Like Moira Rose gearing up for her favorite season (awards), Catherine O’Hara should be feeling optimistic about her chances of winning an Emmy for the final season of Schitt’s Creek. The Canadian treasure just broke through with a Comedy Actress nomination last year for the fifth season of the Pop comedy, but it’s clear no one was beating Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag. With Waller-Bridge and Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus out of the way, the path seems free for O’Hara to waltz her way to an overdue victory.
The comedy categories are looking very open at this year’s Emmys, with Fleabag and Veep concluded and beloved shows like Atlanta, Barry and Russian Doll on a break. As such, Schitt’s Creek should have a major advantage as a show with real passion and buzz, and O’Hara is in the perfect position to benefit from that love. Though she technically has an Emmy already for being on the writing team of SCTV back in 1982, this would be O’Hara’s first Emmy for acting, and how appropriate for it to be for what will be remembered as one of her most iconic roles.
The question is, who is standing in her way? Rachel Brosnahan is the only other clear lock to earn her third consecutive nomination for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She swept most of award season for the Amazon show’s first season, taking home an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Critics’ Choice Award and a TCA Award, then a SAG Award for Season 2. In its third season, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel continued to give Brosnahan some of the juiciest material on television as her character, Midge Maisel, experienced life as a traveling standup comic. If there aren’t quite enough voters who have seen and loved Schitt’s Creek yet, it’s very plausible that they could default to Brosnahan again.
We don’t have a release date yet for Season 2 of Dead to Me, but presuming it is eligible, we can surely expect another nomination for Christina Applegate. While prognosticators were initially unsure if she could break through for Season 1 last year, she landed a nom not only at the Emmys but at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, and SAG Awards. There remains a lot of love for Applegate, who won an Emmy for her guest spot on Friends in 2003. If Dead to Me maintains its quality and expands its buzz, Applegate’s co-star, Linda Cardellini, could be driving away with a nomination right alongside her.
As for the rest of the lineup in Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, you can slot them into two categories: newbies and old favorites. It is always a risk to predict newer contenders at the Emmys considering their penchant for checking the same names year after year, but there are numerous actresses who could benefit from a fractured field. One who already earned precursor nominations is Kirsten Dunst for Showtime’s On Becoming a God in Central Florida. As a scheming woman who gets involved in a pyramid scheme in 1992, Dunst has already scored nominations from the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards. Then there’s Emmy magnet Merritt Wever, who is set to star in the new HBO comedy Run, which premieres in April. Wever stars as one half of a duo who agree to run away from their lives. Meanwhile, Awkwafina stars as a fictional version of herself in the aptly named Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens. While the Emmys haven’t always been super receptive to Comedy Central, Awkwafina continues to rise in prominence after her Golden Globe win for The Farewell.
Moving over to older favorites, recent nominations for stars like Pamela Adlon (Better Things), Allison Janney (Mom), Issa Rae (Insecure), Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish) and Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie) suggest they are at least on Emmy voters’ radar. All five were nominated as recent as 2018 where they lost to Brosnahan, and with three open slots in 2020, it’s easy to imagine voters going back to respected names if they’re not as impressed with some newer offerings. One other wildcard possibility is Kristen Bell, considering the love for The Good Place these past two years at the Emmys.
Here is my first stab at predicting this year’s Emmy nominees for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
1. Catherine O’Hara — Schitt’s Creek
2. Rachel Brosnahan — The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
3. Christina Applegate — Dead to Me
4. Linda Cardellini — Dead to Me
5. Merritt Wever — Run
6. Kirsten Dunst — On Becoming a God in Central Florida
7. Awkwafina — Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens
8. Pamela Adlon — Better Things
9. Issa Rae — Insecure
10. Lily Tomlin — Grace and Frankie
11. Kristen Bell — The Good Place
12. Tracee Ellis Ross — black-ish