If I Had an Emmy Ballot: Comedy 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, to kick this off, are my six personal picks for lead acting in a comedy series, with my preferred winner in bold.

Comedy Lead Actress

Pamela Adlon, Better Things

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Justina Machado, One Day at a Time

Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Michaela Watkins, Casual

(alt: Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)


This is a tough one, and between the six nominees I finally settled on—a tall order in and of itself—I could make an argument for any of the six as the year’s rightful winner. I love how Justina Machado and Pamela Adlon proved their range and depth (and then some) in their first-ever starring vehicles, how Michaela Watkins continues to give one of the realest and most vulnerable performances on TV, how Julia Louis-Dreyfus plows through Veep dialogue every season with increasingly gleeful aplomb, and how Gina Rodriguez can take anything the writers of Jane throw at her and turn it into something special. But I kept coming back to Tracee Ellis Ross. Black-ish has grown for the better as it’s given Ross more to do, and this year, as she wrestled with sending her daughter off to college and facing the daunting challenge of new parenthood once again, the actress maintained her exceptional comedic timing while very subtly, but very pointedly, fleshing Bow out. I think she’s got a shot to win the Emmy, and I hope she does. 

Comedy Lead Actor

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

Louie Anderson, Baskets

Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Walton Goggins, Vice Principals

Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley

Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

(alt: Donald Glover, Atlanta)


I took several liberties when making my choices for this category—mainly, by bumping a few submitted-as-supporting stars to lead. In each case it’s more than justified: chiefly Louie Anderson, so striking and humane in his gender-flipped Baskets role, really grew into a co-lead with Zach Galifianakis in Season 2; Tituss Burgess (rightly) had more screentime than anybody this year on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; and Walton Goggins’ delightfully scheme-y Lee Russell was a co-lead in Vice Principals from the very beginning. They deserve to be here—and not to crowd out the many deserving, genuinely supporting performances in contention this year. (More on that in another post.) So there's that trio, alongside the three unambiguously leading male performances that continue to be among the best in half-hour TV: Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, Thomas Middleditch in Silicon Valley, and Anthony Anderson in Black-ish. Shout-outs to Billy Eichner and Donald Glover, who just missed my cut.