Best Drama Actress is one of the most competitive categories at this year’s Emmys, with strong performances submitted by most of the contenders, but I think Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife“) has the edge, and here’s why:
1. Her episode is dynamite
She submitted “The Last Call” to Emmy judges. In it, her character Alicia is shocked to learn about the shooting death of her former colleague and lover Will Gardner (Josh Charles). The episode runs Margulies through the emotional gamut as she tries to figure out if Will spent the last day of his life angry with her.
2. Her character has the most empathy
Not only in mourning for her friend but in the throes of guilt, she arguably has more empathy than anyone else in the category. Her rivals are often sympathetic, but Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey“) and Robin Wright (“House of Cards“) might come off as too cold. Kerry Washington (“Scandal“) and Claire Danes (“Homeland“) can be abrasive. And while we sympathize with Lizzy Caplan (“Masters of Sex“) as a woman in a man’s world, the emotional stakes aren’t as high in her episode as they are for Margulies.
3. “The Good Wife” surged this season
Granted, the show didn’t return to the Drama Series race as many expected it to after what was widely considered a creatively resurgent fifth season, but Margulies returned to the Drama Actress race after being snubbed last year, and Charles earned his first Drama Supporting Actor bid since 2011. It’s rare for an actor to make a comeback after being dropped by the TV academy, let alone two, which means voters really did take notice of the show’s uptick in quality.
4. A “Good Wife” actress has won an Emmy every year
This may be less a trend than a coincidence. Nevertheless, a woman from the legal drama has won every year since the show’s debut, suggesting strong, consistent support from the academy’s acting branch: Archie Panjabi (Drama Supporting Actress, 2010), Margulies (Drama Actress, 2011), Martha Plimpton (Drama Guest Actress, 2012), and Carrie Preston (Drama Guest Actress, 2013).
That could also be good news for Drama Supporting Actress nominee Christine Baranski, but she has an uphill battle against defending champ Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad“), so “Good Wife’s” best hope might be Margulies.
5. Voters may hold a flawed “Homeland” season against Claire Danes
Danes is the two-time defending champ, and this year she submitted another great episode: “The Star,” in which she reveals she’s pregnant and watches as the father of her unborn child is publicly executed in Iran. But just as public opinion surged for “The Good Wife” over the last year, it took a nosedive for “Homeland,” going from critical darling to punching bag in just three seasons.
It’s possible the Drama Actress judging panel will put their blinders on and decide simply on the strength of the sample episodes, but voters don’t live in a vacuum. Even if they like her in “The Star,” they may be reluctant to reward her for the third year in a row for a less-than-stellar season.
Am I crazy for thinking that Margulies is the frontrunner? Is it too close to call? Make your own Drama Actress predictions below our dueling Editors’ slugfests for this category.