The Emmy race for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series may be the most suspenseful category of the night!
Lead Actress in a Drama Series is one of the most competitive categories at the Emmys this year, with six acting heavyweights in the mix. It is also a landmark year in this category considering two black actresses are nominated here for the first time in Emmy history. And if either How to Get Away With Murder's Viola Davis or Empire's Taraji P. Henson win, they would be the first African American actress in Emmy history to win this category.
Additionally, Tatiana Maslany, of the cult classic BBC sci-fi drama Orphan Black, is finally nominated after three seasons. She is well known for playing dozens of characters on the series and has a massive online fanbase rooting for her to win.
Rounding out the category are three Emmy favorites who have previously received multiple nominations for their respective roles. Claire Danes of Homeland, Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men and Robin Wright of House of Cards all picked up additional nominations here this year.
Here is our breakdown of who we think will win the Emmy this year, ranked from least likely to most likely:
6. Elisabeth Moss - Mad Men
Though Moss has long been a fan favorite on Mad Men, her chance of winning the Emmy seem slightly less likely than the other five actresses. While Moss has previously been nominated five times for playing Peggy Olson, she missed out on a nomination last year, suggesting waning support. Moss submitted the final episode of Mad Men for consideration, which has some good scenes for her but simply doesn't have the impact of the other actresses in this category, who are more traditional leads of their shows. However, if the Emmys want to give Mad Men a huge sendoff, Moss could certainly be part of it.
5. Claire Danes - Homeland
Danes' performance as Carrie Mathison in Homeland is a clear Emmy favorite and has been since the show's first season. She won a trophy for both season 1 and 2 of the show, finally losing last year for season 3. This year, Homeland had a resurgence in quality and Danes' performance remained as commanding and powerful as ever. The tape she submitted, From A to B and Back Again, is a good one for her character but like Moss, it does not fully stand out compared to other actresses here.
4. Tatiana Maslany - Orphan Black
Though much of the Internet will be disappointed with this placement, it is important to note that Maslany still has a good chance of winning. As noted above, she plays multiple characters on Orphan Black, which has helped actors in the past, and her mere nomination alone suggests that a selection of the Academy really, really likes her. Maslany submitted Certain Agony of the Battlefield for consideration, which may unfortunately confuse those Emmy voters who don't watch Orphan Black. She will have enough to support to be in contention for the win, but the sci-fi factor may be too much to overcome for most Emmy voters.
3. Taraji P. Henson - Empire
Henson's Cookie Lyon was one of the most defined new characters of the past year. She was a huge reason why Empire became the no. 1 new show of the past TV season but of the past several TV seasons. Cookie is a true force whose power will be hard for Emmy voters to ignore, but will the soap opera factor be too high? Soap operas like Empire tend to not be respected by the Emmys and the Academy clearly didn't find the show that Emmy-worthy, scoring only two other nominations other than Henson. She submitted the pilot episode of Empire which is a great introduction to her character. She could definitely win the Emmy through sheer popularity alone, but we are betting on two other actresses instead.
2. Robin Wright - House of Cards
Wright has been her own force of nature on House of Cards over the past three seasons, but in her own quiet, magnetic way. As Claire Underwood, Wright stepped into even more of a leading role in season 3 and she more than rose to the occasion. She submitted the episode Chapter 32, in which she makes a trip to Russia and havoc ensues, an episode that really showcased her character in a major way. Wright has two previous nominations and the show itself is nominated for five acting awards this year, so Emmy voters clearly like the show. She has perhaps the strongest tape in this bunch, but is she as popular as the following frontrunner?
1. Viola Davis - How to Get Away With Murder
Davis is who we believe has the best chance of taking home the Emmy trophy. While HTGAWM was not a total hit with the Academy, Davis' dominant presence on the ABC series combined with her movie/theater pedigree make her hard to bet against. She is a two-time Oscar nominee who actually won the SAG Award for this role back in January. Plus, her episode, Freakin' Whack-a-Mole, has the actress dominating a courtroom, dealing with personal drama and making the most of every scene. Anyone could win this category, but we think Davis is the most likely of anyone.
The Primetime Emmys will take place Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8/7c on Fox.