Having only five nominees in this ridiculously competitive category is as egregious as it gets heading into this hotly contested 2020 Emmys race. Even seven slots wouldn’t be able to do justice to all the deserving actresses who did phenomenal work in limited series and TV movies this year, and it’s unfortunate some actresses are going to miss out on much deserved nominations.
Two out of the five slots automatically go to this frontrunners in this race, Regina King (Watchmen) and Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America). As we attempt to predict the final three slots, things become a bit harder because there are a wealth of limited series eligible this year, many fronted by woman – Little Fires Everywhere, Unbelievable, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, Unorthodox, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend and many more.
Both Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are equally deserving of nominations for their roles in Little Fires Everywhere, in my opinion, Washington a bit more over Witherspoon. Washington dug deep in her role as Mia Warren and added more to the role seeing that Mia wasn’t written as a Black women in the book. Whereas Witherspoon seemed to just be playing a tidier version of Madeline Mackenzie from Big Little Lies – a role she’s in contention for lead actress in a drama series.
Then we have Netflix’s Unbelievable starring Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Weaver and Toni Collette. Collette is submitted in supporting, so it’s Dever and Wever contending for a nomination and both also deserve to be nominated. Neither’s performance is better than the other – the actresses don’t even share (physical) screen time together until the very last scene of the eight episode limited series. How can we compare both performances to dictate which deserves to be nominated? They both do, but do they both get in? I think Wever is a lock. She’s a two-time Emmy winner (Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2013 for Nurse Jackie and Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie in 2018 for Godless). The Academy voters know her and love her, so I have to go with my gut and say Wever will secure a nomination, and even a nomination in lead actress in a comedy series for HBO’s recently cancelled Run is a slight possibility. It would be criminal for Dever not to earn her first Emmy nomination for this role, but its always been difficult for young actors and actresses to be recognized by the Emmys, but it’s not impossible. Joey King was nominated last year for her role in The Act, so I’m hoping Dever can clinch that well-deserved nomination!
My last slot is a nail biter. There are a whopping six actresses viable for slots that are past Emmy nominees or winners that could easily earn a nomination: Michelle Dockery (Defending Jacob), Kathryn Hahn (Mrs. Flecther), Helen Mirren (Catherine The Great), Judith Light (Transparent: The Musicale Finale), Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend) and Sian Clifford (Quiz). Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer is a huge threat here as well for her biopic Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. If nominated, this would be Spencer’s first Emmy nomination (she could be nominated twice as she’s in contention or her guest-starring role on ABC’s black-ish). Kerry Washington has delivered a wide range of stellar television performances from Scandal to Confirmation, and American Son, but has yet to win an Emmy after three nominations. I think she’s due for a win, but she needs to be nominated first. Little Fires Everywhere will earn at least one nomination in this category and I’m betting (and hoping) it goes to Washington.
My final actress who I debated back and forth rather to include as a solid frontrunner was Shira Hass of Netflix’s Unorthodox. Haas gave one of my favorite performances in this category and if I were an Emmy voter, I’d vote for her in a heartbeat. I’m hoping Emmy voters feel the same way. If Haas’ name were called on nomination morning and I didn’t predict it, it’s fine either way because she got the nomination!
My frontrunner predictions for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie:
- Regina King – Watchmen
- Cate Blanchett – Mrs. America
- Merritt Wever – Unbelievable
- Kerry Washington – Little Fires Everywhere
- Kaitlyn Dever – Unbelievable
- Octavia Spencer – Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
- Shira Hass – Unorthodox
- Reese Witherspoon – Little Fires Everywhere
- Michelle Dockery – Defending Jacob
- Daisy Edgar-Jones – Normal People
- Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend
- Kathryn Hahn – Mrs. Flecther
- Sian Clifford – Quiz
- Helen Mirren – Catherine The Great
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