“The Americans” star Keri Russell currently sits in 8th place in our Emmy predictions for Best Drama Actress, but if she manages to beat the odds and break through the crowded field it would be Emmy kismet, as she would almost certainly compete against reigning champ Claire Danes (“Homeland“), whose career trajectory has been eerily similar. Both women became TV stars at a young age and returned to the spotlight years later on acclaimed espionage dramas.
The early career breakthrough for Danes came in 1994, when the teenage actress starred in the critically lauded “My So-Called Life,” which lasted only one season but developed a cult following, winning Danes a Golden Globe for Best Drama Actress and also earning her an Emmy nomination.
In 1998 Russell won the same category at the Globes, also for playing a lovelorn teen – the title character of the WB’s “Felicity” – though unlike Danes she never contended for an Emmy, even though “Felicity” lasted four seasons.
After working consistently in mostly supporting film roles in the intervening years, Danes returned to TV full-time on Showtime’s “Homeland,” a thriller about the CIA’s fight against international terrorists. All grown up, Danes returned to the Drama Actress race at the Emmys in 2012, and won.
This spring Russell debuted in her own cable series about cunning spies, FX’s “The Americans,” about the FBI’s struggle against covert KGB agents taking orders from Mother Russia. Time will tell if the Emmys will greet the series as warmly as they did “Homeland” last year, but its Critics’ Choice Awards support – it’s nominated for four, including Best Drama – while not necessarily a reflection of the TV Academy’s taste, may indicate strength against other new programs this year – including “House of Cards” and “The Newsroom,” both snubbed for Best Drama by the TV critics.
One crucial difference, however, may affect the race between Russell and Danes: they’re on opposite sides of the law. Danes plays a determined counter-intelligence agent working to defend America, while Russell’s Cold War operative is fighting against America. Will voters balk at honoring an enemy combatant? Or will she craftily steal American Emmys along with American secrets?