2021 Emmys: The Drama Series Contenders
As the Oscars end, so the Emmy season begins. Usually the Emmy season would have already been in full swing already, but this year’s delayed Oscar ceremony has pushed that back as well. This year’s ceremony will look much different in the drama categories, as only three of last year’s eight nominees in Outstanding Drama Series are eligible for this year’s ceremony (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Crown and The Mandolorian), with the winner (Succession) not eligible for this year’s ceremony either. The acting categories will be quite different as well, as all four of last year’s winners also remain ineligible this year, thus opening up the winner’s spot to someone else this year in all acting categories. Succession also took home the awards for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, so those categories will also be freed up for new winners. All-in-all, this makes for an exciting Emmys race as we get closer to giving out awards to new people this year.
The voting for Emmy nominations begins on June 17 and goes through June 28. Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 13.
Netflix’s The Crown has received critical and audience acclaim for its fourth season, the season that introduces Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana. Gillian Anderson is a force of nature in the role of Margaret Thatcher, which has already earned her several awards, including the Critics Choice, the Golden Globe and the SAG award. She’ll be major competition in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category, presumably the frontrunner heading into the voting period. She isn’t the only actor in the show that will be receiving attention, as most of the actors on the show should look forward to receiving a nomination from the Emmys. Olivia Colman is set to receive another nomination for her work as Queen Elizabeth II, but this time she won’t be the only one competing in the leading actress category. Also in the category will be Emma Corrin, who blew audiences away with her portrayal of Princess Diana. Corrin won a Golden Globe in the leading actress category for her performance and will likely continue this to the Emmys. Over on the men’s side of things, the categories have been swapped: Josh O’Connor will be competing in the leading actor category this year, while Tobias Menzies will look for glory in the supporting actor category for his performance. O’Connor has already won a Golden Globe for his performance as Prince Charles, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the same category as the Globes. The series has been nominated before in the writing and directing categories and stands to repeat that this year, especially after winning the WGA award for Drama Series. The series will definitely show up in the Outstanding Drama Series category this year, emerging as a frontrunner after winning the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series.
Ryan Murphy, Steven Canals and Brad Falchuk’s FX series about underground ballroom culture in the 80’s and 90’s comes back soon on May 2 for its third and final season, and its sure to garner some Emmy attention. Billy Porter will be back as Pray Tell, a role that has earned him two Emmy nominations and one win so far. He’s also been nominated for two Golden Globes for his performance. He’ll surely be in contention for leading actor again this year for the show’s final season. The show has also been nominated for Outstanding Drama Series once before and it would be shocking if the final season didn’t allow the show to revisit the category. These have been the show’s primetime Emmy nominations so far, so hopefully this year’s last season will leave a mark in other categories. Pose is very well-written and could easily find itself competing for Writing in a Drama Series if the right episodes are submitted (presumably at least the series finale will be submitted, if not any of the other six episodes that could be submitted). The show has never received a nomination in the directing category, so it’ll be a surprise if the final season makes a mark in that category (but anything is possible, especially for the final season of a beloved show). Also in contention will be the other actors of the show, including Mj Rodriguez competing in the leading actress category while her co-stars Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore compete in the supporting actress category for their performances as Elektra and Angel, respectively. This would be any of their first Emmy nominations, but it’s time for them to be recognized for the show’s greatness as well.
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale returns after almost two years this month and will surely find its way to the Emmys this year. Elizabeth Moss returns as June, a role that has won her a Golden Globe and an Emmy already, to compete in her first Emmys in two years. Also returning is Emmy winner Ann Dowd, who has also already won an Emmy for her performance in the show. They will be joined by other series regulars Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel and Joseph Fiennes, all of whom have been nominated at the Emmys for their performances before. The show is a goldmine for acting talent and could find itself in a few acting categories this year, including leading actress, supporting actress, and supporting actor. The WGA award-winning show has also nabbed a couple nominations for writing before, winning the award for its first season episode “Offred.” This should open the way for at least one more writing nomination to happen for the series this year, if not a couple. With this year’s category missing Succession, Ozark and Better Call Saul, the only returning competitor for the category is The Crown, opening up several slots for the taking. The aforementioned “Offred” episode from season one also won the series its first Directing for a Drama Series award, an award the show has gone on to be nominated for again, so it won’t be a surprise if The Handmaid’s Tale finds itself fighting for this same award again. It will also likely be attempting to win the top prize of the night with Outstanding Drama Series and will likely provide major competition to The Crown.
