With “The Americans” having gone back to the USSR and new seasons of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Crown,” “Westworld” and “Stranger Things” arriving too late to be eligible, this year provides Emmy voters with the chance to reward some overlooked actors in the drama races. Unfortunately, the timing’s not all that great as it’s a thin year for new shows, which likely means more members of the “Game of Thrones” ensemble will be able to take a final bow.
Here’s a look at who could be nominated in the four drama acting categories.
LEAD ACTRESS DRAMA
Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”
Julia Roberts, “Homecoming”
Laura Linney, “Ozark”
Christine Baranski, “The Good Fight”
Next up: Robin Wright, “House of Cards”; MJ Rodriguez, “Pose”
In the mix: Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”; Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”; Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”; Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”; Caitriona Balfe, “Outlander”
Analysis: Oh, who became the first woman of Asian descent to earn a lead drama nomination, is the only one of last year’s group eligible to return, establishing her as the favorite to make history once again. She should be joined by costar Comer, every bit Oh’s equal on the show in the flashier psychopath role.
Amazon Studios’ slow-burning conspiracy drama “Homecoming” was the season’s splashiest new show, and Roberts gave an understated, layered performance as the show’s frazzled guidance counselor. She’s a sure thing. And whatever you might have thought about the logic behind Daenerys’ character turn in “Game of Thrones,” Clarke sold it with all of her heart. That it was even in the ballpark of being believable should earn her a fourth nomination and the first in the lead category.
LEAD ACTOR DRAMA
Richard Madden, “Bodyguard”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Billy Porter, “Pose”
Kit Harington, “Game of Thrones”
Next up: Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”; Brian Cox, “Succession”
In the mix: Stephan James, “Homecoming”; Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”; Freddie Highmore, “The Good Doctor”; Kevin Costner, “Yellowstone”; J.K. Simmons, “Counterpart”; Paul Giamatti, “Billions”; John Krasinski, “Jack Ryan”
Analysis: Harington has been nominated only once, three years ago for supporting. With just six episodes this season, a lead nod might be a bit of a stretch, though killing your aunt/lover gave Jon Snow a grand sendoff. Plus, did you see Harington’s face when Jon and Ghost were reunited? That glimpse alone nets him a few votes from animal lovers.
But dire wolf aside, let’s not kid ourselves that Harington did a fraction of the dramatic heavy lifting required of Porter and Madden on their first-year shows. Madden won the Globe for his exhilarating work on the satisfying (even as it became progressively ridiculous) “Bodyguard,” and that win should stick in voters’ minds. Porter was even better on “Pose” playing Pray Tell, the flamboyant ball emcee dealing with an HIV diagnosis. Omitting either actor would be a travesty.
Odenkirk’s nomination is assured. The question moving forward is: Can he finally win? Odenkirk has earned Emmy nominations for each of “Saul’s” first three seasons. He also has three Golden Globe noms and a trio of Screen Actors Guild Awards nods for his work on the show. He has gone home empty-handed after every one of these ceremonies. That’s an oversight as Odenkirk has made Jimmy McGill’s journey toward corruption more heartbreaking than we could have ever imagined when the show started. Call his name already!
SUPPORTING ACTRESS DRAMA
Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul”
Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”
Julia Garner, “Ozark”
Maisie Williams, “Game of Thrones”
Susan Kelechi Watson, “This Is Us”
Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”
Next up: Fiona Shaw, “Killing Eve”; Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”; Keeley Hawes, “Bodyguard”
In the mix: Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is the New Black”; Sissy Spacek, “Homecoming”; Patricia Clarkson, “House of Cards”; Audra McDonald, “The Good Fight”; Frances Conroy, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”
Analysis: Again, we’re pondering whether scant screen time warrants a reward for “Game of Thrones” cast members who have been recognized in the past. Does Headey merit a nod for a season that Cersei spent largely on a balcony, gazing off into the distance? (It’s probably inevitable.) How about Williams simply for Arya’s shocking, vaulting murder of the Night King? (Yes!) Or Turner earning her first nomination for completing Sansa’s turn toward commanding leader? (Eh.)
Headey stands as the only 2018 nominee eligible, which offers room for her castmates as well as the chance to finally reward Seehorn’s searing intelligence on “Saul” and the gutsy Garner, the best thing about “Ozark.” (OK. Peter Mullan is pretty great too.) It’s also about time to give Watson her due for that great Season 3 episode that finally gave us Beth’s backstory on “This Is Us.”
SUPPORTING ACTOR DRAMA
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”
Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”
Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
Bobby Cannavale, “Homecoming”
Peter Mullan, “Ozark”
Next up: Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”; Matthew Macfadyen, “Succession”; Justin Hartley, “This Is Us”
In the mix: Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”; Shea Whigham, “Homecoming”; Richard Schiff, “The Good Doctor”; Asia Kate Dillon, “Billions”; Wendell Pierce, “Jack Ryan”
Analysis: Dinklage probably had more lines than the rest of his castmates combined, making him the likeliest Emmy winner from the “Thrones” ensemble. (He’s the only “Thrones” actor to have won, taking the supporting honor in 2011, 2015 and 2018.)
With Dinklage, Coster-Waldau and Banks likely returning (“Saul” took 2018 off, but Banks has been nominated for the show’s first three seasons), there aren’t as many openings for newcomers. “Homecoming” and “Succession” each offer a couple of strong possibilities, but neither show is big enough to dominate the category. We’ll lean toward Cannavale, a two-time Emmy winner who has another showboating role as the antagonist on “Homecoming” and Culkin for his incomparable snark on “Succession.”