Emmys: Who Leads (and Who Lags) in the Drama Actor Race

House of Cards Still - Publicity - H 2016
David Giesbrecht/Netflix

House of Cards Still - Publicity - H 2016

The absence of two perennial Emmy nominees (and eventual winners) in the lead actor in a drama series category — Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men) — raises the question: What was it about these roles that Television Academy members loved?

Will McAvoy and Don Draper were brilliant, damaged characters who delivered witty one-liners and killer monologues on a regular basis. The same can be said for the haunted hacker played on Mr. Robot by Rami Malek, who's eligible in this category for the first time. That's part of why he stands a better shot at landing a nomination than any of the other top rookie contenders, among them Wagner Moura (Narcos) and past Emmy winners Bobby Cannavale (Vinyl), Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis (Billions).

Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) are slam-dunk noms because they anchor their series — another criterion critical for voters. By that logic, expect to see back-to-back nominations for Kyle Chandler (Bloodline) and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan). And Hugh Bonneville could eke a nom for his last season on Downton Abbey.

More passive characters have a less stellar track record — one reason Horace and Pete's Louis C.K. and Steve Buscemi, despite their strong Emmy pedigrees, face an uphill climb. 

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.