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Emmy Analysis: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

This year’s nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series are packed with extraordinary talent. Two of the nominated actresses fit under the transgender umbrella. If either of them wins, it would be historical. The Crown has made a splash with two nominations for this category. Many actresses in this category have been nominated and won numerous other awards, including the Oscars and past Emmys. The voters can’t go wrong with any of these names.

Will the Academy go for an actress from an ongoing show? Or with somebody who has won an Emmy in this category before? Or vote for somebody new? Or perhaps make a history-making choice?

The nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama include Emma Corrin as Diana, the princess of Wales in The Crown, Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown, Uzo Aduba as Dr. Brooke Taylor in In Treatment, Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne in The Handmaid’s Tale, Jurnee Smollett as Letitia “Leti” Lewis in Lovecraft Country and lastly MJ Rodriguez as Blanca Rodriguez in Pose. Let’s take a closer look at these impressive nominees.

EMMA CORRIN, Diana, the princess of Wales | The Crown | Netflix

Emma Corrin is entirely new to the Emmys. However, Emma has already taken home a Golden Globe for Actress in a Drama Television Series and won other awards for The Crown. She may also be one of the reasons why the Emmys and other award shows eventually create a non-gender binary category. I’m unsure if Emma even wants to be referred to as an actress at this point. Emma recently came out as Queer, and the actor now uses her/they pronouns. She deserves this nomination since she embraced the challenge of playing an icon. Diana is the people’s princess. Emma didn’t just inhabit “the people’s princess” but humanized her. They are nominated for “Fairytale,” highlighting how Diana’s isolation drove her to develop bulimia. Emma faces steep competition but is in the mix with her soul-digging portrayal of Diana that ranges from a quirky, cute sixteen-year-old to a beautiful mother of two trapped in a loveless public marriage.

OLIVIA COLMAN, Queen Elizabeth II | The Crown | Netflix

The Crown must be doing something right since the television show earned two nominations from this category. Award-winning actress Olivia Colman, as Queen Elizabeth II, was nominated for this same category last year. The Emmy Academy has previously selected Elizabeth for her roles in The Night Manager and Fleabag. However, she deserves her first Emmy for her magnificent two-season performance as Elizabeth II. Olivia Colman is nominated for one of the best episodes of the season, “48:1,” where Elizabeth II uncharacteristically fights hard against Margaret Thatcher for the Commonwealth to impose sanctions on South Africa for apartheid. Olivia brought out the honorable warrior in the prim & proper Queen. The fact that Olivia had two seasons to develop her performance gives her a leg up on Emma.

UZO ADUBA, Dr. Brooke Taylor | In Treatment | HBO

Uzo Aduba has already won three Emmys for Orange Is the New Black and Mrs. America. Uzo’s past wins could hurt her chances, but this is the first series she has been the lead in a Drama television show. The elegant Dr. Brooke Taylor is so multi-layered. In front of her patients, Brooke appears to be put together. However, beneath the surface, Brooke wrestles with her demons, including grief and addiction. She was nominated for “Brooke — Week 5,” an episode where the main character is forced to face her pain. Dr. Brooke Taylor treats herself, leading to an emotional breakthrough about her needing to find the root of her anxiety. Uzo Aduba has a strong chance of winning since In Treatment is character-driven and a reboot of a critically acclaimed series.

ELISABETH MOSS, June Osborne | The Handmaid’s Tale | Hulu

Elisabeth Moss has become a bit of an institution. Elisabeth already won a 2017 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as June Osborne in The Handmaid’s Tale. The fact that she won before is the biggest reason why the voters may not go for her. But the June we saw in the first season is drastically different than the one we see now. Elisabeth is nominated for “Home” when June escapes to Canada as an asylum seeker. The viewers can see how resistance leader June’s traumatic life in Gilead triggered full-fledged PTSD, leaving her lost in this “safe” world. She is full of rage. Elisabeth could win for June’s character arc throughout the last four years of the television show, but the voters may not want to give her another Emmy until the final season.

JURNEE SMOLLETT, Leti Lewis | Lovecraft Country | HBO

Jurnee Smollett is one of the other actresses that has never been nominated for an Emmy before. Jurnee faces significant competition from many established television superstars, but Lovecraft Country feels exceptionally timely. Lovecraft Country deals with White privilege and police violence. The United States as a country is finally facing its racist history. Jurnee is nominated for “Holy Ghost” when Leti, the first Black homeowner in an upper crest White neighborhood, bravely battles a White ghost wizard. The civil rights activist wins because the Black ghosts unite against their former captor. The fact Jurnee is nominated for a supernatural role may be detrimental to her chances. However, Tatiana Maslany won for various parts in Orphan Black, a science fiction television show, so she has a real chance of winning.

MJ RODRIGUEZ, Blanca Rodriguez | Pose | Fox

If MJ Rodriguez won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series, it would be a historical event. She is already the first trans woman to be nominated for an Emmy. MJ has been nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award for her performance as Blanca Rodriguez in Pose. The fact that MJ wasn’t nominated for an Emmy until now is a snub. Her acting as Blanca has been on point since the start.  Thankfully the Television Academy voted for her after Pose’s last season. Blanca is everybody’s rock in the Drag Ball world of the 1980s through to the early 1990s. After being diagnosed with HIV, Blanca decided to create the House of Evangelista. She didn’t want to die without a legacy. Blanca made a legacy by supporting her children’s dreams and rocking the balls as a chosen family. MJ is nominated for “Series Finale,” where all of Blanca’s dreams come true. With the drug cocktail Blanca can live with AIDS. The Drag ball legend works as a certified nurse at a major hospital and lives with her boyfriend Christopher, the doctor. She still mentors young gay men and trans women to honor her late best friend Pray Tell. In the 1990s, the balls were still the only space that Queer people of color could thrive. I believe that MJ has a real chance of winning the grand prize for a role of a lifetime.

Here are some of my predictions. Let me know what you think in the comments:

Prediction: Uzo Aduba

Preference: Jurnee Smollett

Sleeper: MJ Rodriguez

Predicted Ranking:

Uzo Aduba

Olivia Colman

Elisabeth Moss

MJ Rodriguez

Emma Corrin

Jurnee Smollett


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Written by Paloma Bennett

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