Emmy Circuit 2016: Best Actress in a Drama Series

Welcome back to Award Circuit’s Emmy coverage.  May is our unofficial starting point for the Emmy race, which takes us through two and a half months of discussing potential nominees followed by another two months of talking potential winners.  In Emmy prep, we begin our Emmy Circuit series, where we dive into the many acting and series races as we speed toward nomination morning.

Today, we begin with Best Actress in a Drama Series.

Viola Emmy

Shockingly, 5 eligible women have won this category previously for their current roles.  Claire Danes has twice won this award for Homeland, but during a time when the Showtime hit was much more popular.  Likewise, The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies has two Emmys for her CBS legal drama, but oddly two snubs on the shelf as well.  Reigning champ and back-to-back SAG winner Viola Davis is also eligible for ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder and will be looking to secure a bookend to her historic win last year where she became the first African-American woman in the 67 year history of the Primetime Emmys to win Best Actress in a Drama Series.  Believe it or not, Mariska Hargitay won an Emmy for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit many, many years ago and the show remains on the air.  Finally, despite winning this category in the 1990s, Gillian Anderson is eligible once again for the brief return of The X-Files.

Of the 6 nominees from 2015, 5 are eligible to return, only Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss, whose show aired its finale a year ago, is ineligible.  Along with Danes and Davis, Robin Wright (House of Cards), recent Golden Globe winner Taraji P. Henson (Empire), and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) could all hear their names called on nomination morning.

Former nominees that remain eligible are Kerry Washington, who’ll be riding double love for Confirmation and ScandalMichelle Dockery for Downton Abbey‘s final season, Lizzy Caplan for Master of SexVera Farmiga for Bates Motel, Connie Britton for Nashville, and Taylor Schilling for Orange is the New Black who was nominated in Lead when the show was considered a comedy by the TV Academy.


While the Golden Globes tend to skew trendier and newer when it comes to TV, the performers they honor there could receive a bump to Emmy glory.  Just a year ago Ruth Wilson won for The Affair and many, myself included, thought she might parlay that into Emmy admiration.  Alas.  Just last year, the HFPA nominated Emmy longshots Caitriona Balfe and Eva Green for Outlander and Penny Dreadful, respectively.


Award Circuit’s own Mark Johnson would be remiss if I didn’t mention Carrie Coon, who’s getting raves for her work in The Leftovers.  Few new shows are generating big buzz for their dramatic leading ladies, but if Netflix can find a way to get Krysten Ritter a nomination for Jessica Jones, the world will rejoice.  Depending on who you talk to, Jennifer Lopez has a shot for Shades of Blue, apparently.  Many of the hardcore fans of The Americans will take solace in its shocking Guest Actress in a Drama Series win last year AND a Drama Series writing nod to indicate that MAYBE Keri Russell will finally find long overdue Emmy love.  When prestige, Martin Scorsese, and HBO are involved, Emmy usually follows, so watch out for Olivia Wilde in Vinyl.

Sam’s Predictions:

  1. Viola Davis – How to Get Away With Murder
  2. Robin Wright – House of Cards
  3. Taraji P. Henson – Empire
  4. Claire Danes – Homeland
  5. Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife
  6. Krysten Ritter – Jessica Jones

Take a look at the first set of official predictions on our Emmys Page!

Have your own thoughts on the race?  Share them in the comments or on the forum!