Based on the acclaimed series of books by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton took Netflix by storm when it premiered on Christmas Day of last year. Following the Bridgerton family and narrated by Julie Andrews, this Shonda Rhimes-executive produced series focuses on the relationship between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, played by Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page, respectively. The show has earned rave reviews and critical acclaim as well as a devoted following. The popularity of the books soared after this series came out. The series made AFI’s TV Programs of the Year for 2020, giving it an extra push for Outstanding Drama Series at the Emmys later this year, as it was only one of four dramas to make the AFI list. Something else that gives its actors and the show a push is that it was nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series at the SAG awards, though it lost out to The Crown. Leading actor Regé-Jean Page was also nominated at the SAG awards for his performance (as well as winning an NAACP Image award), so look for him in the Lead Actor in a Drama Series category when it comes time for Emmy nominations. If the show is well received, it could possibly wind up in a nomination for leading actress Phoebe Dynevor. The show could also end up being a threat in the directing and writing categories, even if it hasn’t been nominated at the WGAs or DGAs.
The Mandalorian stole the hearts of audiences with Baby Yoda aka Grogu, and season two is looking to steal the hearts of Television Academy voters. With a stellar second season, The Mandalorian hopes to build on the Emmy nominations it garnered with the first season plus more. After being nominated for Outstanding Drama Series for its first season and hot off of getting nominated for the same category at the Golden Globes earlier this year, it seems the series is a shoo-in to receive a nomination for drama series at this year’s Emmys as well. He wasn’t able to last year, but will Pedro Pascal be able to secure a nomination for this year’s ceremony? The series has also recently garnered both WGA and DGA recognition, being nominated at both, so look for it to possibly be included in those respective categories at the Emmys.
Starz has a hit on their hands with P-Valley, last year’s breakout summer hit from playwright turned showrunner Katori Hall. The series follows the goings-on at a strip club in the Mississippi Delta region in the fictional town of Chucalissa. P-Valley earned six nominations at the NAACP Image Awards this year, Loretta Devine winning for Outstanding Guest Performance. Other nominations included three acting nominations, with J. Alphonse Nicholson being nominated in the supporting actor category for drama, Brandee Evans for leading actress and Nicco Annan for leading actor. Nicco Annan has also recently earned a nomination at the Film Independent Spirit Awards for Best Male Performance in a New Scripted Series for his portrayal of Uncle Clifford, the non-binary owner of the Pynk, the fictional strip club where most central storylines take place. If Starz starts a hard campaign for this show and makes sure it gets in front of Emmy voters, it could really get some traction. The series could not only compete in Outstanding Drama Series, but also has two incredible leading performances from Brandee Evans and Nicco Annan. Annan especially has a role that’s very showy and Emmy voters would eat up. Both lead actors benefit from the acting categories being slimmed out this year from the regular nominees that make it (Bob Odenkirk, Jason Batemen, Jeremy Strong) which could allow a show like P-Valley to break into the Emmys. The series boasts fierce direction as well from an all-women directing team and there are a couple of episodes that could be submitted (like episode 5, “Belly”) that could earn a nomination. The pilot is also incredibly written and will hopefully be submitted for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. With Starz gaining popularity and momentum for this show, look for it to be a dark horse when it comes to nominations.
Shockingly, HBO’s first entry on this list. HBO doesn’t have Succession this year to compete in the Emmys (and win, like last year), but it does have Perry Mason. Based on the characters created by author Erle Stanely Gardner, this series follows the origins of legendary criminal defense attorney, Perry Mason, played by Emmy winner Matthew Rhys. Rhys was already nominated at this year’s Golden Globes for his performance but missed out on a SAG nomination. Will he be able to crack into the top five actors for drama series? The series also includes another Emmy winner with Tatiana Maslany in a supporting role. If the Emmys have proved anything, they have no problem rewarding people who they have already given awards to in the past, so look for both of these performances to be in the shuffle when it comes time to vote in June. Six time Emmy winner Jon Lithgow is also in the series and, just based on past wins alone, could end up in the conversation. The series could also be one of the eight series to be nominated for Outstanding Drama Series based on reviews and reception.
HBO has a couple of contenders when it comes to Outstanding Drama Series this year, including their fall hit Lovecraft Country. Lovecraft Country follows a Black family on a quest across the country in search of someone while dealing with racist and supernatural terrors. The series did well at the Critics Choice Awards, nabbing five nominations and one win for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama series for Michael Kenneth Williams. While also being nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, it was nominated in all four acting categories, including the aforementioned win and one for Best Supporting Actress (Wunmi Mosaku), Best Actress (Jurnee Smollett) and Best Actor (Jonathan Majors). All of these actors should be in the conversation when it comes to the Emmys for the same categories, so the series could possibly be nominated for four performances in all four acting categories at the Emmys. The series was also nominated for Best Television Series – Drama at the Golden Globes and was also one of the AFI Top Ten Programs of the Year for 2020. This bodes well for the series as the voting period draws closer, putting it in a good position to be nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. If the hit show can get all of the aforementioned nominations, it would also be no problem for at least one nomination between writing and directing.
Ratched (Netflix) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Drama Series
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Sarah Paulson
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Cynthia Nixon
In Treatment (HBO) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Uzo Aduba
- Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
The Boys (Amazon) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Drama Series
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Antony Starr
This Is Us (NBC) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Drama Series
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Sterling K Brown
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Milo Ventimiglia
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Chrissy Metz