryan Cranston was the last to win back-to-back(-to-back) Emmys from 2008 – 2010, and while Jeremy Strong will return to defend his title for “Succession,” the next season won’t premiere in time for last year’s winner to compete in 2021.
Fun Fact: Kyle Chandler won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series in 2011 for his portrayal of Eric Taylor in the final season of “Friday Night Lights.” That’s it. That’s the fact. It’s fun because it’s Kyle Chandler winning an Emmy for the best TV series ever made.
Notable Ineligible Series: Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox, “Succession” (Season 3 is not expected to be eligible); Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (Season 6 is not expected to be eligible); Jason Bateman, “Ozark” (Season 4 is not expected to be eligible); Steve Carell, “The Morning Show” (Season 2 is not expected to be eligible)
At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Actor 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 2020 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys will be held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out in September, at a date (or dates) to be announced. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.
The State of the Race
Another category where the majority of last year’s nominees are now ineligible, the Best Actor in a Drama race should see more new series nominated than old series returning to the competition. For example, Regé-Jean Page feels like a lock already for the first season of “Bridgerton,” having secured a SAG Award nomination (and announced he won’t be returning for Season 2). That could make things difficult for Milo Ventimiglia, a three-time nominee for “This Is Us” between 2017 – 2019, to return to the race, despite all those open slots.
The same goes for new shows over long-snubbed shows. Take Matthew Rhys in “Perry Mason.” The Emmy-winning actor from “The Americans” has earned a ton of goodwill for his gripping incarnation of the titular investigator-turned-lawyer, and he’s got better odds at a nomination than the long-snubbed “Billions” boys (Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis) or even Kevin Costner’s ratings-backed cowboy in “Yellowstone.” Even in a year with plenty of openings, it can be hard for long-running shows to gain fresh traction — though that doesn’t mean they’re out of the running.
A couple of actors submitting second seasons for consideration are at least among the Top 10-15 contenders. Antony Starr’s wicked turn in “The Boys” deserves far more attention than it’s received so far, and Pedro Pascal removed his helmet enough times in “The Mandalorian” to merit voters’ scrutiny. Similar second-chances should be given to Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge in “City on a Hill,” as well as Mike Colter in “Evil” and Jack Bannon in “Pennyworth.” Two seasons of television isn’t too much for voters to catch up on, even when there’s still a whole lot of TV to choose from.
Still, expect to see a few more new faces in the mix. Justin Theroux puts on an acting clinic in “The Mosquito Coast,” in a course presumably titled “Advanced Mad Scientist: How to Humanize an Inventor Gone Wild.” Jonathan Majors earned high marks as well, leading “Lovecraft Country” with style, passion, and power. Nicco Annan stole more scenes than I can count in “P-Valley,” and so long as the TV Academy stops ignoring Starz, he should snag a good number of votes. And while it already feels like too many people have overlooked “We Are Who We Are,” Jack Dylan Grazer pulls off the wild exuberance of youth with specificity and vigor.
Of course, there are a few names you can always count on: Josh O’Connor should ride a wave of support for “The Crown” to his first Emmy nomination. Billy Porter should make it three-for-three on “Pose,” after winning in the FX drama’s debut season. And Sterling K. Brown is on the hunt for his fifth Emmy nomination in five seasons of “This Is Us” (and his eighth nomination overall). Not all the shows can be new shows, after all — not without overlooking some serious talent.
- Regé-Jean Page, “Bridgerton”
- Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
- Billy Porter, “Pose”
- Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
- Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason”
- Justin Theroux, “The Mosquito Coast”
Contenders: Jonathan Majors, “Lovecraft Country”; Nicco Annan, “P-Valley”; Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”; Antony Starr, “The Boys”; Pedro Pascal, “The Mandalorian”; Kevin Costner, “Yellowstone”
In a Perfect World: Jack Dylan Grazer, “We Are Who We Are”; the “Billions” boys; Jack Bannon, “Pennyworth”