Emmy Predictions: Lead Actress in a Drama Series – After Last Year’s Snub, Can Mandy Moore Return to the Emmys for ‘This Is Us’?

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Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Emmys ceremonies from film awards editor Clayton Davis. Following history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Emmy predictions are updated regularly with the current year's list of contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. The eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and is subject to change.

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UPDATED: May 30, 2021

AWARDS PREDICTION COMMENTARY: Wrapping up its fifth season, one of the perplexing facts is that standout actress Mandy Moore has only garnered a single nomination for her role as the matron Rebecca Pearson in NBC’s heartfelt drama. As the world learns that the next season is the last, the groundswell to reward the dynamic cast could start a wave of love in the acting races. Moore is due for that love.

The big breakout for Emma Corrin has been palpable in the industry, picking up wins from the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globes and SAG Awards for her portrayal as Princess Diana / Lady Diana Spencer. With the power of the streaming giant behind her, the big awards welcome could very likely continue.

While Olivia Colman is seemingly an awards magnet, with an Oscar (for 2018’s “The Favourite”) and three Golden Globes, she has yet to win a television award in her three previous Emmy nominations, despite being favored to win in her respective years. Back once again as Queen Elizabeth II, she’ll be competing with her co-star Emma Corrin, who has racked up multiple accolades. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm for our favorite U.K. sensation.

An undeniable talent in the Hollywood industry, after six nominations for “Mad Men,” Moss picked up her first win in 2017 as Offred in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which also became the first streamer to win the big prize at the Emmys.

Saying farewell to “Pose” will be tough for many, but not seeing the complete embrace of its full cast of LGBTQ and groundbreaking gender-breaking roles has been disappointing. One of the memorable performances has been that of Bianca Rodriguez, played vivaciously by Mj Rodriguez, who can make Emmy history if she finally gets her long-overdue recognition for her iconic role.

One of the great secrets of Hollywood is getting noticed more and more. Jurnee Smollett, who got her start in series such as “Full House” before moving on to memorable turns in films like “Eve’s Bayou” and “The Great Debaters” finally gets a role that she can firmly chew on in HBO’s fantasy horror series “Lovecraft Country.” With excellent chemistry with co-star Jonathan Majors, if both are nominated, it would be the first time two Black leads from the same show are nominated in the lead drama categories.

The early seasons of “In Treatment” were an actor’s showcase, as former star Gabriel Byrne picked up two nominations, and Dianne Wiest won best supporting actress drama. With a popular actress like Uzo Aduba, who won three Emmys (two for “Orange Is the New Black” and the other for “Mrs. America”), she could be a locked-up choice for a nod.

The eligibility period ends on May 31 before nomination-round voting begins on June 17, concluding on June 28. The Primetime Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, 2021.


  1. Emma Corrin
    "The Crown" (Netflix)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Diana, Princess of Wales / Lady Diana Spencer

    CREATOR: Peter Morgan
    SYNOPSIS: Follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II's reign and the events that shaped the second half of the twentieth century.
    STARRING: Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson, Josh O'Connor, Emma Corrin, Marion Bailey, Erin Doherty, Stephen Boxer, Emerald Fennell

  2. Elisabeth Moss
    "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)

    EMMY HISTORY: 12 nominations, two wins (lead actress drama and outstanding drama series for "The Handmaid's Tale" in 2018)
    ROLE: June Osborne

    CREATOR: Bruce Miller
    SYNOPSIS: Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.
    STARRING: Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel, Max Minghella, O-T Fagbenie, Samira Wiley, Nina Kiri, Alexis Bledel, Bahia Watson, Bradley Whitford

  3. Olivia Colman
    "The Crown" (Netflix)

    EMMY HISTORY: Three nominations
    ROLE: Queen Elizabeth II

    CREATOR: Peter Morgan
    SYNOPSIS: Follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II's reign and the events that shaped the second half of the twentieth century.
    STARRING: Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson, Josh O'Connor, Emma Corrin, Marion Bailey, Erin Doherty, Stephen Boxer, Emerald Fennell

  4. Uzo Aduba
    "In Treatment" (HBO)

    EMMY HISTORY: Four nominations, three wins (guest actress comedy for "Orange is the New Black" in 2014, supporting actress drama for "Orange Is the New Black" in 2015 and supporting actress limited series for "Mrs. America" in 2020)
    ROLE: Brooke / Dr. Brooke Lawrence

