Emmy experts give Riz Ahmed (‘The Night Of’) a slight lead in wide-open race for Best Movie/Mini Actor

Riz Ahmed gave a breakthrough performance as a murder suspect in “The Night Of” that earned him nominations at the Golden Globes and SAG Award. Now our experts say he’s the favorite to win Best Movie/Mini Actor at the Emmys — but just barely. As of this writing we’ve polled 15 TV journalists from top media outlets for their predictions, and they’re split five ways. So while Ahmed seems to have the advantage, this is still anyone’s game.

Six experts out of 15 are currently predicting a victory for Ahmed: Bonnie Fuller (Hollywood Life), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes), Lynette Rice (Entertainment Weekly), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) and Adnan Virk (ESPN). This would be the first nomination and win for Ahmed, who is also known for roles in the films “Nightcrawler” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

His closest competitor appears to be Robert De Niro for playing real-life con man Bernie Madoff in HBO’s telefilm “The Wizard of Lies.” Four experts are predicting his victory: Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Ken Tucker (Yahoo) and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed).

De Niro ticks a lot of the right boxes for Emmy voters. He’s an Oscar winning movie star playing a biographical role: seven of the last nine winners in this category played real people, and seven of the last 10 were Academy Award nominees or winners. Also, like Ahmed, De Niro represents HBO, which has long been a heavyweight in longform categories at the Emmys, winning this category five times in the last 10 years.

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Two experts are predicting Ahmed’s “Night Of” co-star John Turturro, who plays defense attorney John Stone: Eric Deggans (NPR) and Robert Rorke (New York Post). Turturro has only been nominated once before at the Emmys, but the first time was the charm: he won Best Comedy Guest Actor for “Monk.”

Another two experts are predicting Geoffrey Rush, who plays famed scientist Albert Einstein in “Genius”: Joyce Eng (TV Guide) and Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby). Like De Niro, Rush has the benefit of playing a real person, but unlike De Niro, who has never been nominated for an Emmy, Rush is already familiar to TV academy voters. He won this category back in 2005 for playing another famous 20th century figure: actor Peter Sellers in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.” However, “Genius” airs on the National Geographic Channel, which doesn’t have as high an awards profile as HBO.

Our last expert, Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), favors Ewan McGregor for his dual role as twin brothers in FX’s anthology series “Fargo.” Emmy voters love actors playing multiple roles — consider Toni Collette and her alternate personalities in “United States of Tara” (Best Comedy Actress, 2009) or Tatiana Maslany and her myriad clones in “Orphan Black” (Best Drama Actress, 2016). Also, “Fargo” is already a proven winner, claiming five Emmys for its first two seasons, including Best Limited Series in 2014. And McGregor has been on the TV academy’s radar before, earning a bid for Best Drama Guest Actor for “ER” (1997). But “Fargo” has yet to win an acting award despite eight nominations.

Watch Our Interviews with Best Movie/Mini Actor Contenders:
Riz Ahmed | Ricky Gervais | Tim MathesonJohn Turturro

None of our experts are predicting a victory for Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”), but nine are expecting him to be nominated. The fourth season of “Sherlock,” which aired in January, is likely the show’s last, and Cumberbatch has been nominated three times before for playing this modern-day version of the British detective, winning in 2014. Cumberbatch also earned a bid in this race for “Parade’s End” (2013), so it’s best not to underestimate him.

Eight experts think Jude Law will be nominated for playing the title character in “The Young Pope.” Law is primarily a film actor, so he has never contended for an Emmy before. But he’s a respected, Oscar nominated star in a prestigious production created by Paolo Sorrentino, who directed the Oscar winning foreign film “The Great Beauty” (2013), so Law has plenty of the snob appeal that Emmy voters typically love.

Two experts forecast a nomination for Michael Gambon as famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in “Churchill’s Secret,” which chronicles the stroke he kept secret from the world. Playing Churchill has won Emmys in this category for Albert Finney (“The Gathering Storm,” 2002) and Brendan Gleeson (“Into the Storm,” 2009), and the role could win another Emmy this year for Best Drama Supporting Actor contender John Lithgow in “The Crown.” Gambon has been nominated once before for playing a world leader: US President Lyndon Johnson in “Path to War.” But “Churchill’s Secret” aired on PBS way back in September, so it’ll be a question of whether enough TV academy members saw the telefilm, or if it was under their radar.

One expert apiece is predicting a nomination for two-time Emmy winner Ricky Gervais (“David Brent: Life on the Road”), Emmy nominee Harvey Fierstein (“Hairspray Live”) and Emmy nominee Toby Jones (“The Witness for the Prosecution”). Jones could get an added boost since voters will also be watching him as the villain in “Sherlock: The Lying Detective.”

Predict the Emmy nominees now; change them until July 13

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on July 13. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums.

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