Feinberg Forecast: Breaking Down the Emmys' Best Actor Races

9:30 AM 8/19/2016

by Scott Feinberg

Two first-season phenoms — Netflix's 'Master of None' comedy mastermind Aziz Ansari and Rami Malek of USA drama 'Mr. Robot' — are generating buzz, but the seasoned pros surrounding them can't be dismissed.

Courtesy of ABC; HBO; Showtime

  • Kyle Chandler

    'Bloodline' (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    UPSIDE This is his second consecutive nomination for his portrayal of tortured John Rayburn, following one for Grey's Anatomy and two for Friday Night Lights — the second resulting in a win.

    DOWNSIDE He won five years ago, so there's no urgency. His show only has two noms; none of his competitors' shows has fewer than five.

  • Rami Malek

    'Mr. Robot' (USA)

    Courtesy of USA

    UPSIDE This first-time nominee's portrayal of haunted hacker Elliot Alderson already propelled him to Golden Globe and SAG noms and a Critics' Choice win. With a wisely chosen submission and a nom for his series, he's the one to beat.

    DOWNSIDE He's still a new face to many, and USA is new to Emmy campaigns at this level.

  • Bob Odenkirk

    'Better Call Saul' (AMC)

    Courtesy of AMC

    UPSIDE This vet, who plays the title character of a nominated series from Breaking Bad's creator, is this category's only nominee other than Malek who got SAG and Globe noms, too. Five of the last nine wins have come from AMC shows.

    DOWNSIDE He has won twice before — both times for writing, not acting.

  • Matthew Rhys

    'The Americans' (FX)

    Courtesy of FX

    UPSIDE Critics adore his performance as Russian spy Philip Jennings, and the series, both of which garnered their first noms this year after being snubbed for three seasons.

    DOWNSIDE It seems a safe bet that the nomination itself is the win — particularly since the series' ratings have declined each season.

  • Liev Schreiber

    'Ray Donovan' (Showtime)

    Courtesy of SHOWTIME

    UPSIDE For his work as the show's intense title character, this respected actor landed his second straight nom (third overall) on the heels of Globe and Critics' Choice noms.

    DOWNSIDE As one of only two nominees in this category hailing from a show that didn't get a series nom, his support might not run deep.

  • Kevin Spacey

    'House of Cards' (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    UPSIDE This is the vet's fourth straight nom for his iconic Frank Underwood on this nominated series (fifth overall), which got more overall noms this year (13) than any of his competitors'. He already won the SAG Award.

    DOWNSIDE Despite many noms, this show's only major win remains David Fincher's for his direction — of the pilot.

  • Anthony Anderson

    'Black-ish' (ABC)

    Courtesy of ABC

    UPSIDE This nom makes it two in a row for his ad exec Dre. One of the only people in this category who's featured on a network show, he could get a boost from the employment of a popular ballot.

    DOWNSIDE His show and Ansari's deal with similar sorts of issues, and Ansari's is newer and less constricted by standards and practices.

  • Aziz Ansari

    'Master of None' (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    UPSIDE This 2016 Golden Globe and Critics' Choice finalist also has been nominated for producing, directing and writing. His episode submission — co-starring Ansari's real-life dad — is a tear-jerking gem.

    DOWNSIDE His show's whole season dropped last November. Every other nominee has appeared in episodes more recently.

  • Will Forte

    'The Last Man on Earth' (Fox)

    Courtesy of FOX

    UPSIDE Up for his performance as survivor Phil for the second time in as many years, he also landed a Critics' Choice nom and, hailing from a network show, he could get a boost from the popular ballot.

    DOWNSIDE He is his show's sole nominee, while every one of his competitors' shows have multiple mentions.

  • William H. Macy

    'Shameless' (Showtime)

    Courtesy of SHOWTIME

    UPSIDE This TV Academy fave's nomination marks his third in a row for his work as Frank on this show and his 12th overall (he won for acting and writing 13 years ago).

    DOWNSIDE Based on the show's lack of a series nomination, it's hard to imagine that enough support exists to propel him to a win.

  • Thomas Middleditch

    'Silicon Valley' (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    UPSIDE His first nom, for his show's third season, represents Silicon's sole acting mention in its run. That's not for lack of love for his show, though — nobody in this category hails from one that got more noms (11, including series).

    DOWNSIDE The show, like Richard's Pied Piper, ultimately is larger than any individual.

  • Jeffrey Tambor

    'Transparent' (Amazon)

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    UPSIDE Last year's winner won this year's SAG and Critics' Choice awards, which, along with a series nom and a killer episode submission highlighting the cruelty faced by trans people, suggests he's going to be hard to beat.

    DOWNSIDE Rookie nominees tend to do well in this category. He was one last year; Ansari is one this year.

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