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Emmy Predictions 2020: Best Actress in a Drama Series

"Stacked" doesn't begin to describe the overload of heavyweights in the Drama Actress category.

Jennifer Aniston in "The Morning Show"

Jennifer Aniston in “The Morning Show”

Courtesy of Apple

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 Drama 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 Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles  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: Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: The Drama Actress race defies trends. For one, there hasn’t been a repeat winner since Claire Danes took home back-to-back trophies for “Homeland” in 2012 and 2013. Networks have been similarly split, with two wins for streamers, two wins for cable channels, and two wins for broadcast networks in the last six years. Well, there is one consistency: Despite swimming in gold every year, HBO hasn’t seen one of its lead drama actresses win an Emmy in nearly two decades. (Edie Falco won for “The Sopranos” in 2001.)
Fun Fact: “Cagney & Lacey” has the most wins of any program in this category, taking home six consecutive trophies between 1983 – 1988. (Tyne Daly won four, including the first three, while Sharon Glass won two.)
Notable Ineligible Series: Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones” (ended); Robin Wright, “House of Cards” (ended)

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The State of the Race

In 2019, the Emmys nominated seven actresses instead of six, illustrating just how competitive the category can get. Well, the 2020 race looks to be just as tight, if not tighter. Very few perennial contenders are ineligible, there are more than enough freshman powerhouses to replace them, and plenty of big names and buzzy favorites populate the ballot. To put things in perspective, Viola Davis has been nominated in four of the last five years, she won in 2015, and I completely overlooked her name in my first sweep of the field.

So who’s out in front? The winter awards season saw “The Morning Show” star Jennifer Aniston duke it out with “The Crown’s” Olivia Colman, and they’re sure to go head-to-head once more at the Emmys. Aniston won the Screen Actors Guild Award, while Colman took home the Golden Globe, and though the former is certainly more predictive than the latter, we’ll have to wait and see how things shake out once the nominations hit. (If “The Crown” has more support overall, it could become the favorite here, too.)

Or the nominations could favor another show entirely. “Succession” is expected to be a big player at the 2020 Emmy Awards, and Sarah Snook is a fan favorite who’s more than deserving of a nomination. Last year’s champ, Jodie Comer, is returning alongside fellow nominee Sandra Oh in “Killing Eve,” which increased its year-to-year nomination tally from Season 1 to Season 2, and could do so again with a strong Season 3. Four-time winner Laura Linney has similar aims for “Ozark,” as she rides Netflix’s dark horse into the fray. (Season 2 saw more nods than Season 1, and Linney snagged her first “Ozark” nomination for the sophomore session.).

Four paragraphs in, and we haven’t even touched on former winner Elisabeth Moss. “The Handmaid’s Tale” may have debuted its third season ages ago (June 2019), but it’s hard to forget Hulu’s harrowing drama and even harder to forget Moss’ heartbreaking turn. (Plus, recent raves for her performance in Blumhouse’s “The Invisible Man” should help bolster her profile.) “Euphoria” may have a harder time reminding audiences of Zendaya’s impeccable acting, but HBO knows how to campaign with the best of them. Of course, they’ll also be pushing Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in “Big Little Lies” (and, we hope, one more push for Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Deuce”).

Over a dozen names listed, and there are still plenty more who have a great shot at a nomination. Mandy Moore has been receiving raves for her Season 4 work on “This Is Us,” and her 2020 odds are better after finally locking in her first nomination for the NBC hit last year. Christine Baranski could benefit from critics’ love for “The Good Fight,” while Claire Danes will be looking for one last “Homeland” nomination in the Showtime series’ final season. Jennifer Connelly is the face of TNT’s “Snowpiercer” adaptation, and the Oscar winner could make a late run this year. Even though Julia Roberts was shut out for her (magnificent) turn on “Homecoming,” Amazon has a new face for voters to consider in 2020, and she knows how to stand out: Janelle Monae. Toss in more critics’ favorites like Mj Rodriguez in “Pose,” Rosa Salazar in “Undone,” and Evan Rachel Wood in “Westworld,” and there you have it: more than twice the number of worthy contenders as there are nominating slots. Good luck to the field.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show”
2. Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
3. Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
4. Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
5. Laura Linney, “Ozark”
6. Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”

Spoilers: Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”; Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”; Reese Witherspoon, “The Morning Show”; Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”; Zendaya, “Euphoria”; Kirsten Dunst, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida”; Viola Davis, “How To Get Away With Murder”; Claire Danes, “Homeland”; Jennifer Connelly, “Snowpiercer”; Janelle Monae, “Homecoming”

In a Perfect World: Rosa Salazar, “Undone”; Christine Baranski, “The Good Fight”; Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”; Mj Rodriguez, “Pose”

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