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The Curious Race for Best Drama Actor

The hardest race to predict at this year’s Emmys is Best Drama Actor. For pundits and prognosticators this is the height of irony. Because in recent years this has been  the easiest race to predict. 

Here’s a look at the last 11 winners:

Kyle Chandler for the last season of “Friday Night Lights” (2011)

Damian Lewis for the first season of “Homeland” (2012)

Jeff Daniels for the first season of “The Newsroom” (2013)

Bryan Cranston for the last season of “Breaking Bad” (2014)

Jon Hamm for the last season of “Mad Men” (2015)

Rami Malek for the first season of “Mr. Robot” (2016)

Sterling K. Brown for the first season of “This Is Us” (2017)

Matthew Rhys for the last season of “The Americans” (2018)

Billy Porter for the first season of “Pose” (2019)

Jeremy Strong for the second season of “Succession” (2020)

Josh O’Connor for his last season of “The Crown” (2021)

Notice a pattern? With the exception of Strong, 10 of the 11 past winners have been for either their first or last seasons. And only Daniels was able to pull off a victory without his series at least being nominated. 

And now let’s take a look at this year’s nominees:

Jason Bateman for his last season of “Ozark”

Brian Cox for the third season of “Succession”

Lee Jung-jae for the first season of “Squid Game”

Bob Odenkirk for the first half of the last season of “Better Call Saul “

Adam Scott for the first season of “Severance”

Jeremy Strong for the third season of “Succession”

Off the bat Cox, can be eliminated. For one simple reason Cox, has never bested his onscreen son Strong. Strong, on the other hand has not only taken down Cox on multiple occasions he’s also been the only actor in over a decade to win this category for a season that wasn’t the first/last. Should Strong win he would be the first consecutive winner since Cranston went three in a row (2008-2010). Since “Succession,” was not eligible at the 2021 Emmys a win in 2022 would be considered a consecutive win.

Up next perennial nominees Bateman and Odenkirk. Bateman, unfortunately does not have any momentum to pull off a win. There simply doesn’t appear to be any path for a Bateman victory. But don’t feel too bad for Bateman he’s won two individual SAG Awards (2019 and 2021) and an Emmy for Directing (2019) “Ozark” and could  be rewarded again this year for his efforts behind the camera. Then there’s Odenkirk, who made headlines during last year’s Emmy cycle for having a heart attack during the filming of the final season of “Saul.” Potentially helping and/or hurting Odenkirk is he’s competing for the first half of the final and voters may wait since they’ll have another chance to award him. But in the positive column “Saul’s” final half aired during the final round of voting and Odenkirk is at a career best in the series finale.

Lee Jung-jae for the first season of “Squid Game”

Adam Scott for the first season of “Severance”

Last but not least are the two first-timers is Jung-jae and Scott. Jung-jae has been off to a solid start this year picking up both the Critics Choice Awards and SAG Awards—besting both Cox and Strong both times. However, the SAG Awards doesn’t have the best track record of predicting Emmy winners. And it’s entirely possible that Cox, Strong and their costar Kieran Culkin split the vote. Jung-jae is in unknown territory as his performance is in a foreign language a rarity in the acting categories. “Squid Game” made history as the first foreign language series to receive a Best Drama Series nomination. The show is also hyper-violent and like “Game of Thrones” heavily action based which could potentially hinder Jung-jae chances. If Jung-jae win he would make history as the first Asian actor to win a lead category. Enter Scott, who’s starred in everything from cult-hit “Party Down,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Big Little Lies” and those are just some of his television credentials. Scott is untested as “Severance” didn’t start airing till February. Scott has been working in the industry a long time and this could finally be his fellow actor’s opportunity to award him. Helping Scott, is the series premise of severing a person work life from their personal life. This gives Scott the chance to play essentially two different characters giving voters more bang for their buck.

Will the trend continue? Or will it be briefly interrupted again? We’ll find out when the Emmys air Monday, September 12th.


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Written by @msamandaspears

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