Emmy experts predict Best Drama Actor: Sterling K. Brown (‘This Is Us’) will be first black actor to win since Andre Braugher

If our Emmy experts are correct, Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) will be the first black actor to win Best Drama Actor in 19 years, since Andre Braugher (“Homicide: Life on the Street”) prevailed back in 1998. Brown plays breakout character Randall Pearson on NBC’s hit family drama, who as a baby was adopted by his white family. “This Is Us” doesn’t shy away from the racial storyline, particularly in flashbacks when his parents, played by Emmy contenders Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, are raising younger versions of Randall. Brown just took home an Emmy last year for the limited series “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” so will he now win a bookend trophy for “This Is Us”?

As of this writing 20 journalists have made their predictions at Gold Derby, and these eight believe that Brown will triumph on Emmy night: Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Lynette Rice (Entertainment Weekly), Robert Rorke (New York Post), Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Ken Tucker (Yahoo) and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed). While it’s been nearly two decades since Braugher won, it’s actually been 16 years since an African-American star was even nominated as Best Drama Actor — once again Braugher, though for “Gideon’s Crossing” (2001).

However, six of our Emmy experts predict that Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) will be the category’s winner for playing Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman on the just-renewed AMC legal drama. They are: Michael Ausiello (TV Line), Eric Deggans (NPR), Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood), Adnan Virk (ESPN) and Glenn Whipp (Los Angeles Times).

Though he lost both of his acting Emmys so far for “Better Call Saul,” Odenkirk did win a pair of Best Variety Writing trophies for “Saturday Night Live” (1989) and “The Ben Stiller Show” (1993). During the “Breaking Bad” days, Odenkirk watched as Bryan Cranston won a record-tying four Emmys (2008-2010, 2014) as Best Drama Actor. Now that Odenkirk has taken his character from “Breaking Bad” to spinoff series “Better Call Saul,” is he poised to follow in Cranston’s footsteps?

Last year’s Best Drama Actor champ Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) comes in next with four Emmy seers forecasting he’ll win back-to-back trophies: Lynn Elber (Associated Press), Bonnie Fuller (Hollywood Life), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post) and Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby). Malek, who plays antisocial tech wiz Elliot Alderson on the USA drama, became one of the category’s youngest winners when he prevailed at the age of 35. As we know, Emmy voters love reruns in this category so Malek could be the ninth repeat champion.

And the final two prognosticators — Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes) and Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) — predict that Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) will prevail. A surprise nominee last year, Rhys shouldn’t be a shocker this time around as “The Americans” concluded its fifth season to rave reviews on FX. If Emmy voters fall even harder for the topical Russian spy drama this year, Rhys could easily take home the gold for playing conflicted agent Philip Jennings.

None of the pundits are currently predicting Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”) to prevail, but 14 out of 20 think he’ll be nominated again for playing the duplicitous President Underwood on the Netflix series. Spacey actually has a combined eight losses so far for “House of Cards”: four for Best Drama Actor and four for Best Drama Series as a producer. Will the fact that the new season debuted at the tail-end of Emmy eligibility help Spacey stay top-of-mind with voters?

Seven Emmy experts believe that Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”) will earn a nomination for playing Dr. Robert Ford, the puppet-master of the western theme park filled with humanistic robots. Remember, Hopkins is an Oscar champ for “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), something that never hurts with TV academy members as there is much cache to having an Oscar winner standing on their Emmy stage.

Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”), who’s already earned back-to-back bids in this race for his Showtime drama, is next in line with five journalists forecasting he’ll return to the category. “Ray Donovan” is on the rise with Emmy voters, earning multiple nominations last year including its first-ever victory for Hank Azaria as Best Drama Guest Actor. The film star also reaped a nom as Best Movie/Mini Actor for “RKO 281” (2000).

Four prognosticators think that Billy Bob Thornton (“Goliath”) will be recognized for taking on the role of Billy McBride, a former high-powered attorney whose career makes an ugly turn. Thornton, a previous nominee for “Fargo” (2014), has a secret weapon for his freshman Amazon series: David E. Kelley. The veteran TV writer and producer has helped 30 different performers win Emmys over the past few decades, which bodes well for Thornton’s chances.

Another four of our Emmy gurus are backing a nomination for Brown’s co-star Ventimiglia, who plays father Jack Pearson on “This Is Us.” This would be Ventimiglia’s first Emmy notice after years starring on watercooler TV shows like “Gilmore Girls” and “Heroes.” Will voters nominate Ventimiglia and Brown together in this category, making them the seventh duo in the past 30 years honored for the same show?

Rounding out the most likely Best Drama Actor contenders, the following pair of men all have the support of three experts apiece to earn a Best Drama Actor nomination: Paul Giamatti (“Billions”), a former Emmy champ for “John Adams” (2008) and an Oscar nominee for “Cinderella Man” (2005); and Ian McShane (“American Gods”), who earned a 2005 bid in this race back in the “Deadwood” days. Meanwhile, Dan Stevens (“Legion”) and Justin Theroux (“The Leftovers”) are both picked by two experts.

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. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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