Emmy Analysis: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie

It’s still crushing to see that neither Merritt Wever nor Kaitlyn Dever made the cut here for their phenomenal work in Unbelievable. It’s also saddening to see Daisy Edgar-Jones’ terrific performance in Normal People omitted from the lineup, along with Kathryn Hahn’s excellent turn in Mrs. Fletcher. However, this field is extraordinarily strong, showcasing formidable turns from four established actresses and one wildly impressive newcomer. 

Here are the nominees:

Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, Mrs. America (FX/Hulu)

While Blanchett has won three Golden Globes and two Oscars, this is her first-time as an Emmy contender. She is also nominated as a producer for Mrs. America. As a famed conservative activist, Blanchett displays poise and passion, immersing herself fully into the role. Even if some voters don’t like the show, the strength in her performance and cinematic reputation puts her at the forefront of the competition. 

Shira Haas as Esty Shapiro, Unorthodox (Netflix)

This is the first nomination for Haas, an Israeli actress who stars in the Netflix limited series about a young woman fleeing her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn to explore a new life in Berlin. Haas’ series shocked many racking up several Emmy nominations, and her position here is a huge victory. Haas may not be a household name like the other women nominated, but her performance is a true breakout with the potential to garner votes from anyone who watches it.

Regina King as Angela Abar, Watchmen (HBO)

King’s Emmy scorecard is intimidating. She’s received four consecutive nominations, winning three times for her turn in American Crime and limited series Seven Seconds. She’s once again commanding the category in the year’s most-nominated program, playing an undercover police officer determined to mete out justice to those who seek to pervert it. It’s a powerhouse turn in a show Emmy voters obviously love, making her the obvious frontrunner.

Octavia Spencer as Madam C.J. Walker, Self Made (Netflix)

This is the first Emmy nomination for Oscar winner Spencer, who is the lone representative of her series in any category. Playing the first self-made female millionaire in the United States, the show gives her plenty of room to shine. However, without any other support for the series, it’s hard to see her winning. But Spencer’s history of standing out in projects and earning acclaim regardless of accolades for others involved should not be ignored. 

Kerry Washington as Mia Warren, Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)

Washington has three previous acting nominations for Confirmation and her starring role on Scandal. She is also nominated this year for producing Little Fires Everywhere, TV movie American Son, and the Live in Front of a Studio Audience specials. Washington is the only performer recognized from her show, portraying a woman who moves into a predominantly white suburb and encounters considerable discrimination. Her series didn’t perform as well as it could have, but Washington could still win, especially due to her increased profile and work on multiple nominated projects this year.

Who should win? These are all strong choices, with Haas leading the pack, followed by King and Blanchett. 

Who will win? In a race between Blanchett and King, an upset by Hass is possible. 


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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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