Emmy Circuit: Will Actors Who Direct Dominate This Year’s Directing in a Drama Series Nominees?

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).


This year, television was filled with old staples and freshmen series looking to make their mark in a crowded market. For this year’s Emmy nominations for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, the academy has a litany of talent to potentially recognize. Directors may not have the name recognition that actors do, but they play a huge role in bringing the shows we love to life.


This year marks the end of HBO’s extremely successful Game of Thrones” series from creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Although this season has faced some harsh criticism,“Game of Thrones” has been a mainstay at the Emmys since its premiere in 2011. For directing, “Game of Thrones” received eight nominations during its run. The episode “Battle of the Bastards,” Miguel Sapochnik, won the award in 2016. Sapochnik could be nominated again this year for another combat centered episode, “The Long Night.” Besides some questionable lighting choices, this episode is a technical marvel.

Also in contention for the final season, is David Nutter for “The Last of the Starks,” which is a quieter, more introspective episode that gave the audience a moment to breathe before heading into the finale. The creators of the show, Benioff and Weiss, could also be nominated for their direction of the last episode of the series. The question now is can negative reviews stop this barreling train?

Robin Wright in Netflix’s ‘House Of Cards’

After a headline filled year, “House of Cards” finished its six year run on Netflix. Kevin Spacey’s firing was a bit of a set back considering the series is centered on Spacey’s Frank Underwood and his villainous rise to the presidency. As it turns out, Robin Wright, who plays his wife Claire, was more than capable of leading the show alone. How could we have ever doubted her?

Besides acting, Wright directs the episode entitled “Chapter 73.” The Emmys could show their support for Wright’s professionalism during a challenging shakeup by nominating her not only for her powerhouse performance, but for directionally closing out “House of Cards” on a high hand.


Sarah Paulson in FX’s ‘American Horror Story: Apocalypse’

Besides Robin Wright, there are several other stars testing their hand at directing this year. Emmy winner Sarah Paulson has been a staple on FX’sAmerican Horror Story” anthology series since its first season. This series previously competed in the Limited Series category, but after eight years (seeing as how the show is not so “limited”), “AHS” will now compete as a Drama Series. Paulson has been nominated five times for her acting on this show. Now, her directing of the episode “Return to Murder House” is up for contention as well.

Netflix’s thrilling money laundering drama, “Ozark,” remarkably took two of the seven spots for Drama Series Directing at last year’s Emmys. One of those directors was the show’s lead actor, Jason Bateman. This year, Bateman stepped behind the camera again to direct the episode entitled, “Reparations.” For 2019’s Emmys, “Ozark” submitted not only Bateman, but also Alik Sakharov and Phil Abraham. Can the show take two spots again?

Other notable actors who were submitted for directing consideration include: Peter Horton (NBC’s “New Amsterdam“), Lou Diamond Phillips (AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead“), Eriq La Salle (NBC’s “Chicago P.D.“), Lucy Liu (Netflix’ “Marvel’s Luke Cage“) and Seth MacFarlane (“Fox’sThe Orville“).


Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes in Netflix’s “The Bodygaurd”

The Bodyguard” from Netflix came on strong at this years Golden Globe Awards. The series will likely make a splash at the Emmys as well. The show follows an Iraqi War veteran (Richard Madden) as he navigates his troubled marriage and adjusts to his new job as a bodyguard for an uptight politician (Keeley Hawes). Thomas Vincent’s direction of the pilot episode set the tone for this dark series and is up for consideration.

The Julia Roberts led television series “Homecoming” dropped on Amazon in November and received rave reviews. The show’s sole director Sam Esmail, the force behind USA’s “Mr. Robot,” once again showcases his talent for the bizarre. “Homecoming” tells the story of a counselor at a treatment facility for veterans returning home from war. The mystery that drives the story unfolds through the use of nonlinear storytelling and trippy geometric cinematography. Esmail directs all ten episodes of the series and will be one to watch.

Academy Award nominees Adam McKay and Taylor Sheridan are two recognizable filmmakers. And that name recognition may help them find their way onto the ballot for directing. McKay directed the pilot episode of the HBO television series “Succession.” The series follows a rather unlikable and bickering family who own a media conglomerate based in New York City. Take that storyline and change the location to a ranch in Montana, and you have “Yellowstone.” Paramount Studios is working to bring back the television western with this modern take on a wealthy, feuding ranching family starring Kevin Costner.


AMC’sBetter Call Saul” has not been able to achieve the same level of awards love that its predecessor, “Breaking Bad,” was able to attain. Despite numerous Emmy nominations, the series has yet to win a single award. “Better Call Saul” received its only nomination for directing (for show creator Vince Gilligan) in 2017. This year, the series submitted nine of their ten directors for nomination consideration. Can more hats in the ring, lead to better a chance of being nominated? We will have to wait and see.

Elisabeth Moss in HULU’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Netflix’s “The Crown” and “Stranger Things” were nominated last year in directing. However, due to the eligibility dates, they will be sitting this year out. Interestingly, “The Handmaid’s Tale” aired six of their thirteen episode second season after the June 31 deadline. So this HULU series can submit those six “hanging” episodes for directing, writing and guest performer for this year’s Emmys. “The Handmaid’s Tale” has opted to submit Daina Reid for her direction of “Holly” and Mike Barker for “The Word.” The more favorable episode from season two for Academy members may be “Holly,” which featured an unbelievable performance from actress Elisabeth Moss.


Milo Ventimiglia in NBC’s “This is Us”

Surprisingly, NBC’s popular family drama “This is Us,” has yet to receive a nomination for directing. The show’s third season continues its heartfelt exploration of the Pearson family. Story arches include substance abuse, PTSD, sexual identity, preterm births and marital woes. “Vietnam,” directed by Ken Olin, and “R & B,” directed by Kevin Hooks, were season highlights. Both men are up for directing consideration and are worthy contenders.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Killing Eve” premiered last year and has achieved great commercial and critical success. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer make for two terrific leads in this thriller revolving around a psychopath and an MI6 agent. The second season of  BBC America’s “Killing Eve” aired its finale in May and has already been renewed for a third season. For this year’s Emmys, directors, Damon Thomas and Lisa Bruhlmann, were submitted.

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” Episode “Silent All These Years”

ABC’sGrey’s Anatomy” just celebrated the milestone of becoming the longest running medical television drama of all time. It is true that the series is not what it used to be, but this is a substantial achievement. Every once in a while there is an episode that reminds the audience what once made this show great. This year, “Silent All These Years” was that reminder. The episode revolves around rape, consent and the sisterhood of being female. Directed by Debbie Allen, this is the strongest episode “Grey’s Anatomy” has aired in years.


  1. Miguel Sapochnik- “Game of Thrones” – “The Long Night” (HBO)
  2. Adam McKay – “Succession” – “Celebration” (HBO)
  3. Sam Esmail – “Homecoming” – “Protocol” (Amazon Video)
  4. Daina Reid – “The Handmaid’s Tale” – “Holly” (HULU)
  5. Jason Bateman – “Ozark” – “Reparations” (Netflix)
  6. Sarah Paulson – “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” – “Return to Murder House” (FX)

Who do you think will score nominations for Directing in a Drama Series? Let us know in the comments below!