Emmys: Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Each Lead Actor Nominee

11:30 AM 8/10/2017

by Scott Feinberg

From 'The Americans' star Matthew Rhys to 'Atlanta's' Donald Glover, THR's awards analyst weighs in on the winning prospects for 13 of TV's leading men.

Emmys - Lead Actor Nominee -Matthew Rhys - Aziz Ansari - Donald Glover -Split-H 2017
Courtesy of FX; Netflix; FX

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Anthony Anderson

    PRO This is the veteran character actor's third consecutive nom for his portrayal of ad exec Dre and second in a row paired with a series nom. Anderson is the category's sole broadcast nominee, so his work probably has been seen by more people than his competitors'. This season, he also boasts Golden Globe, Critics' Choice and SAG Award noms.

    CON He hasn't won yet, and previous Black-ish seasons were more talked about. 

  • Aziz Ansari

    PRO For his funny and philosophical show's second season, which many like even more than its first (and which is a series nominee), he is — for the second year in a row — a nominee in this category and for writing, which he won last year. Look for him to be the focus of a big push by Netflix. 

    CON That big push by Netflix could backfire as some in the industry found the streamer's lavish FYC space this spring unseemly. 

  • Sterling K. Brown

    PRO Last year's breakout star, for the limited series The People v. O.J. Simpson, returns to contention, now for a drama series with a huge audience on a broadcast network, for which he has already picked up a SAG Award nom.

    CON He isn't helped by having won an Emmy last year and sharing a category this year with co-star Milo Ventimiglia (his character's adoptive father).

  • Zach Galifianakis

    PRO The straight-faced funnyman has been nominated on five prior occasions, winning twice for Between Two Ferns, but this is the first time he has been recognized for acting — playing twins Chip and Dale Baskets on the second season of this black comedy that he created with Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel

    CON His show has the lowest profile of any in this category, not to mention no series nom.

  • Donald Glover

    PRO The 33-year-old, this category's youngest nominee and only nominee from a new series, already won Globe and Critics' Choice awards. His show (like Anderson's and Ansari's) is up for best comedy series; he's also nominated as a producer, director and writer of the show. 

    CON He has done minimal press to promote his series. And FX also has to devote some of its attention and funds to promoting Galifianakis

  • Anthony Hopkins

    PRO The TV Academy loves movie stars like this legendary Oscar winner, who also has won two Emmys (decades ago). In HBO's $100 million sci-fi fantasy, 2017's most nominated scripted series, he plays the creator of an android-populated amusement park. 

    CON Not everyone is enamored with the show's handling of his character in the season finale. 

  • William H. Macy

    PRO This veteran character actor has been nominated for 13 Emmys over 20 years, and has won two, but never for his portrayal of Frank, a perpetual screw-up of a father, on this dramedy. Perhaps his fourth nom for this role, on the heels of an unexpected SAG Award win, will change that. 

    CON Based on the show's lack of a series nom, it's hard to imagine enough support for it exists to propel him to a victory. 

  • Bob Odenkirk

    PRO For his work as the eponymous attorney on the third season of his show, this veteran of Breaking Bad, from which his current show was spun off, is nominated for the third straight year, as is the series. He already has a Critics' Choice win and a Golden Globe nom under his belt.

    CON His two past Emmy wins both came for something other than acting: writing.

  • Matthew Rhys

    PRO This show about American-Russian tensions has been on the air for five seasons, the past two of which have brought him Emmy noms, but never has its subject matter felt timelier.

    CON No other awards groups nominated him, and the TV Academy declined to renominate his show — the ratings of which have declined every season — for best drama series.

  • Liev Schreiber

    PRO The respected character actor is Emmy nominated for the third year in a row — and picked up Golden Globe and Critics' Choice noms — for playing his show's title character. (He also snagged two other noms this year for his narration of documentaries.)

    CON He is this category's sole nominee whose show never has been nominated for best drama series.

  • Kevin Spacey

    PRO For his portrayal of Frank Underwood, the veteran Oscar winner — like his show — is back in contention for the fifth straight year. He's already nabbed Critics' Choice and SAG Award noms.

    CON HoC's only major win came for David Fincher's direction of its pilot. It's hard to imagine that's going to change, with the show's buzz (and, some argue, quality) considerably dimming.

  • Jeffrey Tambor

    PRO This marks the ninth nom for the man who won this award in each of the past two years; this year, he already scored a hat trick of the other precursor nominations — Golden Globe, Critics' Choice and SAG Award.

    CON Unlike the two other times he was in contention for Transparent, the show itself is not nominated for best comedy series, suggesting interest in the pioneering Amazon comedy might have faded.

  • Milo Ventimiglia

    PRO As the patriarch of the Pearson family on TV's highest-rated new series, he became one of this season's breakout stars.

    CON After failing to snag any other prominent nominations, he landed his first Emmy nom, but is pitted against Sterling K. Brown, and one has to go back 18 years to find the last time one co-star topped another in this category.