Best Drama Actor is one of this year’s toughest Emmy races to predict because the last four winners are all out of contention: Damian Lewis (“Homeland,” 2012), Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom,” 2013), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad,” 2014) and Jon Hamm (“Mad Men,” 2015). So who has the advantage? According to the Expert TV journalists we’ve polled, the award will go to a first-time nominee for a first-year series: Rami Malek for “Mr. Robot.”
Twelve out of 18 experts predict Malek, giving him leading 8/13 odds: Robert Bianco (USA Today), Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Eric Deggans (NPR), Lynn Elber (Associated Press), Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes), Lynette Rice (Entertainment Weekly), Robert Rorke (New York Post), Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), Ken Tucker (Yahoo) and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed). Malek submitted to Emmy judges the pilot episode of “Mr. Robot,” “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov,” in which his character, paranoid hacker Elliot Alderson, is recruited to take down a corrupt multinational company.
Ranked second with 5/1 odds is Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), who has support from three experts: Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood) and Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post). This is Odenkirk’s second nomination in this category, though he is a past Emmy winner as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” (1989) and “The Ben Stiller Show” (1993). In his episode submission “Klick,” Jimmy McGill’s (Odenkirk) conflict with his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) comes to a head when Chuck is hospitalized.
Two experts favor Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”), giving him 7/1 odds: Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby) and Adnan Virk (ESPN). This is Spacey’s fourth nomination in this category and his 10th overall, counting his nomination for Best Drama Series as a producer of “House of Cards,” but he has never won. He plays President Frank Underwood, and in his episode submission, “Chapter 52,” he deals with a hostage crisis before delivering a fear-mongering speech to the nation.
One expert, Michael Ausiello (TV Line), is predicting Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”), which places him fourth with 14/1 odds. Chandler is the only past acting-winner in this category, having won this award in 2011 for the final season of “Friday Night Lights.” This is Chandler’s second straight nom for “Bloodline,” in which he plays John Rayburn, a Florida detective trying to protect his family at all costs. He submitted the episode “Part 23,” in which John considers murdering a witness to protect his family’s secrets.
None of our experts are predicting the last two nominees: first-time nominee Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”), who gets 50/1 odds, and third-time Emmy-nominee Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”), who gets 100/1 odds.
Rhys, playing KGB spy Philip Jennings, submitted an episode he also directed: “The Magic of David Copperfield V,” in which Philip and his wife (Keri Russell) take a break from the stresses of espionage before being called back into action. Schreiber entered the episode “Exsuscito,” in which his title character is wounded and confesses to a priest about murdering the man who sexually assaulted him when he was a child.
Not all groups making predictions at Gold Derby agree that Malek is out front. Our Editors, who cover awards year-round, are leaning a different way. Five of us are forecasting Spacey: O’Neil, Chris Beachum, Marcus James Dixon, Matt Noble and myself. Just two of us say Malek: Sheehan and Rob Licuria.
Our Top 24 Users, who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Emmys, also favor Spacey. Sixteen are predicting the Oscar-winner, compared to seven for Malek and one for Rhys.
Our All-Star Top 24, who got the highest scores when you combine the last two years’ Emmys, also give Spacey the edge, though they foresee a close race. Eleven are predicting Spacey, while 10 are picking Malek. One all-star apiece is betting on Rhys and Odenkirk.
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