2016 Emmy Contenders: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy
Courtesy of AMC/USA/Netflix

After seven nominations for playing Don Draper, the eighth time was the charm for Jon Hamm, who finally took home the prize last year for “Mad Men” in its final season. With Hamm now out of the race, the path is cleared for an actor who has never won for his current role. Some of the category’s frontrunners have won previously, some for lead actor, some in other categories, including Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”), who won for “Friday Night Lights”; Bobby Cannavale (“Vinyl”), a “Boardwalk Empire” winner; Aaron Paul (“The Path”), who won for “Breaking Bad”; and “Billions” pair Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti, who took home prizes for “Homeland” and “John Adams,” respectively. Actors who have received previous noms for their current characters without a win include Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”), Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) and Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”). The likely newcomer to the mix is Rami Malek, who has garnered praise for “Mr. Robot.”

The category could also offer some surprises: Terrence Howard (“Empire”), Clive Owen (“The Knick”) and Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) are among those who have yet to be recognized for their strong work.


Hugh Bonneville (DOWNTON ABBEY)

Bobby Cannavale (VINYL)

Kyle Chandler (BLOODLINE)


Paul Giamatti (BILLIONS)

Damian Lewis (BILLIONS)

Rami Malek (MR. ROBOT)


Liev Schreiber (RAY DONOVAN)

Kevin Spacey (HOUSE OF CARDS)


Steve Buscemi (HORACE AND PETE)

Hugh Dancy (THE PATH)

Sam Heughan (OUTLANDER)

Terrence Howard (EMPIRE)

Wagner Moura (NARCOS)

Clive Owen (THE KNICK)

Aaron Paul (THE PATH)

Matthew Rhys (THE AMERICANS)

Michael Sheen (MASTERS OF SEX)

James Spader (THE BLACKLIST)

Justin Theroux (THE LEFTOVERS)

Dominic West (THE AFFAIR)


Timothy Dalton (PENNY DREADFUL)


David Duchovny (THE X-FILES)

Travis Fimmel (VIKINGS)

Frank Grillo (KINGDOM)

Josh Hartnett (PENNY DREADFUL)

John Benjamin Hickey (MANHATTAN)

Freddie Highmore (BATES MOTEL)


Peter Krause (THE CATCH)

Andrew Lincoln (THE WALKING DEAD)


Mads Mikkelsen (HANNIBAL)

David Morse (OUTSIDERS)

Jeremy Piven (MR. SELFRIDGE)

James Purefoy (HAP AND LEONARD)

Josh Radnor (MERCY STREET)

Michael K. Williams (HAP AND LEONARD)

Aden Young (RECTIFY)

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  1. Dougal Mac says:

    Tough competition. But Sam Heughan deserves a nomination. The media (and even his own production companies) depicting him as just the hunky leading man is a shame. He gives incredibly nuanced performances and shows tremendous range.

  2. RayAPR says:

    Given his phenomenal start to finish performance, Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who deserves a mention at least. At best should be a front runner.

  3. Shelly H says:

    Connor Jessup – American Crime(ABC)

  4. Natasha M says:

    So, I am assuming then, that Chandler’s work as a frontrunner for Bloodline – it’s season one that would be eligible, right? Since S2 just downloaded the other day. But honestly, his performance pales next to Mendelsohn, who is the only real reason to watch that show.

    Also, where the hell is Patrick Wilson for Fargo? The only names on that Front Runner list that deserve a nomination are Rami Malek and Odenkirk – but you know, I’d kick Odenkirk to the curb if I could get Matthew Rhys, Wagner Moura, Clive Owen, or Justin Theroux all in there, all of whom acted the hell out of their roles and in Moura’s case, made the show. The most impressive Emmy-worthy performance on BCS is Michael McKean’s, hands down.

  5. Alex Potter says:

    BOB ODENKIRK! By the way, his name is way too far down that list on for the Frontrunners

  6. Longmire4ever says:

    Why aren’t the actors from The Flash and Arrow mentioned!

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