Emmy Circuit: Will Sandra Oh Take Home the Gold for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series?

Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series, where we analyze and predict all your favorite TV series and their chances with the Television Academy (at least at this time of publishing).  The series examines the shows and performances about their awards potential, most notably the Emmy Awards.  Emmy nomination voting opens June 10 and closes on June 24.  The official Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16 while the ceremony airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22.  All Emmy pieces run with the following schedule: Mondays (Dramas), Tuesdays (Network Spotlight), Wednesdays (Comedies), Thursdays (Network Spotlight), Fridays (Limited Series, Variety Series, Below-the Lines).

Opening Statements

Several notable series took the year off, presumably to distance themselves from a likely “Game of Thrones” sweep of major categories. That may have been a good strategy for Best Drama Series, but it left something of a hole in other places. Without “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Crown,” and “Westworld,” there is no clear Heiress Apparent in the Lead Actress lineup. This could be exciting news for a few actresses who might have gone overlooked entirely if Olivia Colman or Elisabeth Moss were eligible.

This year, a few shows are ending, and a couple of newcomers have made their mark, while a few others have been peeking through the windows, waiting for a turn in the spotlight.

Exit Strategy

When “House of Cards” producers were forced to make a decision on the fate of Kevin Spacey, they turned to Robin Wright to guide them through their final, Frank free season. Reviews of the series have been mixed for several years, but Wright is still clearly loved by fans, and the TV Academy, having been nominated every year the show has been running. But with the shifting attitudes toward “House of Cards,” Wright isn’t exactly a safe bet to make it six in a row.

Ruth Wilson also hopes to make waves for the final season of “The Affair,” from Showtime. She has yet to score an Emmy nod, despite winning a Golden Globe in 2014. But with a very passionate fanbase and the final chance to recognize her work, she could very well find herself with an invitation.

No other show has had a bigger final season this year than “Game of Thrones,” and most seem ready to declare the behemoth the winner in a lot of categories. Will that translate for Emilia Clarke? Season 8 has very clearly cast Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen as the leading lady. HBO has campaigned her as a lead before, but her three previous nominations were all for Supporting Actress. As reactions to “Game of Thrones” get louder and more frustrated each week, it would be unwise to assume Clarke is the winner. A nomination seems likely, although with so much of the anger about the final episodes centering around her character specifically, perhaps this isn’t as obvious as it once seemed.

Freshman Fire

Julia Roberts made waves with her leading role in “Homecoming,” a half-hour drama series on Amazon. A thirty-minute drama would normally be a tough sell, but when your star is Julia Roberts in one of the best performances of her career, it’s much easier. She received a Golden Globe nomination in January, losing out to another contender we’ll discuss in a moment.

In another half-hour drama, Elizabeth Olsen hopes to break through with “Sorry For Your Loss,” a well-received series from Facebook Watch. But convincing voters to nominate Facebook for an Emmy could take a lot of work and the series may be too under-the-radar to be noticed by voters.

The highest profile new show of the season was, without question, “Pose,” on FX. While “Pose” will almost definitely earn nominations for Best Drama Series and Lead Actor, MJ Rodriguez hopes to get her due as well. She may have been ignored by the Hollywood Foreign Press, but her breakout role makes her a strong contender for people looking to reward new talent.

The “Next in Line” Strategy

Despite being one of the most successful shows on broadcast television, NBC’s “This Is Us” has struggled to find love for anyone besides Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia. As the Pearson family matriarch, Mandy Moore had a rough road during the first season. First impressions of Rebecca Pearson gave us a woman who seemed pushy, unpleasant, and cold. But over the course of the last two years, she has grown to become one of the most beloved mothers on television. Moore truly has made herself the glue that holds the family together, and she does so through playing a complex character at several different stages of life.

Who doesn’t love Christine Baranski? Taking her spin-off series, “The Good Fight,” to CBS All Access was a risk that seems to have paid off as fans and Academy members followed her. The legal drama may have difficulty finding traction in other places, but Baranski’s faithful devotees are committed to bringing her back to the Emmys this fall.

After missing out for “Ozark” season one, Laura Linney is looking for a spot in the lineup. The fact that names like Nicole Kidman and Claire Foy aren’t available to draw away attention could help her this time around.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is another star that voters are keeping their eye on. She earned a Golden Globe nod for “The Deuce,” after failing to make a dent with the TV Academy. Her co-star’s off-screen problems may have contributed to the show’s general lack of appeal to voters, but Hollywood’s short-term memory issues probably won’t derail her this time around.

Many considered Sandra Oh the runner up in last year’s race for her role in the hit series, “Killing Eve.” She went on to win the Golden Globe a few months later. Now in the second season, the show seems unstoppable and is a strong player for Drama Series. Building on the love she gained from her years on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Oh will continue to draw votes. A win seemed very likely for her, until just a few days ago when her co-star, Jodie Comer, beat her for the Leading Actress prize at the BAFTA TV Awards. Does this mean they could both be nominated?

Guess They’re Contenders?

BBC America celebrated a huge milestone when they cast Jodie Whitaker as the first female doctor on “Doctor Who.” The publicity tour, comic con appearances, and general good will have given Whitaker an awards boost no previous Doctor has had. Still, it’s a 50-year-old science fiction show that has never really been much of a player and this probably won’t change years of previous circumstances.

Looking to fill the pending void left by “Game of Thrones,” Starz will make a move with their period drama, “Outlander.” Catriona Balfe has earned four Golden Globe nominations for the series but has never been nominated for an Emmy. If voters want to ignore Clarke, this could be Balfe’s year. It seems unlikely, but not impossible.

Current Outstanding Lead Actress (Drama) Predictions

  1. Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve” (BBC America)
  2. Julia Roberts, “Homecoming” (Amazon Prime)
  3. Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve” (BBC America)
  4. Mandy Moore, “This Is Us” (NBC)
  5. Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
  6. Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce” (HBO)

Do you think Sandra Oh will take home the gold this year? Or will someone else win in the end? Comment below and share your thoughts!