Emmy Predictions: Drama Acting Races Hotter Than Ever

Emmy Nomination Predictions Drama Race 2015
Courtesy of ABC/AMC/HBO

This year’s acting races are the most competitive in years, which makes predicting a risky proposition. Still, we couldn’t resist hazarding a guess at who’ll be celebrating on Thursday. These are our predictions for the actors and actresses in the drama categories. Click to see our picks for those in the running for the comedy series categories.

jon hamm emmy mad men
Jon Hamm in “Mad Men.” Photo courtesy of AMC.

Drama Actor:

Adman Don Draper found bliss — and bought the world a Coke — in the final moments of AMC’s “Mad Men,” all but guaranteeing Jon Hamm an acting nod for the role. (Will he finally earn that elusive trophy? That’s for another column.) Hamm may once again have to fend off Kyle Chandler, who played a tormented brother in Netflix’s family drama “Bloodline” and won the category in 2011 for “Friday Night Lights.” Bob Odenkirk found the heart in Albuquerque’s best worst lawyer Saul Goodman, né Jimmy McGill, in AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” while Kevin Spacey proved yet again that President Francis Underwood doesn’t have one in Netflix’s “House of Cards.” Terrence Howard may well ride the “Empire” wave to an Emmy nod as the head of the hip-hop family. And the final slot could go to Clive Owen, for his work as the drug-addicted turn-of-the-century doctor in “The Knick.”

viola davis how to get away with murder emmy
Viola Davis in “How to Get Away with Murder.” Photo courtesy of ABC.

Drama Actress:

This may well be the year a black actress finally takes home the trophy for a leading role. To be sure, there will be more than one woman of color nominated. Viola Davis deserves it for that one wig-and-makeup-free scene in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” alone, let alone an entire season of bravura acting. And then, of course, there’s Cookie: The Academy can’t ignore Taraji P. Henson, who stole every scene in which she appeared in “Empire,” Fox’s brash, smash hit. The other likely nominees are familiar faces to the Emmy slate: “The Good Wife’s” Julianna Margulies, “Homeland’s” Claire Danes and “House of Cards'” Robin Wright. All continued to prove that television is the place for strong female performances. Last, but certainly not least: Save a slot for “Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss, whose much-GIFed strut down the hallway of McCann-Erickson deserves to be rewarded.

jonathan banks better call saul emmy
Jonathan Banks in “Better Call Saul.” Photo courtesy of AMC.

Supporting Actor:

There may not be a tougher category to call. But if there’s a sure thing, it’s Jonathan Banks, now starring in “Better Call Saul.” Of course, the lingering love for “Breaking Bad” would be more than enough. But then just watch the episode “Five-O,” and there’s no question, as the resolutely taciturn former cop breaks down. Game over, boys. Elsewhere in the race, there’s Ben Mendelsohn, who defines scene stealer as the blackest of sheep in “Bloodline,” challenging Kyle Chandler at every turn. “Game of Thrones'” Peter Dinklage remains the heart and soul of the HBO epic — witness his thrilling tete-a-tete with Emilia Clarke — as yet unimagined in the book. Other likely nominees include “Homeland’s” Mandy Patinkin, whose kidnap-and-rescue proved pivotal to the season’s renaissance; “Ray Donovan’s” Jon Voight, as creepy a father figure as ever; and “Mad Men’s” John Slattery, who proved a heart did indeed beat under all those witty rejoinders.

lena heady game of thrones emmy

Jonathan Pryce and Lena Headey in “Game of Thrones.” Photo courtesy of HBO.