    CREATORS: Rodrigo García, Hagai Levi, Nir Bergman
    SYNOPSIS: A psychotherapist questions his abilities and gets help by reuniting with his old therapist, whom he has not seen for ten years.
    STARRING: Uzo Aduba, Anthony Ramos, Liza Colón-Zayas, John Benjamin Hickey, Quintessa Swindell, Joel Kinnaman

  5. Jurnee Smollett
    "Lovecraft Country" (HBO)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Letitia 'Leti' Lewis

    CREATOR: Misha Green
    SYNOPSIS: A young African-American travels across the U.S. in the 1950s in search of his missing father.
    STARRING: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. Vance, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee, Jamie Chung, Jada Harris, Michael K. Williams

  6. Mj Rodriguez
    "Pose" (FX)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Blanca Rodriguez

    CREATORS: Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: Drama spotlighting the legends, icons and ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture, a movement that first gained notice in the late 1980s.
    STARRING: Billy Porter, Mj Rodriguez, Jason Rodriguez, Dyllón Burnside, Angel Bismark Curiel, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar, Sandra Bernhard


  1. Mandy Moore
    "This Is Us" (NBC)

    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination
    ROLE: Rebecca Pearson

    CREATOR: Dan Fogelman
    SYNOPSIS: A heartwarming and emotional story about a unique set of triplets, their struggles and their wonderful parents.
    STARRING: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, Jon Huertas, Alexadra Breckenridge, Niles Fitch, Logan Shroyer, Hannah Zeile, Mackenzie Hancsicsak, Parker Bates, Eris Baker, Faithe Herman, Lonnie Chavis, Melanie Liburd, Lyric Ross, Asante Blackk, Griffin Dunne, Caitlin Thompson

  2. Sarah Paulson
    "Ratched" (Netflix)

    EMMY HISTORY: Seven nominations, one win (lead actress limited series for "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" in 2016)
    ROLE: Nurse Mildred Ratched

    CREATOR: Ryan Murphy, Evan Romansky
    SYNOPSIS: In 1947, Mildred Ratched begins working as a nurse at a leading psychiatric hospital. But beneath her stylish exterior lurks a growing darkness.
    STARRING: Finn Wittrock, Sarah Paulson, Jon Jon Briones, Charlie Carver, Brandon Flynn, Judy Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Amanda Plummer, Sharon Stone

  3. Phoebe Dynevor
    "Bridgerton" (Netflix)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Daphne Bridgerton

    CREATOR: Chris Van Dusen
    SYNOPSIS: Wealth, lust, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Regency-era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.
    STARRING: Adjoa Andoh, Lorraine Ashbourne, Jonathan Bailey, Ruby Barker, Sabrina Bartlett, Harriet Cains, Bessie Carter, Nicola Coughlan, Phoebe Dynevor, Ruth Gemmell, Florence Hunt, Claudia Jessie, Ben Miller, Luke Newton, Regé-Jean Page, Golda Rosheuvel, Luke Thompson, Will Tilston, Polly Walker, Julie Andrews

  4. Christian Serratos
    "Selena: The Series" (Netflix)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Selena Quintanilla

    CREATOR: Moisés Zamora
    SYNOPSIS: Late Tejano singer Selena as her dreams come true, and her family makes life-changing choices on the singer's journey to success.
    STARRING: Christian Serratos, Gabriel Chavarria, Ricardo Chavira, Noemi Gonzalez, Seidy Lopez, Hunter Reese Peña, Carlos Alfred Jr., Jesse Posey, Julio Macia


  1. Melissa George
    "The Mosquito Coast" (Apple TV Plus)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Margot Fox

    CREATOR: Neil Cross
    SYNOPSIS: An idealist uproots his family and moves them to Latin America.
    STARRING: Justin Theroux, Melissa George, Logan Polish, Gabriel Bateman, Kimberly Elise, James LeGros

  2. Rebecca Breeds
    "Clarice" (CBS)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Clarice Starling

    CREATORS: Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet
    SYNOPSIS: A look at the untold personal story of FBI agent Clarice Starling, as she returns to the field about a year after the events of "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991).
    STARRING: Rebecca Breeds, Michael Cudlitz, Lucca De Oliveira, Nick Sandow, Devyn A. Tyler, Kal Penn

