When sizing up the Emmy race for Best Drama Actress, I’m not sure I believe the Gold Derby odds and predictions. Claire Foy (“The Crown”) is out front by a mile, according to our official racetrack odds (10/3).
About half of the 2,000 people making predictions at Gold Derby believe she’ll win, Ditto for our Experts. Nine of our 18 pundits pick her to reign. Seven say Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”). Two opt for Keri Russell (“The Americans”).
Two-thirds of our 18 Experts say Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”) will be nominated, but nobody believes she’ll benefit from her recent Oscar victory (“Fences”). But that’s crazy. Two years ago Davis proved to be a winner in this Emmy category where past champs often rebound a year or two after an earlier triumph. Like Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” 2011, 2014) and Edie Falco (“The Sopranos,” 1999, 2011, 2013).
Meantime, let’s not write off an inevitable nominee who’s won twice – Claire Danes (“Homeland,” 25/1 odds) or the ridiculously overdue Robin Wright (“House of Cards,” 15/2 odds), who pulled off an upset at the Golden Globes in 2014.
Also within striking distance: Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”), Christine Baranski (“The Good Fight,” 25/11), Carrie Coon (“The Leftovers,” 40/1), Mandy Moore (“This Is Us,” 40/1) and Taraji P. Henson (“Empire,” 100/1).
Claire Foy is heavily favored because she won the Golden Globe and SAG. Also because she looks like the perfect Made-for-Emmy star. Voters are suckers for ingenues (Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”), especially pretty ones, and anyone who plays British queens named Elizabeth (Helen Mirren in “Elizabeth I,” Glenda Jackson in “Elizabeth R”).
But Foy has drawbacks as a candidate. Maslany didn’t win till the third season of “Orphan Back.” “The Crown” debuted to much fanfare on Netflix last November – that’s a long time ago. Too long? Do we all still bask in the warm glow of her regal performance? Was her role deep enough – emotionally and psychologically – to resonate?
One contender in this race has deafening buzz right now – Elisabeth Moss, thanks to all of the mass gushing going on over “The Handmaid’s Tale.” TV critics adore it. All the cool cats in Hollywood swoon over it. You’re not allowed to dislike it, in fact. The Pop Culture Police are ruthless about that.
Moss delivers the goods up on screen. It’s a powerhouse role that’s multi-faceted: she’s outwardly passive as a handmaid, but we hear her sly inner voice speak up in voiceover. She’s really allowed to let loose emotionally in her flashback scenes – that helps to establish the full range of her acting chops.
It’s starting to become well known around town that Moss has never won. She got skunked six times for “Mad Men” and once for “Top of the Lake.” You often hear people say it: We gotta give Peggy an Emmy already!
But the fact that her handmaid role is outwardly icy could hurt Moss now. Voters like big, brassy, bombastic performances. But it helps that Moss appears so theatrically up on screen in a huge, brooding red robe plus starchy white headdress. Such a loud costume does a lot to make up for a quiet character.
Another possible drawback: “Handmaid” is on a streaming surface, not regular TV. That may not matter, though. Hulu smartly sent the DVDs to the full TV academy early. Now voters in the acting branch vow to watch episodes on line. Will they?
Making a firm prediction now is foolish. Last year nobody predicted the upset in this category by Maslany. How they missed it: the new voting system. Voters no longer rank their favorites on the ballot. They just check off one pick, then the nominee with the most votes wins. That means winners are now chosen by plurality, not consensus. A nominee needs fewer votes to triumph.
That changes everything – as far as us pundits go. Predicting Emmy winners is far more difficult than ever!