Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”) is the defending Emmy champ for Best Drama Actress, but she’s not the woman ahead to win according to the Expert TV journalists we’ve polled for their predictions. Instead, those top TV pundits are betting on Robin Wright (“House of Cards”), but it looks like a very close race.
Nine of our 18 experts are predicting Wright, giving her leading 10/9 odds: Michael Ausiello (TV Line), Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Lynette Rice (Entertainment Weekly), Robert Rorke (New York Post), Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Anne Thompson (Indiewire) and Ken Tucker (Yahoo).
This is Wright’s fourth straight nomination for playing First Lady Claire Underwood in “House of Cards,” but she has yet to win. She submitted to Emmy judges the episode “Chapter 49,” in which Claire has to make a grave choice about her mother’s health and then gives a speech to try to land the vice presidential nomination on her husband’s campaign ticket.
Davis is right behind Wright with 17/10 odds based on support from seven experts: Robert Bianco (USA Today), Lynn Elber (Associated Press), Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Adnan Virk (ESPN) and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed).
Davis won last year on her very first Emmy nomination. She plays cutthroat defense attorney Annalise Keating, and she submitted the episode “That’s My Baby,” in which a flashback reveals the loss of Annalise’s unborn child as the result of a traffic collision.
One expert, Eric Deggans (NPR), foresees an upset victory for Keri Russell (“The Americans”), giving her 14/1 odds. This is her first career nomination for playing KGB spy Elizabeth Jennings in the FX series, and she submitted the episode “The Magic of David Copperfield V” in which the Jennings take a hard-earned break from espionage before being called back into action seven months later.
One other expert, Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes) is predicting a surprise win for Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”), giving her 14/1 odds as well. This is Maslany’s second nomination for playing myriad cloned characters in the sci-fi drama. In her episode submission, “The Antisocialism of Sex,” her characters become desperate after the death of a trusted ally. Since she plays more characters on her show than the rest of the nominees in this category combined, perhaps she really does have the edge here.
Danes plays CIA Agent Carrie Mathison, a role that has won her this award twice (2012-2013) in addition to her Movie/Mini Actress victory for “Temple Grandin” (2010). For this, her ninth career nomination, counting her Best Drama Series bid as a producer of “Homeland,” she submitted the episode “Super Powers,” in which she experiences a manic episode after going off her meds for bipolar disorder.
Henson is nominated for the second time in this category (third time overall) for playing music mogul Cookie Lyon. She submitted the episode “Rise By Sin,” in which Cookie’s son Jamal is shot and fights for his life.
Gold Derby’s Editors, who cover awards year-round, agree with our experts that this is a close race, but we’re tilted a different way, giving the edge to Davis. Four of us are predicting her to win again: Chris Beachum, Marcus James Dixon, Rob Licuria and myself. The other three say it will be Wright: O’Neil, Sheehan and Matt Noble.
Our Top 24 Users, who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Emmys, are also divided but slightly in favor of Davis. Twelve predict Davis, compared to eight for Wright, two for Russell and one for Danes.
Our All-Star Top 24, who scored the highest when you combine predictions from the last two years’ Emmys, have a similar outlook. Eleven of them predict Davis, while eight say Wright and one apiece are backing Russell and Danes.
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions right here. You’ll compete to win our contest prizes for best picks — $500 (first place), $300 (second place) and $200 (third place) in Amazon gift certificates — a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Emmys). Be sure to read our contest rules.