  3. Aya Cash
    "The Boys" (Amazon Prime Video)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Stormfront

    CREATOR: Eric Kripke
    SYNOPSIS: A group of vigilantes set out to take down corrupt superheroes who abuse their superpowers.
    STARRING: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford, Tomer Capon, Karen Fukuhara, Nathan Mitchell, Elisabeth Shue, Colby Minifie, Aya Cash

  4. Jennifer Connelly
    "Snowpiercer" (TNT)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Melanie Cavill

    CREATOR: Josh Friedman, Graeme Manson
    SYNOPSIS: A group of vigilantes set out to take down corrupt superheroes who abuse their superpowers.
    STARRING: Daveed Diggs, Iddo Goldberg, Mickey Cumner, Alison Wright, Jennifer Connelly, Sheila Vand, Annalise Basso, Miranda Edwards

  5. Amanda Collin
    "Raised By Wolves" (HBO Max)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Mother

    CREATOR: Aaron Guzikowski
    SYNOPSIS: Androids are tasked with raising human children on a mysterious planet.
    STARRING: Amanda Collin, Abubakar Salim, Winta McGrath, Travis Fimmel, Niamh Algar, Jordan Loughran

  6. Dakota Fanning
    "The Alienist: Angel of Darkness" (TNT)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Sara Howard

    CREATOR: Hossein Amini, E. Max Frye, Steve Golin, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Eric Roth
    SYNOPSIS: Newspaper illustrator John Moore meets with criminal psychologist (alienist) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler to investigate a serial killer in New York during the late 19th century.
    STARRING: Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, Brian Geraghty, Robert Ray Wisdom, Douglas Smith, Matthew Shear, Q'orianka Kilcher, Matt Lintz, Dakota Fanning, Rosy McEwen, Melanie Field

  7. Sonequa Martin-Green
    "Star Trek: Discovery" (Paramount Plus)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Michael Burnham

    CREATOR: Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman
    SYNOPSIS: Ten years before Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise, the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien.
    STARRING: Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman

  8. Laura Donnelly
    "The Nevers" (HBO)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Amalia True

    CREATOR: Joss Whedon
    SYNOPSIS: An epic tale following a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.
    STARRING: Laura Donnelly, Ann Skelly, Olivia Williams

  9. Myha'la Herrold
    "Industry" (HBO)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Harper Stern

    CREATOR: Mickey Down, Konrad Kay
    SYNOPSIS: Young bankers and traders make their way in the financial world in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse.
    STARRING: Myha'la Herrold, Marisa Abela, David Jonsson

  10. Katheryn Winnick
    "Big Sky" (ABC)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Jenny Hoyt

    CREATOR: Taylor Sheridan, John Linson
    SYNOPSIS: A private detective teams up with an ex-cop to solve a kidnapping case in Montana.
    STARRING: Kylie Bunbury, Katheryn Winnick, Ryan Phillippe, John Lynch, Brian Geraghty, Brooke Smith, Jade Pettyjohn, Jesse James Keitel, Dedee Pfeiffer


AWARDS CATEGORY HISTORY (Lead Actress in a Drama Series)

The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known simply as the Emmys, is television’s most prestigious artistic award. There are many records held for both wins and nominations in the near eight decades.

For wins: Tyne Daly and Michael Learned have the most awards in this category with four, while Barbara Bain, Kathy Baker, Edie Falco and Loretta Young all have three each. “Cagney & Lacey” is the series with the most awards in this category, with six.

For nominations: Angela Lansbury has the most nominations in this category with 12, which were all consecutive, failing to win. The next most nominated actors are Sharon Gless, Mariska Hargitay, Michael Learned and Julianna Margulies, with eight apiece.

“Cagney & Lacey” and “Murder, She Wrote” are the series with the most nominations in this category, with 12 each.

2021 Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

About the Primetime Emmy Awards (Emmys)

The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known as the Emmys, is given out by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS). Since 1949, the awards recognize excellence in American primetime television programming. They are divided into three classes – Primetime Emmy Awards, the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards (honors artisan achievements) and the Primetime Engineering Emmy Awards (recognizes significant engineering and technological contributions). The typical eligibility period is between June 1 and May 31 of any given year. The Television Academy comprises over 25,000 members, representing 30 professional peer groups, including performers, directors, producers, art directors and various artisans and executives.

  • The 73rd Emmy Awards are scheduled to air on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8:00 pm est on CBS and on-demand on sister streamer Paramount Plus.

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