Week 2, Part 3: Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show: 9–2. For Playing: Alex Levy, the co-host of a morning show trying to rise above a scandal. Pro: Even before this series even premiered, the talk for Aniston for an Emmy was legion. Leaving aside that this was a meaty dramatic role, it was Aniston’s first appearance on series television in more than fifteen years, and Hollywood loves a comeback. Aniston’s win and speech at the SAG awards would seem to cement her position as the front runner. Con: If only real-life matched up with the hype. Morning Show received at best middling reviews from major critics, and because it was for a streaming series that has had not demonstrated its viability, the hype didn’t live up to expectations — the series was never considered a contender for Best Drama. Aniston’s edge would seem to depend entire on her personality… which is considerable.
Olivia Colman, The Crown: 9–2. For Playing: A more mature Queen Elizabeth II. Pro: The fact that she was taking over for a superb actress didn’t phase this veteran who won an Oscar for a (much different) portrayal of another British Monarch. As she handled the decline of the British empire, battles from within the royal family, and her own advancing age, we were reminded yet again was an exceptional actress Colman is. She deservedly won the Golden Globe for Best Actress earlier this year, we already know how great her acceptance speeches can be, and she’s deserved an Emmy since at least the first season of Broadchurch. Con: The Golden Globes were a long time ago, and a lot of newer female performance may have diminished the inevitability around Colman’s aura.
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve: 13–2. For Playing: Villanelle, the eerily cheerful psychotic international assassin at the center of a major conspiracy. Pro: When Comer won the Emmy last year, it was a surprise that she managed to beat her co-star, who swept most of the previous awards. It shouldn’t have been. Comer has created one of the most unique characters in all of television, and as we spent most of Season 3 learning more about her backstory as well as the dance she’s doing with her pursuer, we remembered what a great force she is even when the series is lacking. Plus if the Emmys get lazy, she might benefit. Con:: Killing Eve took a lot of brickbats in its third season, and a lot of people did think the Emmys were a little lazier than usual in recognizing Comer over other names. This may hurt her.
Laura Linney, Ozark:19–5. For Playing: Wendy Byrde, the increasingly struggling wife of a money launderer getting deeper and deeper into criminal activities. Pro: Linney has long since established herself as one of the greatest actress of all time. She’s already won four Emmys and created some truly memorable characters. Wendy Byrde, however, shows some of her deeper elements. Trying to maintain a level of normalcy in a world that is filled with criminal enterprises and increasingly coming into battle against her husband, she has lifted this series above the mire it could easily have fallen into. Odds have rising in her favor. Con: For all of Linney’s abilities, one can’t escape the feeling that this is just a variation on Skyler White and Kim Wexler. And she has hardly been lacking in recognition from the Academy.
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve: 13–2. For playing: Eve Polastri, the MI-6 bean counter increasingly drawn in (and drawn to) the assassin behind a series of international killings. Pro: Pundits (myself included) thought that Oh was a sure thing last year for Best Actress for playing the hunter trying to track down a killer she can’t help but be attracted to. And it’s not like Oh wasn’t due. I’ve never been the biggest Grey’s Anatomy fan, but she was entitled to something for her work on that series. Oh’s comic experience helped her find the perfect balance in this atonal series, and she more than deserves some recognition. Con: All the arguments against Comer pretty much hold against Oh. The series is considered old hat now, and that may be too late.
Zendaya, Euphoria: 11–2. For playing: Rue Bennett, an overmedicated, oversexed high school student. Pro: There are a lot of people who admit that even for HBO, Euphoria is not the typical output. Focused on Rue as the link between a series of messy, visually bright and very trippy adventures, this series became one of the more surprise sensations of the network. Con: Let’s be blunt. There were at least seven or eight far more qualified actresses who deserved a nomination more than Zendaya, a performer whose appeal has always been lost on me. This nomination came as a huge shock to most critics and viewers, particularly because it was more controversial than entertaining. I think her celebrity propelled her to this nomination, and it seems unlikely she’ll be able to go any further.
Prediction: Colman’s been higher on the list by pundits for a lot longer than Aniston has. Add to the fact she’s long overdue, and I think she’ll just edge out Aniston and Linney.