There are some fabulously good performances vying for the (presumably) six slots in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series race this season. That’s not a surprise. The Limited categories tend to have the most critical acclaim and the most heat, and even if the main race isn’t as buzzy as in year’s past, Lead Actress could be filled with quality across the board.
I’d argue that we don’t have a juggernaut on our hands this season. Amanda Seyfried steamrolled the competition last year and took home the Emmy, Critics Choice, and Golden Globe for her performance as Elizabeth Holmes in Hulu’s The Dropout. Interestingly, she lost the Screen Actors Guild Award to Jessica Chastain for George & Tammy thanks to the funky television awards schedule. Is Chastain, a recent Tony Award nominee for the revival of A Doll’s House, the presumed frontrunner?
If Chastain indeed has a head start, who will be joining her?
Room for Thrills?
Prime Video has two major contenders entering the race–three if you count the fact that Rachel Weisz is playing twins.
For Dead Ringers, Weisz plays Beverly and Elliot Mantle, a pair of codependent twin physicians hellbent on changing the world of medicine on their own terms. Even if viewers are not on board with some of the darker elements of the show, you can’t deny the delicious camp element of the Oscar winner playing twins. Hey, it worked for Mark Ruffalo in an even heavier show–he collected the Emmy for his performance in I Know This Much Is True.
Dominique Fishback’s performance in Swarm has its share of devoted, rabid fans. Fishback, who should’ve been in the hunt for a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her work in Judas and the Black Messiah, pours everything into her portrayal of a fan who will stop at nothing to worship at the altar of her favorite R&B singer. Swarm is a polarizing show, but Malia Obama is one of the writers. Maybe Beyoncé kicking off her Renaissance World Tour will bring people back into the conversation with the Emmy window closing at the end of this month.
Prime is also handling The English starring Emily Blunt, and she received a SAG nomination earlier this year for playing a mother seeking to avenge her son’s death.
Do any of these other contenders matter when you have Niecy Nash-Betts gunning for her next nomination? One could argue that since Nash-Betts has been nominated for the Globe, SAG, and won at Critics Choice that she is the true frontrunner of this category, especially since Dahmer–Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is going to be a contender across the board.
The entire category could be filled out by performers who have been recently nominated for Primetime Emmys, and they could match up with a nomination with Limited Series.
Netflix’s Beef is one of the most critically acclaimed series of the season, and that could carry Ali Wong into the race for her second nomination (her first nod came for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for Ali Wong: Don Wong). WandaVision co-stars Kathryn Hahn and Elizabeth Olsen earned nominations for the Disney+ limited series, and they could be back for Love and Death and Tiny Beautiful Things, respectively. Candy only received one Emmy nomination (for Main Title Design)–will voters like HBO’s take on Candy Montgomery? Is Tiny Beautiful Things too small?
Do Not Forget…
While Love and Death, Beef, and Mrs. Davis are titles with performances that are fresher in audience’s minds, there are a bunch of contenders who would benefit from a re-watch. Or, you know, a first watch since there are approximately 1900 shows to consider.
Riley Keough has earned her status as an indie darling, and her performance in Daisy Jones & the Six is a standout. She learned how to sing in order to play the title character, and that is something that actors will eat up. She is a real contender in the category, and it helps that Daisy will be a song player in the Music & Lyrics category. Listen for her name to be called on nomination morning.
Apple’s Five Days at Memorial features a strong performance from Vera Farmiga at the center of its ensemble, but is the streamer focusing more on the male-heavy Black Bird? Lizzy Caplan, currently a co-lead on Paramount+’s take on Fatal Attraction, gives one of the best performances of her career in FX’s Fleishman Is In Trouble. It’s a very literary adaptation of the source material, and she guides us through the tale of a marriage falling disintegrating even if she isn’t one of the participants in the relationship.
Since the Limited Series races have steamrolled the Primetime Emmys, a TV Movie performance hasn’t gotten in since Laura Dern earned a nomination for 2018’s The Tale. Julianne Moore was the last winner for Game Change. Boston Strangler received strong reviews, so does that mean Keira Knightley is the presumed frontrunner on the TV Movie side? If we are dipping our toes into films on television (whatever that even is anymore…), we should consider Amber Midthinder for Prey and…hello…Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus 2.
If I can throw some consideration towards a performance, it would easily be Bel Powley for A Small Light, a detailed account of how Miep Gies hid Anne Frank and her family during World War II. The series is one of the most acclaimed series in this side of the race. It’s a deeply restrained performance, and, unfortunately, feels more relevant than ever. I hope that voters catch up to the series and consider her.
Who are we missing? Are we crazy? Who are you rooting for?