Feinberg Forecast: Breaking Down the Emmys' Best Actress Races

11:00 AM 8/8/2016

by Scott Feinberg

THR's awards guru analyzes the talent-rich comedy and drama lead actress races, which include several first-time nominees and one 23-timer.

HBO; Netfilx

  • Ellie Kemper

    Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

    Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

    + After a snub last year, when the show and virtually everyone associated with it was nominated, Kemper now is along for the ride. Nota bene: Robert Carlock and Tina Fey's previous show 30 Rock generated a ton of acting wins.

    - Voters either find Kimmy incredibly likable or think her akin to nails on a chalkboard.

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    Veep (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    + All indications — including Golden Globe and SAG noms — suggest her record 17th nom for a comedy performance will result in a record-extending fifth consecutive win and record-setting sixth overall win in this category.

    - As real presidential politics dominates TV, voters might resist JLD's fictional version.

  • Laurie Metcalf

    Getting On (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    + This unexpected nom — the vet's first for this show, on which she plays a dark and twisted doctor — is one of an astounding three accorded to Metcalf this year.

    - Only one other nominee in this category hails from a show that didn't receive a comedy or sketch series nom (Tomlin). And HBO's favored daughter clearly is Louis-Dreyfus.

  • Tracee Ellis Ross

    Black-ish (ABC)

    ABC/Kelsey McNeal

    + As broadcast's sole rep in this category in a year in which a popular ballot replaces a preferential one, Ross could become only the second African-American (after The Jeffersons' Isabel Sanford) to win.

    - A victory certainly would be possible in a year without Louis-Dreyfus. This is not such a year.

  • Amy Schumer

    Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)

    Courtesy of Comedy Central

    + She's up for six Emmys this year, between her stand-up special, her SNL hosting gig and this show, for which Schumer has submitted a deeply personal and topical episode: "Welcome to the Gun Show."

    - This season was less acclaimed than last and, as she acknowledges, she may have been overexposed.

  • Lily Tomlin

    Grace and Frankie (Netflix)

    Melissa Moseley/Netflix

    + Few stars are more beloved than this 76-year-old, whose 23 noms date to 1971. And, fortunately for Tomlin (who was just tapped for both SAG and TCA's career achievement awards), she doesn't have to compete with co- star Jane Fonda, who was snubbed (again).

    - She's won six Emmys — five for writing and one for narrating — but has never been recognized for her acting.

  • Claire Danes

    Homeland (Showtime)

    Stephan Rabold/Showtime

    + Through her show's ups and downs, Danes never has lost the affection of her TV Academy peers. She won for seasons one and two and was nominated for three, four and now five, for an episode in which her bipolar CIA agent, Carrie Mathison, goes off her meds (just like when she won in 2012).

    - It's rare to win after losing two in a row.

  • Viola Davis

    How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

    ABC/Michael Desmond

    + This category's first black winner of any nationality last year, Davis is its only nominee this year who also was nominated for Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG awards (she won the SAG) — and she submitted a killer episode.

    - Many find Murder too soapy. She's its sole nominee this year. And voters may want to spread the love.

  • Taraji P. Henson

    Empire (Fox)

    Chuck Hodes/FX

    + For her colorful character, Cookie, Henson already won a Golden Globe this year — and as one of only two nominees from a broadcast show, she has been seen by more viewers and covered by more press than most of her competitors.

    - If she couldn't win last year, when buzz for her show was far greater, it's hard to see her winning now.

  • Tatiana Maslany

    Orphan Black (BBC America)

    Courtesy of BBC America

    + Nobody has a tougher acting challenge than this category's youngest nominee (she's just 30), a critics' darling who plays a dozen different characters, or "clones," in this existential drama.

    - Maslany is the lone nominee for her show, which attracts the smallest audience of any of this category's contenders.

  • Keri Russell

    The Americans (FX)

    Nicole Rivelli/FX

    + Long a favorite of critics for her portrayal of a Russian spy, the TV veteran finally is a nominee, and in the same year in which her show — for its fourth season — at long last receives a series nom, to great fanfare.

    - It's hard to imagine Russell or anyone else going from not ever being nominated to winning in a single year.

  • Robin Wright

    House of Cards (Netflix)

    David Giesbrecht/Netflix

    + Claire never has been more central to the show than she was this season. Wright delivers a killer monologue in her episode submission and could benefit from the employment of a popular ballot.

    - Has she never won because of stiff competition or because voters resist her ice- queen character? If the latter, she's in trouble.

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