Emmys: Weighing the Odds in the Best Actress Races

7:00 AM 8/9/2018

by Scott Feinberg

With 'Veep' star Julia Louis-Dreyfus out of the running, the funny lady race is wide open — while this season's drama queens include two past winners, two final-season contenders and a pioneering nominee.

Courtesy Photos

  • Pamela Adlon

    'Better Things' (FX)

    Beth Dubber/FX

    Notices for her show (which she co-created) about a divorced actress raising three daughters while caring for her own mother were even better for its second season. (She earned noms and previously won for voiceover work on King of the Hill and garnered noms for Louie.)

    On the other hand... Adlon, 52, won't be helped by her association with co-creator Louis C.K., who wrote or co-wrote every episode of the season for which she's nominated.

  • Rachel Brosnahan

    'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' (Amazon)

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    This category's youngest nominee, 
at 27, is also favored to become its first winner since 2011 not named Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Previously nominated for House of Cards, she's now up for her star-making turn on Amazon's hit about a 1950s housewife turned comedian, for which she has already won a Globe.

    On the other hand... Maisel couldn't have been hotter at the end of 2017. But eight months later, has its luster worn off?

  • Allison Janney

    'Mom' (CBS)

    Courtesy of CBS

    Janney, 58, has won twice for her role 
as a recovering addict, 
but those wins came for 
its first two seasons 
when she competed as a supporting actress. She already won an Oscar this year and is poised to 
tie Cloris Leachman and Louis-Dreyfus' record for most Emmy wins by a performer (eight).

    On the other hand... The show itself is not a favorite of voters, and only once in the past decade has a performer from any broadcast show won this award.

  • Issa Rae

    'Insecure' (HBO)

    Courtesy of Justina Mintz/HBO

    The 33-year-old rising star landed her first-ever nom for her portrayal of a millennial in crisis on the second season of the HBO show she co-created. Her episode submission is "Hella Great," the second season's premiere, which set the tone for an arc in which her character tries to figure out how to leave her ex-boyfriend in the past.

    On the other hand... Her nom, which was seen as far from assured, is one of only two landed by the show.

  • Tracee Ellis Ross

    'Black-ish' (ABC)

    Courtesy of ABC

    Could a member 
of one of Hollywood's royal families become 
only the second black winner of this award? Ross, 45, daughter of Diana, is nominated for the third year in a row. Her show airs on a broadcast network and has a huge audience. And she is one of only two nominees (along with Brosnahan) in this category whose show is also up for top honors.

    On the other hand... Brosnahan's show 
is newer and, to some, more exciting than Ross' after four seasons.

  • Lily Tomlin

    'Grace and Frankie' (Netflix)

    Melissa Mosely/Netflix

    This category's 
elder (she'll turn 79 
in September) is beloved 
by the TV Academy (she's garnered 25 noms since 1971). This is her fourth consecutive nom for the show. Reviews are better than ever, and this year, unlike last, she doesn't have to share the category with co-star Jane Fonda.

    On the other hand... None of her six wins came for acting 
(five were for writing; one was for narration), and voters seem to have mixed feelings about her show, giving it only three noms.

  • Claire Foy

    'The Crown' (Netflix)

    Stuart Hendry/Netflix

    This Brit is, for now, the face of Netflix's most nominated show. 
Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II has won acclaim due to her ability 
to convey the inner life of 
a woman famous for hiding her emotions. Foy, 34, was nominated in 2017 as well and heads into the Emmys having won back-to-back SAG Awards.

    On the other hand... Based in the U.K., she's doing limited campaigning, as she'll soon have to make the rounds 
for Damien Chazelle's feature First Man.

  • Tatiana Maslany

    'Orphan Black' (BBC America)

    Courtesy of Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA

    The 32-year-old phenom returns to contention for the fifth and final season of the clone drama that put her on the map, having previously been nominated for the third and fourth — winning for the latter in 2016. She has chosen as her episode submission the series finale, in which she plays six different characters.

    On the other hand... She is her show's sole nominee. BBC America, which has limited resources to begin with, has to push both Maslany and Sandra Oh.

  • Elisabeth Moss

    'The Handmaid's Tale' (Hulu)

    George Kraychyk/Hulu

    Last year's winner is back with her ninth acting Emmy nom thanks again to her haunting turn as June/Offred in a story about the oppression of women that continues to feel timely and even urgent in the Trump era. Only Evan Rachel Wood hails from a show with more noms (21 versus 20). This year, Moss, 36, won Critics' Choice and Golden Globe awards (for season one).

    On the other hand... Only twice 
this century has someone won this award back-to-back.

  • Sandra Oh

    'Killing Eve' (BBC America)

    Sophie Mutevelian

    This historic nom — Oh, 47, a five-time supporting actress Emmy nominee for Grey's Anatomy, is the first person of Asian descent ever nominated in this category — comes for a critically acclaimed performance on a rookie show (which became the talk of the industry after debuting in April).

    On the other hand... A series nom, which wasn't out of the question, would have made a win feel more plausible. Alas, the show scored only one other nom (writing).

  • Keri Russell

    'The Americans' (FX)

    Patrick Harbron/FX

    Two decades after becoming "America's Sweetheart" on Felicity, Russell, 42, could win her first Emmy for a very different character: Elizabeth Jennings, Russian sleeper agent. Her work on the show's sixth and final season generated great reviews and a nom for Russell (her third in a row).

    On the other hand... For all of the media attention, its final season drew weak ratings (fewer than 1 million caught the finale) and landed only four noms.

  • Evan Rachel Wood

    'Westworld' (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    Nobody in this category hails from 
a show with more noms 
(21) than this three-time Emmy nominee. She, and her portrayal of a rebelling humanoid, have been and will continue to be boosted by a major HBO campaign (evident everywhere from Hollywood-area billboards to major mag profiles).

    On the other hand... At just 30, she is this category's youngest nominee, and voters 
may conclude that she'll have more opportunities 
in the future than others.

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