Emmys 2021: Why ‘The Crown’ will sweep all the drama categories — or not

Josh O'Connor and Emma Corrin in "The Crown."
(Des Willie / Netflix)

“Schitt’s Creek” became the first show to sweep its category’s four acting Emmys since Mike Nichols’ film version of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” blew through the limited series acting honors in 2004, netting Emmys for Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Jeffrey Wright and Mary Louise Parker. No drama series has ever pulled off that feat, but the ensemble of “The Crown” will give it a run this year, with the show’s stellar women — Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson — standing as early favorites to hold up their end.

With “Stranger Things,” “Better Call Saul,” “Ozark,” “Killing Eve” and “Succession” sitting this year out, owing to pandemic-related shooting delays, there’s plenty of openings to honor newcomers, restore old favorites and, yes, maybe recognize pretty much anyone who had a speaking role in “The Crown.”



Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
Uzo Aduba, “In Treatment”
Jurnee Smollett, “Lovecraft Country”
Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Phoebe Dynevor, “Bridgerton”

Next up: Mj Rodriguez, “Pose”; Sarah Paulson, “Ratched”; Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”; Billie Piper, “I Hate Suzie”

Corrin and Colman are, of course, locks, with three-time Emmy winner Aduba right there too for playing a therapist dealing with trauma — her patients’ and her own — in the latest reincarnation of “In Treatment.” Moss has earned nine acting nominations and two wins over the years, but it’s possible voters will become weary of “The Handmaid’s Tale” as it nears the end of its run. Meanwhile, with “Pose” ending, this will be the last chance to reward Rodriguez’s turn as the founder and mother of the House of Evangelista. Moore is one of a handful of “This Is Us” cast members who could return after being shut out in 2020.

Olivia Colman from "The Crown"
(Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix)

But the standout is Piper’s wrenching turn in “I Hate Suzie,” the darkly funny British drama she created with Lucy Prebble. Not enough people saw it when it aired on HBO Max, so she’s a long shot. Perhaps if it returns for a second season, Piper can emulate the path Phoebe Waller-Bridge took with “Fleabag” to Emmy acclaim.


Regé-Jean Page, “Bridgerton”
Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Billy Porter, “Pose”
Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason”
Jonathan Majors, “Lovecraft Country”
Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Next up: Pedro Pascal, “The Mandalorian”; Antony Starr, “The Boys”; Justin Theroux, “The Mosquito Coast”; Anthony Mackie, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”

Emma Corrin, Hugh Grant, Ethan Hawke, Anthony Mackie, Elisabeth Moss and Jurnee Smollett take us behind the scenes to talk narcissists, grandparents and delivering meaningful work.

I’ll take a moment to stump for Starr’s fence-swinging performance as the psychopathic superhero Homelander on “The Boys,” the most interesting villain we saw on television this past year. The series’ second season was just as recklessly entertaining as its debut year, but it premiered all the way back in September and it might take some kind of superpower to remind voters that it exists. Really, when it comes to genre series, it might boil down to whether Television Academy members believe that Pascal removed the Mandalorian’s helmet often enough to warrant a vote. I’d give it to him for his line readings alone. (And the mustache.)

 Homelander (Antony Starr) is covered in blood in the Season 2 finale of "The Boys."
The most powerful being on Earth, Homelander (Antony Starr), goes through some things in the Season 2 finale of “The Boys.”
(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)


Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Emerald Fennell, “The Crown”
Wunmi Mosaku, “Lovecraft Country”
Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Cynthia Nixon, “Ratched”
Tatiana Maslany, “Perry Mason”

Next up: Yvonne Strahovski, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Aunjanue Ellis, “Lovecraft Country; Indya Moore, “Pose”; Erin Doherty, “The Crown”; Dominique Jackson, “Pose”; Nicola Coughlan, “Bridgerton”; Judy Davis, “Ratched”; Adjoa Andoh, “Bridgerton”

Gillian Anderson as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Crown."
(Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix)

With these supersized supporting categories, anything is possible, including four women from “The Crown” making the cut. Anderson and Carter have garnered most of the acclaim, but Fennell nailed Camilla’s confidence and gets a bump thanks to the three Academy Award nominations (and one Oscar, for original screenplay) she earned for “Promising Young Woman.” And Doherty was given some raw, vulnerable moments this season playing Anne. Mind you, I’m not advocating this kind of royal domination. “Perry Mason” became exponentially more interesting every time Maslany made like Aimee Semple McPherson. But I’m probably preaching to the choir as Emmy voters love her. Still, Maslany is no lock, as beyond “The Crown” there are several shows — “Lovecraft Country,” “Bridgerton,” “Pose” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” — featuring deep, talented ensembles.

Tatiana Maslany in "Perry Mason."
(Merrick Morton/HBO)


Michael Kenneth Williams, “Lovecraft Country”
Tobias Menzies, “The Crown”
John Lithgow, “Perry Mason”
Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Giancarlo Esposito, “The Mandalorian”
John Benjamin Hickey, “In Treatment”
Chris Sullivan, “This Is Us”
Jonathan Bailey, “Bridgerton”

Michael K. Williams in "Lovecraft Country."
(Eli Joshua Ade/HBO)

Next up: Anthony Ramos, “In Treatment”; Wyatt Russell, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”; Daniel Bruhl, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”; O-T Fagbenle, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Supporting actor drama is the only Emmy acting category that has never seen a Black winner — until this year. Williams is a national treasure, having gifted us with Omar Little on “The Wire” and indelible work on “The Night Of,” “When They See Us” and “Boardwalk Empire.” He has earned three Emmy nominations over his career, but has never won — until this year. “Lovecraft Country” had its ups and downs, but Williams always provided a reason to watch, if only to sort through all the conflicted feelings I had about his character. Without delving into spoilers, I’ll just say that Williams knows how to mine trauma and express liberation as well as any actor working today. It’ll be great to see him finally get his due.