If you’re Elisabeth Moss, you’re probably flying high right about now.
The actress’s new series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is the talk of the town, scoring for Hulu a hit program that could finally break the glass awards ceiling for the streamer. She’s also fresh from the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival, where not only did the second season of Jane Campion’s limited series “Top of the Lake” screen to critical acclaim, but Ruben Ostlund’s “The Square” walked away with the coveted Palme d’Or. Moss features in both.
The 34-year-old actress already looked like a strong contender to score an Emmy nomination for her work in “Handmaid’s Tale,” but there certainly seems to be a perfect storm building around her that could help push her across the finish line.
The Emmy race for lead actress in a drama could ultimately be Netflix vs. Hulu, as “The Crown’s” Claire Foy won both the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild award for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan’s gorgeous royal drama. But “Handmaid’s Tale,” an often austere though at times quite punkish rendering of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, is in mid-gallop with ballots set to go out to voters in two weeks’ time. “The Crown” debuted back in November and, despite Netflix’s dedicated campaign, may have cooled off in the interim.
Few other contenders have the same intrigue as Moss and Foy. Claire Danes has hung around with nominations for every season of “Homeland,” but after winning back-to-back years straight out of the gate, she seems unlikely to return to the stage. Viola Davis, meanwhile — should she even make the cut — has already been awarded for “How to Get Away With Murder,” and there’s no urgency to spring for her again.
Robin Wright is sure to pick up a nom, assuming peak TV — and politics fatigue — hasn’t rendered “House of Cards” unsexy. Though if anyone is primed for latter-season recognition, a la Jon Hamm in “Mad Men,” it could be Keri Russell for “The Americans,” which finally caught its stride with voters last season
New faces in the race include Mandy Moore (“This Is Us”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”), but they’re not guaranteed to make it onto the ballot. An inspired pick would be Carrie Coon for “The Leftovers,” but how much can HBO’s concluding series break out from its cult favorite confines and establish broader support?
Winning campaigns are often built on buzz, and in a competitive season, that can only help someone as visible as Moss. Plus, she was nominated for “Mad Men” six times — five in lead, once in supporting — yet never won. That will surely be on voters’ minds as well, so count it as another feather in her cap.
The drama series category will be tougher for “Handmaid’s Tale” to crack. “This Is Us,” “The Americans,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Crown,” “Stranger Things” (if it gets in), etc., will be pulling voters in all sorts of different directions. But lead actress is a perfect place to not only honor one of the most unsettling, zeitgeist-tapping programs on screens this year, but also to finally award its incredibly busy leading lady.
Will voters bite?