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The Lead Actor in a Drama Series race is pretty rich with contenders this year (but really, it is every year as men lead so many shows) all looking for another nomination or a very first one.
The Returning Champ
Last year, Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us) became the first black actor to win this category since Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) in 1998, and only the third ever. He’s a lock this year, of course, and could be setting up for a history-making two-time win.
Brown’s co-star Milo Ventimiglia, and a surprise co-nominee last year, finally gave viewers some closure to the ‘how does Jack die’ saga with a super strong post-Super Bowl episode that will likely be his Emmy submission. He could easily find himself on the stage in September.
Matthew Rhys (The Americans) is looking for his third nomination in a row and his last chance as his show ended its run this season. His work has been more subtle than in previous years and compared to other contenders. That shouldn’t keep him from a nomination though, as I think the show will perform well overall.
Kit Harington was a supporting actor nominee in 2016 but is being bumped up to lead for Game of Thrones‘ shortened 7th season that aired last summer, playing a larger part in the Emmy-winning swords and dragons saga. As the lone player in that category for his show, he no longer has to do battle with co-stars Peter Dinklage (a two-time supporting actor Emmy winner for GoT) or Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and looks solid for a nomination.
Previous Winners, Nominees and Newcomers
Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) defied odds to win this category in the first season of his show, breaking the 18-year streak of white-only actors winning. But then shockingly, he was snubbed for a nomination the very next year. He’ll have an uphill battle to make a comeback as the show, which was the most buzzed about program of the 2015-2016 season, is now barely a blip on the radar.
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) has been a staple in this category…as a three-time nominee. He’s been Showtime’s top choice even though they’ve had previous Emmy winners Paul Giamatti (Lead Actor in a Miniseries for John Adams) and Damien Lewis (in this very category for Homeland) churning out lauded work for the last two years.
Many felt Freddie Highmore deserved a nomination for his brilliant turn as Norman Bates in Bates Motel but it never happened. Then came the freshman season of The Good Doctor with massive ratings and ABC’s best shot at a nomination in this category since Matthew Fox in Lost eight years ago. Highmore comes in with a Golden Globe nomination for this role.
Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (for 2014’s Whiplash) could find himself with a first Emmy nomination for Counterpart. Strong reviews and executive produced by La La Land‘s Jordon Horowitz (the one who snatched the envelope from Warren Beatty’s hands on that unforgettable Oscar night) could give Starz their first nomination in this category.
Jason Bateman (Ozark) is a two-time Emmy nominee for Arrested Development in comedy but this could have been his first drama nomination had it not been for that New York Times interview. Yes, he apologized after but was it enough for voters to overlook? With House of Cards not in contention this year (and it wouldn’t have been in this category with or without the disgraced Kevin Spacey), Bateman is Netflix’s best shot at a nomination here, which its had for the last five years in a row.
Westworld‘s Jeffrey Wright, a previous Emmy winner for Supporting Actor in a Miniseries (for Angels in America in 2004), like Harington, was a nominee in supporting for his show that is moving up to lead this year. But faces some stiff competition; not just from his own network (HBO) but from his own co-star, Ed Harris, who is also being bumped up to lead.
Donald Sutherland (Trust) is a previous winner (back in 1995) and nominee (2006) but his J. Paul Getty sits under the heavy shadow of the last Oscar season’s biggest drama – Christopher Plummer replacing Kevin Spacey’s already shot scenes in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World and earning an Academy Award nomination in the process.
This is how I see the Lead Actor in a Drama Series race right now.
|1. Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC)|
|2. Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us (NBC)|
|3. Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)|
|4. Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor (ABC)|
|5. Kit Harington, Game of Thrones (HBO)|
|6. Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan (Showtime)|
|Jason Bateman, Ozark (Netflix)|
|Paul Giamatti, Billions (Showtime)|
|Damian Lewis, Billions (Showtime)|
|Rami Malek, Mr. Robot (USA)|
|J.K. Simmons, Counterpart (Starz)|
|Donald Sutherland, Trust (FX)|
|Jeffrey Wright, Westworld (HBO)|