Supporting Actress:
If any character soared in this final season of “Mad Men,” it was Joan: stirring speeches, epic showdowns, cutting one-liners — it was her moment. Christina Hendricks will have plenty to choose from for her clip reel. There’s little question about Lena Headey’s standout moment from this season of “Game of Thrones”: She endured a walk of shame (body double notwithstanding) that provided an emotional climax to the season finale. That should earn her a repeat nod, along with last year’s nominees — “The Good Wife’s” Christine Baranski and “Downton Abbey’s” Maggie Smith. Joining them: “Bloodline” matriarch Sissy Spacek, who offered a fierce foil to the feuding siblings. And finally, there’s “Orange Is the New Black’s” Kate Mulgrew, who left viewers seeing Red.

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  1. Iván el Terrible says:

    Vincent D’Onofrio and Jon Hamm FTW!

  2. Harley says:

    Vincent D’Onofrio deserves all the awards for his performance in Daredevil. Ditto Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards. And Hugh Dancy and Gillian Anderson are turning in amazing work on Hannibal. It’s really time for the Emmys to step away from predictable high-profile nominations and actually nominate actors who don’t live in the limelight.

  3. Kingpin says:

    Vincent D’Onofrio was pretty amazing in Daredevil

  4. Come on. How can they ignore Tatiana Maslany for the 3rd straight year? It’s become seriously ridiculous. Even fellow actors are advocating for her on social media. Why are the Emmys so far behind?

  5. Kate D. says:

    I know that Outlander definitely deserves some accolades, and people have brought up Hueghan and Balfe. They’ve both given some stellar performances, but I have to really give a nod to Tobias Menzies for his portrayal of Black Jack Randall and Frank Randall. He does an absolutely amazing job when it comes to convincing the audience that those two characters are unique and different. I feel he deserves the Best Supporting Actor nod more than anyone that could fit the category.

  6. Jack says:

    Tatiana Maslany again. Same every year. Just a pointless exercise at this stage

  7. Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and Tatiana Maslany should be on this list. Seriously, why is it that the mainstream press always dismisses anything that has a hint of scifi or fantasy in it?

    • S. A. Young says:

      You’re right, Caitriona Balfe is at the center of an amazing show, well written acted and directed in the extreme, and she appears in nearly every scene. She deserves to be nominated, which probably means she’ll be overlooked – along with the rest of the show. It’s still too “fringe”.

  8. Ken S. says:

    I realize that it’s never possible to please everyone when it comes to nominees, but did anyone else happen to notice what an amazing actress Billie Piper has become and how her performance in Penny Dreadful deserves to be noticed?

  9. S. A. Young says:

    Once again, Variety has left out a show on which the bravest and most emotionally engaging acting, writing and directing of the last season, certainly, any season, quite possibly, could be found: Outlander. It needs and deserves to be a part of the conversation.

  10. Sheldon n says:

    I guess you don’t a little show called
    Orphan black

    How could you not put tat maslany

    Shame on you !

  11. Given up says:

    Tatiana Maslany for playing Sarah, Alison, Helena, Cosima, Rachel, Tony, Krstal , Katja, Beth….in Orphan Black

  12. Geronimo says:

    Ruth Wilson in The Affair. That is all.

  13. katford says:

    Where are the mentions for “Penny Dreadful”? Eva Green acted circles around all your contenders this year. Just watch the episode “The Seance” and you will be blown away.

  14. Al Swearengen says:

    Anytime I watch Game of Thrones I am always more impressed with Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner than I am with Lena Headey or that block of wood that’s known as Emilia Clarke.

  15. downside bob says:

    The blacklist
    James spader
    Megan boone

  16. Too much in the way of this category. It’s not going to be possible to include everyone, but how you left of “The Affair”, especially with Ruth Wilson winning the Golden Globe Award. While I don’t generally believe in this, she will take the final spot in that category, leaving a few out in the dust. Empire will get their fair nods here, but lots of surprises, I’m sure, are going to be in store.


  18. Chris says:

    Vera farmiga deserves a nod for bates motel. I hate when they mention the makeup scene for viola Davis because it concerns me that they pick the right episode for her.

  19. Crowbane says:

    Viola Davis. No question in my mind. She was stunning.

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