Emmy Predictions: Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie – Is Elizabeth Olsen’s ‘WandaVision’ Performance Worth Persevering?

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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: In what very well could be one of the top three outings for the MCU, “WandaVision” had everyone glued to their screens each week, and much of that was the vulnerable execution of Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch). It should come as no surprise if you’ve seen her work in films such as “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and in series such as “Sorry for Your Loss,” she could be that one nominee that gets the public excited about this year’s ceremony.

A previous Emmy winner for lead actress in a miniseries or movie for “Mildred Pierce” in 2011, also an HBO production, the mastery of Kate Winslet is back in the mix again for her highly developed turn as Detective Mare Sheehan. Encouraging not to be letting up, the Academy Award winner (best actress for “The Reader” in 2008) continues to explore new realms of herself, unafraid to show the fear, unpolished and unwavering parts of her soul. HBO could make a compelling case for her this year.

Going into phase one voting, Anya Taylor-Joy must be considered the frontrunner after winning awards from the Critics Choice, Golden Globes and SAG awards. The Netflix sensation took the awards season by storm. Even if it prepares for a much deeper arsenal of competition for the Emmys, she may be the default representation for recognizing the series, especially as she prepares for a big year ahead in both film and television.

The Cinderella story of the Emmy season is very likely to be the remarkable Thuso Mbedu, who shatters every ounce of acting seen by any person, this eligibility year in Barry Jenkins’ masterpiece “The Underground Railroad.” As Cora, a slave who navigates the deep south seeking freedom, she’s everything you want and demands of an actress. Precision, authenticity and unrelenting resilience to find the truth of a woman we don’t know but grow to love over the episode arc. A revolutionary turn that Emmy may not be able to ignore.

Audiences and critics revere just about everything of HBO’s “I May Destroy You,” and they have done an amazing job and making sure creator and star Michaela Coel goes hand-in-hand with the show’s success. Picking up key accolades thus far, such as Critics Choice and SAG nods, she is another shining example of the depth of brilliance many of the limited series encompasses this year.

Is there anyone who doesn’t love Oscar and Emmy winner Nicole Kidman? Lighting it up in HBO’s popular limited series “The Undoing” gave her an allowance to portray a different kind of woman we haven’t seen of her before. The former winner of HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” While the series may have left some wanting more, you can never count out her depth of admiration and respect in Hollywood.

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. Thuso Mbedu
    "The Underground Railroad" (Amazon Prime)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Cora

    CREATOR: Barry Jenkins
    SYNOPSIS: A young woman named Cora makes an amazing discovery during her attempt to break free from slavery in the deep south.
    STARRING: Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre, Joel Edgerton, Justice Leak, Damon Herriman, William Jackson Harper, Amber Gray, Jim Klock, Lily Rabe, Lucius Baston, Fred Hechinger, Owen Harn, Bri Collins, Will Poulter, Peter Mullan, Sheila Atim, Peter De Jersey, Chikwudi Iwuji, Irone Singleton, Mychai-Bella Bowman, Marcus "MJ" Gladney Jr, Benjamin Walker

  2. Anya Taylor-Joy
    "The Queen's Gambit" (Netflix)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated.
    ROLE: Beth Harmon

    CREATOR: Scott Frank, Allan Scott
    SYNOPSIS: Orphaned at the tender age of nine, prodigious introvert Beth Harmon discovers and masters the game of chess in 1960s USA. But child stardom comes at a price.
    STARRING: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Moses Ingram, Isla Johnston, Christiane Seidel, Rebecca Root, Chloe Pirrie, Akemnji Ndifornyen, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Patrick Kennedy, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Marcin Dorociński

  3. Michaela Coel
    "I May Destroy You" (HBO)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Arabella

    CREATOR: Michaela Coel
    SYNOPSIS: The question of sexual consent in contemporary life and how, in the new landscape of dating and relationships, we make the distinction between liberation and exploitation.
    STARRING: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu, Marouane Zotti, Stephen Wright, Adam James, Natalie Walter, Aml Ameen, Lara Rossi, Ann Akin, Chin Nyenwe, Lewis Reeves, Sarah Niles, Mariah Gale, Rebecca Calder, Andi Osho

