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Emmys Preview: Will the Killing Eve Co-Stars Split the Drama Actress Vote?

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama may come down to Sandra Oh versus Jodie Comer, though Laura Linney lurks in the Ozarks.
  • Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh in Killing Eve (BBC America)
    Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh in Killing Eve (BBC America)

    Joe Reid isn't just Primetimer's managing editor. He's also an awards expert and one half of the popular podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz. So who better to break down each of the main Emmy categories in the runup to the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on September 22?

    This year's Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series field had so many worthy talents that the category was expanded to seven nominees, but the buzziest among them are the stars of Killing Eve, Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, and Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke, in her last shot at winning an Emmy for playing Daenerys Targaryen, the mother of dragons and breaker of chains, but thus far, not a winner of Emmys.

    Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series

    • Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
    • Jodie Comer in Killing Eve
    • Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder
    • Laura Linney in Ozark
    • Sandra Oh in Killing Eve
    • Mandy Moore in This Is Us
    • Robin Wright in This Is Us

    Last Year's Winner: Claire Foy (The Crown) bested Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale) in their rematch from the year before, when Moss won. Neither were eligible to be nominated this year, as The Handmaid's Tale didn't debut until after the cutoff date, while Foy completed her run as Queen Elizabeth II, with Oscar-winner Olivia Colman poised to the role over in Season 3.

    Nominees' Pedigree:

    • Sandra Oh: 10 For her breakthrough role as Cristina Yang on Grey's Anatomy, Oh received five consecutive Emmy nominations for Supporting Actress (though she never won). In just two seasons on Killing Eve, she's received three nominations for acting and producing. She's also nominated this year for hosting the Golden Globes and Saturday Night Live.
    • Robin Wright: 8, all of which are for either acting in or producing on House of Cards.
    • Laura Linney: 6 One of the great unheralded narratives in awards coverage is that the Emmys LOVE Laura Linney, giving her six nominations and four wins across many different projects, including The Big C, John Adams, Frasier, and now Ozark.
    • Viola Davis: 5 Viola Davis's 5 Emmy nods all come for playing Annalise Keating, 4 on How to Get Away with Murder and one as a guest actress on Scandal.
    • Emilia Clarke: 4, all for Game of Thrones, as you might expect.
    • Mandy Moore: 1 First-time Emmy nominee!
    • Jodie Comer: 1 Her too!

    The Frontrunner: The awards experts at Gold Derby overwhelmingly list Sandra Oh as the favorite, with her co-star Jodie Comer getting the second-most picks to win.

    The Likeliest Spoiler: Despite the experts' opinion that Jodie Comer is running in second place, I think Oh pulls away too many of her votes for her to win. Meanwhile, I'd watch out for Laura Linney. Ozark is more popular than people give it credit for, Netflix is giving it a ton of awards-season attention, and she's hugely respected within the TV academy.

    The Feel-Good Long-Shot: Given how angry everybody was at one time or another about the way Game of Thrones ended, it's hard to say whether a win for Emilia Clarke would be welcomed as a kind of apology for the tough way things ended for Daenerys, or met with derision for honoring an arc that played out so haphazardly.

    Stat to Chew On: The only time Laura Linney has ever been nominated for an Emmy and lost, it was to Melissa McCarthy for Mike and Molly, a.k.a. the pageant presentation:

    Prediction: Last year, Sandra Oh's nomination in this category seemed like its own reward, and a win seemed like a fun-to-imagine pipe dream. A year later, and with last year's front runners swept away, she's the actress to beat. After the momentum of Golden Globe and SAG wins, it looks like Sandra Oh is going to win that Emmy at last. (And she'll probably win for hosting SNL too!)

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Game of Thrones, Killing Eve, Ozark, Emilia Clarke, Jodie Comer, Laura Linney, Sandra Oh