Emmys 2020: Caitriona Balfe, Stana Katic, Zendaya top Drama Actress picks

2020 has been a fantastic year for television actresses. No doubt about it. There are so many shows on television but even with that the leads are stepping it up to new heights and delivering fantastic, memorable performances.

Today in our Emmy Wishlist series we’re focusing on the Actress in a Drama Series category and let’s be clear — it was not easy narrowing down the field to just seven women. All of the people we chose are ones that not only delivered on great material, but also brought emotion out of us as a viewer. We were excited every single second they were on-screen and left us wanting more.

To go along with CarterMatt’s choices in this category, be sure to head over here to see who we think are the best Actor in a Drama Series candidates!

Caitriona Balfe, Outlander (Starz) – Season 5 may cumulatively be Balfe’s best season since season 2, and it undoubtedly contains of her strongest performances ever in the finale “Never My Love.” It’s not just about the courageousness of Caitriona’s performance as Claire during the most traumatic moments, but also how she handles the ensuing struggle and pain. She holds the capacity to move audiences to tears with just a word, and at times no words at all. Claire is inspiring, powerful, and also so human and relatable. You feel every single emotion and you wish there were more episodes just to watch Caitriona in action, because it never feels like enough.

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve (BBC America) – Villanelle has to be one of the most entertaining roles on television for any actress to play. She moves around with such reckless abandon and it is easy to get lost in her inner psychosis. Yet, there is also so much more to her than great one-liners and the occasional tantrum. Villanelle’s journey in episode 5, where she comes face to face with her biological mother who gave her up and eventually inflicts carnage on her family, maybe one of Jodie’s finest work to date. You see her character’s happiness, her anger, and then also her capacity to at least feel something. Given that she often lacks any sort of empathy at all, it was a shock to see her pull back the curtain on what’s going on inside her. The closing train sequence with her listening to Crocodile Rock should win her the nomination alone.

Merle Dandridge, Greenleaf (OWN) – Grace Greenleaf has not had it easy on Greenleaf over the years, but through season 4, she was forced to take on even more than usual. There was her desperation to have her son AJ in her life, but she also had to tackle a difficult situation involving Charity, Harmony & Hope, and the future of the church itself. Dandridge can play Grace with steadfast determination, but also tremendous passion as a woman intent on finding a state of contentment and stability in an ever-changing world. Season 4 was one of Merle’s best performances to date.

Mariska Hargitay,  Law & Order: SVU (NBC) – It still remains crazy to us that Hargitay has not been nominated for an Emmy in almost a decade. Olivia Benson is a seminal TV character. She’s formidable, smart, empathetic, and willing to do what she can for anyone who needs her. Yet, she’s also flawed and Mariska delivers a constantly nuanced performance. Her best scenes are often one-on-one conversations where she is able to weave in new details about who Benson is and how she, no matter the circumstance, can work for victims in order to find them justice. Season 21 started strong for her, and then carried through right until the end.

Stana Katic, Absentia (Amazon) – The first bit of good news is that she is eligible this year after not being eligible following her first go-around due to a roadblock in the rules. Luckily, she’s just as deserving following a powerful second season as she was the first. As Emily Byrne, Katic is able to embody so much power, vulnerability, and also pain. She carries this psychological thriller to new heights and allows us to understand the extent of what her character has gone through — and it is immeasurable and hard to fathom. Trying to make that relatable to most viewers is an extreme acting challenge if there ever was one.

Monica Raymund, Hightown (Starz) – She makes it just under the wire when it comes to Emmy deadlines, but we’re thrilled that she a contender as Jackie. What we’ve seen from the Chicago Fire alum here is a fantastically layered performance of someone who struggles to get her life together. She has issues with addiction and commitment, but she’s found a larger sense of purpose through what happened to Sherry. Jackie has such a natural social confidence that she is compelling to watch; it’s even more so when you realize that so much of that is a facade to protect the more vulnerable side underneath.

Zendaya, Euphoria (HBO) – There was heartache in Rue, but also hope, dedication, and such a grounded believability. Euphoria is a show that really documents the struggle to find oneself at so early an age — the subject matter was at times dark and intense, but throughout all of it Zendaya delivered the performance of her career. She brought new variations to the role every single episode and gave something so raw and organic. Her world is not an easy one to be a part of, but we felt every single emotion that was coursing through her throughout the entirety of the first season.

Related News Check out all of our Emmy wishlist articles now

Who do you want to see nominated for Actress in a Drama Series?

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