  4. Kate Winslet
    "Mare of Easttown" (HBO)

    EMMY HISTORY: Two nominations, one win (lead actress miniseries or movie for "Mildred Pierce" in 2011)
    ROLE: Detective Mare Sheehan

    CREATOR: Brad Ingelsby
    SYNOPSIS: A detective in a small Pennsylvania town investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart.
    STARRING: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson. Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, David Denman, Neal Huff, Guy Pearce, Cailee Spaeny, John Douglas Thompson, Joe Tippett, Evan Peters, Sosie Bacon, James McArdle

  5. Elizabeth Olsen
    "WandaVision" (Disney Plus)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Wanda Maximoff

    CREATOR: Kevin Feige
    SYNOPSIS: Blends the style of classic sitcoms with the MCU, in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision - two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives - begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
    STARRING: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Debra Jo Rupp, Fred Melamed, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Evan Peters


  1. Nicole Kidman
    "The Undoing" (HBO)

    EMMY HISTORY: Three nominations, two wins (lead actress limited series and outstanding limited series for "Big Little Lies" in 2017).
    ROLE: Grace Fraser

    CREATOR: David E. Kelley
    SYNOPSIS: A modern twist to a classical "whodunnit" tale, when the life of a wealthy New York therapist turns upside down after she and her family get involved with a murder case.
    STARRING: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Édgar Ramírez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Matilda De Angelis, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Edan Alexander, Michael Devine, Donald Sutherland

  2. Cynthia Erivo
    "Genius: Aretha" (National Geographic)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Aretha Franklin

    CREATOR: Suzi-Lori Parks
    SYNOPSIS: The life stories of history's greatest minds. From their days as young adults to their final years we see their discoveries, loves, relationships, causes, flaws and genius.
    STARRING: Cynthia Erivo, Malcolm Barrett, Patrice Covington, Rebecca Naomi Jones, David Cross, Kimberly Hébert Gregory, Shaian Jordan, Courtney B. Vance

  3. Tessa Thompson
    "Sylvie's Love" (Amazon Prime Video)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Sylvie Parker

    DIRECTOR: Eugene Ashe
    SYNOPSIS: When a young woman meets an aspiring saxophonist in her father's record shop in 1950s Harlem, their love ignites a sweeping romance that transcends changing times, geography, and professional success.
    STARRING: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Regé-Jean Page, Aja Naomi King, Eva Longoria

  4. Kate Mara
    "A Teacher" (FX on Hulu)

    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination
    ROLE: Claire Wilson

    CREATOR: Hannah Fidell
    SYNOPSIS: "A Teacher" explores the complexities and consequences of a predatory relationship between Claire Wilson, a young teacher at a suburban Texas high school and her student, Eric Walker.
    STARRING: Kate Mara, Nick Robinson, Ashley Zukerman, Rya Kihlstedt

  5. Danielle Brooks
    "Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia" (Lifetime)

    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Mahalia Jackson

    DIRECTOR: Kenny Leon
    SYNOPSIS: The story of the New Orleans-born crooner who began singing at an early age and went on to become one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history, melding her music with the civil rights movement.
    STARRING: Danielle Brooks, Wolsey Brooks, Rob Demery


AWARDS CATEGORY HISTORY (Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie)

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: Helen Mirren has the most wins in this category with four – “Prime Suspect: The Scent of Darkness” (1995), “The Passion of Ayn Rand” (1999), “Elizabeth I” (2005) and “Prime Suspect: The Final Act” (2006). Patty Duke and Laura Linney each have the second most with three.

For nominations: Helen Mirren is the most nominated actress in this category with 10. Judy Davis and Jessica Lange are second with seven 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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