Part 3: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
This category may have issues because of multiple nominees in the same show. The Morning Show, Killing Eve, and my personal favorite Big Little Lies all have the possibility of having at least two actresses from each series competing. Will this lead to problems of certain other leads in less deserving series? Will the Emmys institutional memory help actresses not from the previous year but from two years earlier or? Or will a new ruler render all of this moot? Despite all that, here are my (sure to be controversial choices)
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
I know that the buzz for this series from a brand new series turned out to be a lot greater than the actuality quality of this show about daytime broadcasting from Apple TV. But I’ve learned a lot of things in my years watching TV: Hollywood loves a comeback, and they love Jennifer Aniston. Aniston has always been a more gifted dramatic actress than Hollywood has let her be, and seeing her return to television more than fifteen years after leaving Friends is a comeback story no one could ignore. The award nominations and her bubbly speech after winning the SAG award for Best Dramatic Actress cemented her return. And if the series wasn’t as good as it was supposed to be. This is Hollywood. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Olivia Colman, The Crown
I’ve been a huge fan of Colman ever since her exceptional work on Broadchurch. The last couple of years have seen her rise to the stratosphere, winning an Oscar for The Favorite (and delighting the audience with her speech) her rollicking comic turn on Fleabag, and now her more than taking over the role Claire Foy played to perfection for two seasons. Watching Elizabeth move into middle age, have to deal with far more pressing family matters, including her own emotional weakness and her struggles with her son and future king Charles more than demonstrated just how good she is at anything she does. She was the odds-on favorite even before she won the Golden Globe, and it’s hard to imagine anything stopping her. And come on, we want to her give another acceptance speech.
Claire Danes, Homeland
I’ll be the first to admit, I had my problems with the final season of Homeland. But none of the problems I had were with Danes’ extraordinary work as an emotionally broken Carrie made one final effort to save the world, which led to her crossing the one line she swore she never would, and doing the unforgivable. It’s more than likely that Sandra Oh or Elisabeth Moss will take her spot instead, but it should be noted they would not be in consideration were not for the iconic character Danes created and played for eight, mostly exceptional seasons as one of the first true antiheroines. I’m not saying she should necessarily win, but she deserves to be here.
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
She won an Emmy when this was just a limited series playing a battered wife so firmly in denial she refused to escape her husband. Now, in the second, Celeste dealt in the aftermath of her husband’s murder by trying to work around the manipulations of her mother-in-law, the revelations of her husbands assault on Jane, trying to cover up her involvement in the murder, and perhaps hardest of all, dealing with the loss of a man that despite everything he did to her, she still loved. Kidman’s work was exceptional yet again, and though it wasn’t the strongest performance of the entire cast, it more than deserves another nomination.
Laura Linney, Ozark
Laura Linney is one of the greatest actresses of our time. And even though she’s shone on Broadway and film, television has by far been the medium that has given her the chance to show her greatest range. She’s not the best thing about Ozark, but watching Wendy Byrde try to find a life outside the horror show that her husband has forced her into — and season by season, becoming more of a threat to him than the crime families that are consequently threatening his life at every turn — has lead to some of the richest acting opportunities she’s had in her career on television. She hasn’t been lacking in recognition from the Emmys, but she more than deserves to be here for more.
Mandy Moore, This is Us
I’m counting in part on the Emmys institutional laziness to give another nomination to Moore as they did last year. But that’s my cynicism. The fact is, Moore has always had the heaviest workload of every actor in the cast of this show, playing Rebecca in the past, present, and most hauntingly in the future. And this season, the latter two timelines came a lot closer to intersecting, as the dementia that we know will eventually overcome Rebecca began to seriously affect her in the back half of the season. Watching her tell all her children about it, and the differing opinions as to how it should be dealt with leading to a break between her sons, led to some of the most gutwrenching drama on this series. It’s taken longer for Moore to get her due. Somehow, I think the Emmys will remember.
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies
There’s little denying that Witherspoon has had a hell of a year, and there is a legitimate possibility that division between her two drama series, and the possibility of being overlooked for a brighter sun in both shows (see above) may end up with her getting ignore for both. (Though she’ll probably be there as a nominee anyway, see below.) But if I had a choice for which series she should be recognized, her dazzling work as Madeline more than deserves another nomination. As she tries to keep the cover for the Monterey Five working despite everybody disintegrating around her, and seeing the cost to her marriage was heartbreaking — though admittedly she was the only character who came out of Season 2 with a happy ending. Much of the reason I want there to be a Season 3 is to see what Witherspoon will do next. A nomination for her would be good enough.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Janelle Monae, Homecoming
Last year, one of the sure things for the Emmys was going to be that Julia Roberts was going to get an Emmy nomination for this extraordinary thriller on Amazon. It was one of the biggest shocks that it didn’t happen. So the idea that a far less well known actress is going to get a nomination for Season 2 of this series seems far less likely. But in many ways, Monae’s work is far more impressive than Roberts. For the first two episodes, her character didn’t even know who she was, and when she — and the audience did — it was absolutely stunning. Do we know all of the secrets that Jackie has? In a sense, it doesn’t matter because Monae so fully dominates the screen that we are learning what she’s learning. Monae has broken particularly big over the past three years. She’s earned her nomination in a way that Roberts didn’t seem like she had to.