The Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category has been dominated by Julia Louis-Dreyfus since 2012 for her role as Selina Meyer in HBO’s Veep, winning six consecutive trophies, but unfortunately her streak came to an end last year when Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) unexpectedly broke JLD’s streak for the final season of Veep. Since both Veep and Fleabag have concluded their runs, their leading ladies won’t be returning to the race. Who will be crowned this years leading lady of comedy at the Emmys?
First, let’s start with who’ll be nominated. Even though Julia Louis-Dreyfus won six years straight between 2012-2017, Veep took a year off in 2018 and was ineligible at the Emmys, leading the way for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan to sneak in and be the first winner is six years. Brosnahan is fully expected to earn her third Masiel nomination this year. Last years nominees who are also expected to get repeat nominations include Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek) and Christina Applegate (Dead To Me). Natasha Lyonne’s Russian Doll has yet to air its second season, so won’t be in the 2020 Emmy race. Three open slots available, who’s poised to make a return?
I fully expect Issa Rae to earn her second nomination for the fourth season of Insecure, which in my opinion has been the shows best season to date. I have high hopes that Linda Cardellini will join Christina Applegate, as they both deserve nominations for the sophomore season of Dead To Me. Pamela Adlon should earn her third nomination for Better Things as well.
Despite being shutout the past four years, Kristen Bell is always a threat for The Good Place. The show gets the attention of Emmy voters, which is evident by its first best comedy nomination last year and its numerous nominations for Ted Danson and Maya Rudolph in guest actress, but Bell and its supporting characters, specifically D’Arcy Carden, have yet to breakthrough with a nomination. Will Bell be able to for their final season?
I really don’t know what to make of Merritt Wever for her role in HBO’s now cancelled Run. Wever was the best thing about Run, but HBO announced the series wouldn’t be moving forward days before Emmy voting concluded. Was that a strategy on HBO’s part in hopes to squeeze out a few more overall nominations? Will it have an impact on Wever’s chances in the lead actress in a comedy category? I have her locked for a nomination in Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie category for her starring role in the Netflix limited series Unbelievable, but I’m torn on Run and Wever’s chances. It’s not out of the realm of possibly Wever earning an Emmy nomination for a cancelled series. In 2006, Stockard Channing and Lisa Kudrow earned nominations for series that were cancelled, Out of Practice and The Comeback, respectively, so there’s precedent here that we shouldn’t count Wever out just yet. This is a nomination that can go either way.
Lily Tomlin continues to be a threat for Grace and Frankie, even more so than her co-star Jane Fonda. Tomlin has been nominated four times for this role, only missing last season, so it would be foolish not to have her on my radar.
More threats, black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross, despite her missing a nomination in 2019, Ross continues to be the refreshing light of black-ish, which is a role she should’ve won an Emmy for in 2017, but I won’t go down that rabbit hole right now. Allison Janney, who is a 14-time nominee and 7-time winner has two Emmys for her role on Mom, four for The West Wing, and a drama guest actress Emmy for Masters of Sex – it’s needless to say she can never be left out of the conversation if we’re talking about Emmys. After missing her first Mom nomination last year since the CBS sitcom premiered in 2013 and starring in another high profile project bound to earn her an Emmy nomination, HBO’s TV movie Bad Education, I’d consider her the biggest threat in this category to return to this category.
It would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t mention three actresses from multi-camera sitcoms, Sara Gilbert (The Conners), Debra Messing (Will & Grace) and Helen Hunt (Mad About You). I know it’s a long shot for any of these actresses to be nominated this year, but it’s my duty to thoroughly go through and assess possible threats in the race. I know The Conners predecessor Roseanne wasn’t the biggest Emmy darling during its original run from 1988-1997 (it’s baffling it never earned a single best comedy nomination during its entire 9 season run despite being one of the top rated shows on television), but it did secure four acting wins, three for Laurie Metcalf (1992, 1993, 1994) and one for Roseanne (1993). Sara Gilbert was also nominated for her role as Darlene Conner in 1993 and 1994, and it would be great to see her nominated for her reprisal of the role on The Conners, specifically for the episode “Slappy Holidays” where her and Metcalf turn in award-worthy work – if people were watching the show.
The Will & Grace reboot didn’t set the Emmy world on fire like its original, as Megan Mullally was the lone cast member to earn an Emmy nomination in 2018, but Will & Grace has a strong chance at a few craft nominations for its I Love Lucy homage this season, in which Messing perfectly embodied comedic legend Lucille Ball. Will Emmy voters take notice?
I know you’re probably reading this thinking “Helen Hunt?! What is he thinking?!” I wouldn’t blame you! I’m not saying she’s going to get a nomination, but it could be a strong possibility, just hear me out. She’s on the ballot for the Mad About You reboot, which quietly aired on Spectrum late last fall. I’m confident that not many people saw the newest episodes, and I don’t even recall seeing Hunt or co-star Paul Reiser doing any press regarding the Emmys. However, Hunt is a 4-time consecutive winner for the original Mad About You, winning in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 – and she’s the first person to win an Oscar and an Emmy in the same year (1997 – As Good As It Gets). Many people will be quick to say that reboots haven’t had the best of luck at the Emmys in the past few years, but as previously mentioned, Will & Grace and the first season of the Roseanne reboot did squeeze in both Laurie Metcalf and Megan Mullally in the supporting categories in 2018, so there is precedent to refer to where actresses from reboots have earned nominations in recent years. Disregarding Hunt’s chances in this race, while slim, must be talked about just as much as our presumptive frontrunners.
Hulu’s The Great has been making a splash since its debut in May, right before the Emmy eligibility window closed, and many people are predicting the show and its star Elle Fanning could be major spoilers in the race this year, so she’s also one to look out for.
My frontrunner predictions for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
- Catherine O’Hara – Schitt’s Creek
- Rachel Brosnahan – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
- Issa Rae – Insecure
- Pamela Adlon – Better Things
- Christina Applegate – Dead To Me
- Linda Cardellini – Dead To Me
My threats for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
- Merritt Wever – Run
- Lily Tomlin – Grace and Frankie
- Allison Janney – Mom
- Tracee Ellis Ross – black-ish
- Kristen Bell – The Good Place
- Debra Messing – Will & Grace
- Helen Hunt – Mad About You
- Elle Fanning – The Great
- Sara Gilbert – The Conners
- Daisy Haggard – Breeders
- Zoe Kravitz – High Fidelity
Follow me on Twitter @TVTalkWithJWalk