The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will take place on Sunday, September 22. The following are A.V. Club deputy TV editor Danette Chavez’s predictions—along with some wishful thinking—for the winners of the acting awards. Tune in Sunday night for our liveblog and news coverage.
Nominees: Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones; Jodie Comer, Killing Eve; Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder; Laura Linney, Ozark; Mandy Moore, This Is Us; Sandra Oh, Killing Eve; Robin Wright, House Of Cards
Prediction: Viola Davis has an edge as a previous winner in this category, but How To Get Away With Murder just isn’t the buzz-worthy show it once was. Although the broader storytelling in Killing Eve faltered in season two, Jodie Comer’s performance made sure the deadly Villanelle remained as magnetic and mercurial as ever. But Sandra Oh has more than kept up with Comer, which means the Killing Eve co-leads could split the vote, allowing Robin Wright to squeeze out a victory for keeping House Of Cards from completely falling apart.
Preference: As reliably great as Sandra Oh is as Eve Polastri, Jodie Comer just made season two’s material sing more. She had the difficult task of demonstrating and subsuming feelings as someone who is by all accounts a sociopath. Villanelle has always been the showier role, and this year, Comer proved why.
Overlooked: I’m still bummed over the lack of nominations for MJ Rodriguez, who is the heart of Pose, and Lodge 49’s Sonya Cassidy, whose prickly energy and backbone of steel balance out Wyatt Russell’s (and the series’) endearingly oddball tendencies.
Prediction: If Billy Porter doesn’t win here, I’ll eat one of Pray Tell’s sequined, feathered hats—it’s as simple as that. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if Bob “Slippin’ Jimmy” Odenkirk or This Is Us’ Sterling K. Brown won. Kit Harington is just outclassed here, a fact that I don’t think even HBO’s considerable presence among Academy voters will be able to overcome. Jason Bateman, who’s up for a directing award as well, could throw a wrench in the works, but Porter has brought such charm and poise to the role of Pray Tell that he really should have this in the bag.
Preference: See above.
Overlooked: Julia Roberts’ star power in Homecoming is undeniable, but Stephan James’ performance as a troubled yet hopeful soldier is what made the half-hour worthy of a binge watch.
Prediction: I’ve already shown considerable faith in Barry’s ability to upset both Veep’s victory lap and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s return to the winner’s circle, so why not keep it going with another individual win for Bill Hader? Michael Douglas’ Golden Globe win in January complicates things, as does Ted Danson’s excellent turn on The Good Place, but Hader could beat them and Eugene Levy and Don Cheadle (a list that just speaks to how tight this race is).
Preference: Bill Hader’s momentum on the big and small screens plays a factor, but even if he weren’t the best part of It: Chapter Two, Hader’s performance as Barry Berkman is what terms like “tour de force” were made for—he’s steadily built then dismantled the wall between two disparate aspects of his character, the acting savant and murder virtuoso.
Nominees: Christina Applegate, Dead To Me; Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep; Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll; Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek; Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
Prediction: A case could be made for all of these nominees, but if we’re ever going to get to any of the other categories, we have to acknowledge that 1) Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a six-year winning streak, and 2) that streak is probably going to go uninterrupted. If you were hoping to be surprised this year, take comfort in knowing that the win is deserved.
Preference: Julia Louis-Dreyfus gave us an antihero for the ages, but I like my flawed characters with a little more possibility for redemption. So here it is, the decision I’ve been dreading since I started my speculation: Natasha Lyonne or Phoebe Waller-Bridge? Right now, I’d give anything for a temporal loop that allows me to make and change decisions.
Overlooked: I will never stop campaigning for justice for One Day At A Time’s Justina Machado, but Better Things star and visionary Pamela Adlon’s absence from this list is another travesty. Alison Brie continues to shine on GLOW, which makes the Academy’s ongoing indifference baffling.
Nominees: Gwendoline Christie, Game Of Thrones; Julia Garner, Ozark; Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones; Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve; Sophie Turner, Game Of Thrones; Maisie Williams, Game Of Thrones
Prediction: Someone from Game Of Thrones, obviously—but probably not Lena Headey, despite her reading of “I wanted those elephants.” Like Cersei, Headey just wasn’t given enough to do this final go-round, but the Academy could end up taking her years on the show into consideration. I worry about Gwendoline Christie’s chances, because she had to submit herself for Emmy consideration, which likely means the votes aren’t being funneled her way. In this case, I’m going with Maisie Williams, first of her name, portrayer of the slayer of the Night King. Sophie Turner did good, subtle work all season, but that can’t quite compare to the image of Arya flying out of the darkness and vanquishing the embodiment of evil.
Preference: Having said that, Gwendoline Christie is still the winner in my heart. Brienne’s knighting is every bit as memorable as Arya’s final kill, but Christie’s soulful performance does a better job of showing the way forward for a civilization that was on the brink of extinction.
Nominees: Alfie Allen, Game Of Thrones; Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game Of Thrones; Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones; Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul; Michael Kelly, House Of Cards; Chris Sullivan, This Is Us
Prediction: This is a three-way contest that centers around transformations: Alfie Allen made Theon Greyjoy’s redemption one of the few bright spots of Game Of Thrones’ final season; conversely, Jonathan Banks, as Better Call Saul’s Mike Ehrmantraut, gave up all pretense at fighting off his moral decline. But Tyrion Lannister adopting the role of mediator in a war of succession makes Peter Dinklage the Thrones player to beat here.
