Monday, September 10, 2018

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde, Ozark (The Toll)
Bateman was nominated previously in 2005 and 2013 for “Arrested Development,” and contends also for directing the episode he submitted. When I watched the pilot, I wasn’t impressed with Bateman’s casting, but he does do a better job later on. I might actually have chosen the other episode nominated for directing, “Tonight We Improvise,” for him instead, but this is a fine submission. His show didn’t do nearly well enough in other categories for it to propel him to a win, something that would only happen if voters can’t decide on another clear winner.

Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson, This Is Us (Number Three)
Brown won this award last year and another Emmy the year before that for “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.” Brown has automatic frontrunner status because his show continues to be popular and no one is a truly serious challenger to him, but he’s still not a lock. His submitted episode, which isn’t part of his show’s six episodes chosen for Best Drama Series, highlights his strained relationship with his foster daughter while he imagines what it might have been like to have his birth father in his. It’s certainly not as strong a submission as last year, but I think he’ll probably still win.

Ed Harris as The Man in Black, Westworld (Vanishing Point)
Harris’ inclusion here comes as a surprise given his snub in the supporting race last year and the fact that his character is very, very hard to like. Harris was previously nominated in 2005 for miniseries “Empire Falls” and in 2012 for TV movie “Game Change.” Harris’s submitted episode is the one that might paint him in the most sympathetic light because it reveals the long-referenced decline of his wife, but he’s also still a pretty horrible person. The part isn’t as complex as costar Wright’s, and so I would be genuinely shocked if Harris’ name was called.

Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, The Americans (START)
This is the third consecutive nomination for Rhys, whose show returns to the Best Drama Series lineup for its final season. I’ve been reading a lot of prognosticators who say that Rhys may win this year, with plenty of favor built up over the course of the show. His submission of the series finale, in which he has to take his situation at face value and improvise, is a strong one. His circumstances are most comparable to Kyle Chandler’s, as he managed to prevail for the last season of his show after waiting a few seasons to even be nominated. He certainly has a shot to upset.

Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, This Is Us (The Car)
This is the second consecutive nomination for Ventimiglia, who is now the only series regular nominated alongside Brown, who won this award last year and contends again this time. I thought that Ventimiglia would win if he got nominated, but I expected him to submit the Superbowl episode, not the one after it that reviews all the things that Jack taught his children. He’s still a good bet, but it’s not the shoo-in I had originally thought, especially since the show didn’t perform in other categories as well as expected.

Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Bernard Shaw, Westworld (The Passenger)
Wright was nominated in the supporting category for this role last year and won an Emmy back in 2004 for “Angels in America.” Wright’s prominence in season two only increased, and he wisely submitted the season finale which reveals much of what even he didn’t realize that he had done. Wright is indisputably excellent, but I’m not sure the casual viewer will appreciate the complexity of his performance and that fans will be eager to vote for the star of a less solid second season.

Who should win (based on entire season): Wright or Brown
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Wright or Brown
Who will win: Most people seem to think that Rhys is going to be able to edge out Brown, but I’m sticking with the latter.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

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