Emmy Preview 2018: Actress in a Drama Series wishlist; vote for your favorite!

Who should be nominated for Actress in a Drama Series at the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards? We are back with another edition of our annual CarterMatt Emmy Preview Series to answer this very question!

When it comes to the Best Actress field this year, it’s fairly interesting in that there are a few consensus favorites, followed by a fairly massive pool of underdogs. We’ve seen some big surprises at the Emmys in the past, so it wouldn’t feel 100% right to say with the utmost confidence that we know for sure how things are going to go with either nominations or the final winner. This category could be rather fun by the end of it! The goal of the CarterMatt Emmy Preview Series is to give you our picks, curated by our staff following some internal debate, and then give you a venue in which for you to do the same. This has been a lot of fun for us and the readers over the years and we’re happy to keep it going.

In addition to sharing both our dream nominees and some other likely contenders based on current industry projections, at the bottom of this article is a poll for you to vote for your own favorites! We will announce our reader picks on July 11, 2018, one day before the actual Emmy nominations are announced. Hopefully, this is a way to kick off the Emmy campaign period in a fun, super-engaging manner for everyone.

Voting Rules – Vote however many times you like! Voting is open between now and 1:00 p.m. Pacific time on July 11. By voting, you consent to have your vote tabulated in the final result. As a reminder, CarterMatt polls are simply for fun and to help aid in Emmy campaigns. Voting for the Emmys themselves is conducted by members of the Television Academy.

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Actress in a Drama Series – CarterMatt Wishlist

Caitriona Balfe, Outlander (Starz) – Few performers have experienced the acting challenges that Balfe did at the start of season 3, as she played Claire Fraser across different time periods, locations, and surrounded by different characters. Yet, all of it was relatable and remarkable, thanks to Balfe’s command of the material and the emotional connection she has forged to the character over time. She knows that Claire is far from a wallflower and plays her with all of the necessary power and drive; yet, she also understands that she is vulnerable just like everyone else. She took on the devastating moments with equal passion and allowed us to see within this woman’s heart. She was willing to sacrifice her entire life to find her way back to Jamie, but even in the midst of this romantic gesture she never wavered from her commitment to make sure she had everything she deserved in return.

Angela Bassett, 9-1-1 (Fox) – The Fox first-responders drama was one of the breakout hits of the winter and when you look at all of the different reasons why, Bassett is fairly high up on the list. She took on the role of Athena Grant with drive, with determination, and also understanding that the badge is just one aspect of who this character is. Even in a short first season she found so many different ways to introduce us into her world from her dialogue to at times even no dialogue to show you precisely who Athena is, what she cares about, and how others feel about her. Bassett has had a wonderful career and at present, this may be one of our favorite roles for her.

Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU (NBC) – It almost feels cliché to say after so many years, SVU never gets old — but it becomes all the more true with each passing year thanks in part to the stellar performance of Hargitay as the lead. This past year was a fantastic one for her as Olivia, though in saying that it is a reference to a number of terrible things that happened to her. This season was bookended with a some awful circumstances for Benson, in between almost losing her son and then also putting her own life on the line in the midst of a crisis with Lourdes in the two-hour finale. Hargitay has turned Olivia into an inspirational character over the years, but it’s never lost on her as a performer that she needs to balance her victories with setbacks. She makes her into the perfect hero in that it’s not a title Benson would ever strive for.

Stana Katic, Absentia (Amazon) – Is it fair to refer to this as the performance of Katic’s career? After one season, we would say so. Emily Byrne was in many ways a desperate, haunted character — after losing six years of her life and realizing that everything she loved was on the verge of being lost forever, she knew that she would stop at nothing in order to fight for her innocence and put those responsible for her torment away. Yet, along the way Katic played the character with enough ambivalence so that you could never really grasp the idea of her as a solely a hero. This was an intense, dark, and gripping performance that showed both Katic’s command of the material, but also how she was also able to reach out to the audience and drew them even more into this mysterious world. (Update: We have heard from a rep for the show that Absentia is not eligible this year. We’re not sure as to the reason yet — we’ll update if we find out — but we decided to keep her on here since this poll is mostly for fun and it’s still a worthy performance.)

Abigail Spencer, Timeless (NBC) – Lucy Preston is the series’ time-traveling heroine, someone determined, likable, formidable, and also kind. She’s in so many ways the person that many of us would want to be if we were tasked with some of her experiences, especially when it comes to how she tackles setbacks and how she treats those around her. Without the performance of Spencer in this role, however, none of this intention would be clear. Her choices help to build Lucy’s chemistry with other characters and to establish her as someone completely believable in a world that often throws you through a spin cycle of twists and turns. You root for her when she completes the missions against Rittenhouse, and then you feel for her when she has to reconcile her feelings for Wyatt with Jessica’s return.

Katheryn Winnick, Vikings (History) – While we know that she has given a number of stellar performances in the past, the first half of season 5 may have been Winnick’s best year on the History drama in between her physicality, her tenderness, and also her ability to play Lagertha as a strategist willing to listen and do whatever needs to be done for both her own self-preservation and the support of those she rules over. She took on a wisdom that comes from being world-weary and has a better understanding the pitfalls of this world filled with powerful and at times stubborn, hateful adversaries. Winnick brought Lagertha to the forefront in commanding fashion and deserves all of the acclaim for it.

Other Favorites

Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones (HBO) – After many years of being in the Supporting category Clarke is, understandably, now submitting as a lead for her fantastic performance of Daenerys Targeryan on the HBO epic; season 7 managed to bring both her power and vulnerability in equal measure. With the popularity of Game of Thrones across the board and with Emmy voters, Clarke stands a good chance at receiving some Emmy love.

Claire Foy, The Crown (Netflix) – After watching the first season, it’s hard to imagine anyone being altogether shell-shocked at the nuance and the emotion that Foy brought to a role that, despite her public presence, we still know rather little about. To call her magnetic still fails to describe how you cling to the screen watching her in action. Next to Elisabeth Moss, she’s potentially the favorite to win the award this year.

Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) – Considered by many to be the consensus favorite this year and for good reason. Moss is the anchor of the dystopian drama and brings everything she has to June Osborne. What’s also remarkable is despite how recognizable she is from other roles, she is able to completely become June and make us forget her famous face.

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve (BBC America) – Isn’t it wonderful to get Sandra Oh back on television, and beyond that isn’t it nice to be reminded (not that we needed to be) how powerful an actress she is? She’s sensational from start to finish in this show, which quickly became one of the surprise hits of the spring.

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