Preference: We’ve been waiting for Mike to slip along with Jimmy, and Jonathan Banks has made that as riveting a journey as his co-star and fellow nominee Bob Odenkirk.
Nominees: Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method; Anthony Carrigan, Barry; Tony Hale, Veep; Stephen Root, Barry; Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Henry Winkler, Barry
Prediction: Gary Walsh may be lost to the annals of history, like the Veep and president he served with feverish devotion, but Tony Hale’s work won’t be forgotten by the Academy. His chances are bolstered by the show’s swan song, but the odds are just in his favor—Hale’s a six-time nominee and two-time winner. Of course, Henry Winkler finally picked up his first win in 2018 and could very well repeat that this year, just as Tony Shalhoub could upset Hale’s chances. But Hale can probably get the Dubonnet ready.
Preference: I am on the record as prepared to “riot” if Anthony Carrigan doesn’t win, and while I probably won’t actually throw any bricks through windows, I will be let down if his work as the friendliest gangster on Barry goes unrecognized. But Carrigan is beyond charismatic and has a real knack for comedy, so at least this won’t be his last shot at the award.
Nominees: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Anna Chlumsky, Veep; Sian Clifford, Fleabag; Olivia Colman, Fleabag; Betty Gilpin, GLOW; Sarah Goldberg, Barry; Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Prediction: Speaking of six-time nominees, Anna Chlumsky has given such a dedicated and coiled performance as the put-upon (but vicious in her own right) Amy Brookheimer, and could very well find herself covered by the Veep finale penumbra. Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live’s one-woman repertory company, is tied with Chlumsky on nominations, but she’s already got two wins under her belt. But as the most recent winner in this category, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Alex Borstein might have the best odds. Borstein was also nominated for a Golden Globe earlier this year for the role of salty manager Susie Myerson, so she’s already generated a lot of good will.
Preference: This is another very tough call for me, because Sarah Goldberg is such a force on Barry, and I loved Olivia Colman’s wickedly funny stepmother on Fleabag. But watching Sian Clifford’s Claire slowly let down her defenses at almost the same time as her sister, Fleabag, was one of the most breathtaking displays of honesty and vulnerability that TV had to offer this year. That she did it while looking like a chic pencil makes it doubly impressive.
Prediction: Nothing speaks to how great a year this was for limited series like this group of top-notch contenders. Aunjanue Ellis and Niecy Nash gave incredibly moving performances on When They See Us that were only heightened by adversity; Patricia Arquette was the best thing about Escape At Dannemora; and Joey King held her own against the Oscar winner in The Act. But Michelle Williams’ embodiment of a Broadway legend on Fosse/Verdon, which has already won her a Television Critics Association award, is going to be impossible to beat.
Preference: But I’m a sucker for a lost cause, which is why I’m throwing my lot in with Amy Adams, whose raw and simmering performance on Sharp Objects hasn’t been far from my mind since I binged the series for review—last summer. I fear too much time has passed for Academy voters to remember to cast their votes for Adams, but you never know.
Nominees: Mahershala Ali, True Detective; Benicio Del Toro, Escape To Dannemora; Jared Harris, Chernobyl; Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us; Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal; Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon
Prediction: Hugh Grant playing against type in A Very English Scandal and Paddington 2 has garnered him lots of attention, but this is probably going to come down to Jared Harris and Mahershala Ali. Although Harris starred in the better show, Ali consistently elevated the material on True Detective season three, thereby rescuing the show’s overall legacy. Ali’s recent Oscar nods mean he has a lot of buzz around him, too, so there’s no real mystery here as to who’s going to win.
Preference: When They See Us’ Jharrel Jerome gave one of the best performances of the year on a series that spanned years. Where other roles were recast, Jerome believably took Korey Wise, one of the Exonerated Five, through adolescence (which was cut much too short) into troubled adulthood. And as his heart broke, so did ours.
Nominees: Patricia Arquette, The Act; Marsha Stephanie Blake, When They See Us; Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects; Vera Farmiga, When They See Us; Margaret Qualley, Fosse/Verdon; Emily Watson, Chernobyl
Prediction: In this battle of Patricias, the frontrunner is Patricia Clarkson, who already has two Emmy wins (albeit for guest actress). As Adora Crellin, Clarkson was a Victorian ghost and Blanche Dubois rolled into one; she provided an icy foil to Amy Adams’ Camille Preaker, making viewers grateful that their own overbearing mothers draw the line at inquiries about their personal lives. Vera Farmiga and Marsha Stephanie Blake showed just how deep the When They See Us bench was, but Clarkson’s monstrous matron is a one-of-a-kind creation.
Preference: Clearly, Patricia Clarkson’s already got my vote.
Nominees: Asante Blackk, When They See Us; Paul Dano, Escape At Dannemora; John Leguizamo, When They See Us; Stellan Skarsgård, Chernobyl; Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal; Michael K. Williams, When They See Us
Prediction: Like so many other Emmy contests this year, having multiple nominees from the same show is likely to split the vote, making this a smaller group than it appears to be. Paul Dano transformed along with his co-star Patricia Arquette for Escape At Dannemora, which is bound to turn voters’ heads. But Ben Whishaw has already won a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award for portraying Norman Scott in A Very English Scandal, giving him a leg up on the competition.
Preference: Paul Dano’s physicality communicated so much about his Dannemora character—not just the bulk that helped David Sweat survive in prison, but also the slight stoop that subtly pointed to what he was hiding.