If I Had an Emmy Ballot: Drama Lead Acting

Emmy voting is now underway. Over the next few weeks, I'll be laying out who I hope gets nominated in the drama, comedy, and limited series categories in this space, looking specifically at achievements in acting, writing, and directing. Below are my six personal picks for lead acting in a drama series, with my preferred winner in bold.

Drama Lead Actress

Carrie Coon, The Leftovers

Claire Foy, The Crown

Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Emmy Rossum, Shameless

Keri Russell, The Americans

Rutina Wesley, Queen Sugar

(alt: Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld)


No choice was as difficult as this one — I went back and forth between Elisabeth Moss and Carrie Coon over and over, the two best performances I saw anywhere over the past year. In the end I went with Coon, but really only because her astonishing show has ended—with its final episode, particularly, such a triumph of acting from Coon. Both performances are phenomenal, however, and that they’re so far ahead speaks volumes about how strong this category is. I’ll single out a few actresses on my ballot who aren’t generating enough chatter elsewhere right now: Rutina Wesley, an emotional force who deserves many accolades for her breakout Queen Sugar turn, and Emmy Rossum, who may have had her best season yet on the past-its-prime Shameless. (That’s saying something.)

Drama Lead Actor

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel

Rami Malek, Mr. Robot

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Aden Young, Rectify

(alt: Kyle Chandler, Bloodline)


Aden Young’s utterly brilliant four-season run on Rectify culminated with his most magnificent season of work yet, so picking this winner wasn’t a particularly difficult choice for me. As for the rest of the six, it’s worth highlighting newbie Sterling K. Brown, who effortlessly cuts through This Is Us’ artifice, and as always, Matthew Rhys, ever-amazing  even in a weaker year for The Americans.