After Phoebe Waller-Bridge crushed the Emmys last year, robbing Julia Louis-Dreyfus of a seventh statuette for Veep in her final year and also depriving Rachel Brosnahan of a second win in a row for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category seems to be a bit of a toss-up this year. There are a lot of TV favorites in the mix, plus another shot for Brosnahan, and a sentimental pick that could easily upset the whole field. Let’s survey the lineup and see who gets the Pete’s Winner Pick stamp in both the Lead and Supporting Comedy Actress categories.
Dead to Me
Last year this TV comedy veteran nabbed the newbie series’ sole Emmy nomination, but this year she is back with new competition—her co-star, Linda Cardellini. Both are so accomplished and, in the second season, so easily in sync that it seems hard to separate them (at the Deadline Contenders event I told them that they are the new Lucy and Ethel, albeit in a much darker show). Applegate is always welcome on television and at the Emmys, since she won on her first time out in 2003 for her guest role in Friends.
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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Brosnahan was terrific this season, in which Midge hit the road. Right from the first of the season’s episodes, when she played a USO show, the character was never more appealing or conflicted. It’s easy to see how she won in the show’s Emmy debut year in 2018, and it would be easy to predict a repeat two years later, but it’s not such an simple path.
Dead to Me
What we said about Applegate applies to Cardellini too—both stars look like they’ve worked together for years, and that’s clearly why they are both in contention. The likelihood is that they will cancel each other out here, but the Emmys don’t always do the obvious thing and there are many instances (see Jodie Comer) where one co-star does indeed prevail. If so, which one will it be?
Here’s the reason Brosnahan may not have so easy a path to that second Emmy. Like Eugene Levy, O’Hara is beloved and way overdue for recognition of this kind from her peers. Like Levy, she has a writing Emmy all those years ago for SCTV, and in 2010, she was nominated for a dramatic role in the movie Temple Grandin. But the character of Moira is a classic, no doubt about it, and this is the only chance, in its sixth and final season , that voters will have to recognize that.
If there’s anyone in this category who could really pull off an upset, it’s this second-time nominee for HBO’s Insecure. Issa Rae’s time has come, and she had a great season on this show, which finally is getting the kind of across-the-board recognition that it has long deserved. But you can say that about Schitt’s Creek too…
Tracee Ellis Ross
After inexplicably passing her over last year, following three consecutive nominations in this category, Emmy voters have brought the versatile star and Golden Globe winner back for more with her fourth nomination in this category in six seasons. Like her co-star Anthony Anderson, she is becoming a perennial, but will she always be the bridesmaid? Emmy can be mean that way. Ross is fabulous, no matter what happens.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Annie Murphy of Schitt’s Creek, Yvonne Orji of Insecure, D’Arcy Carden of The Good Place, and the surprisingly never-nominated SNL staple Cecily Strong are first-time Emmy nominees this year. Now they have to contend with somehow besting three-time winner and clear favorite here Alex Borstein of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, not to mention two-time winner and eight-time nominee Kate McKinnon, another SNL face in the crowd. Maisel’s wonderful Marin Hinkle and GLOW’s terrific Betty Gilpin have joined this club for a few rounds as well. It’s a talented bunch, and Murphy could make it four-for-four for the key cast of Schitt’s Creek. But there can only be one winner, and the Academy does have a tendency to reward those who have already been rewarded.
The Winner: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel