God save the queen! I knew Claire Foy (“The Crown”) would win Best Drama Actress at the Emmys. I’ve known it for weeks, even though it looked like a real race to the finish line between Foy, Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”) and incumbent Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”). The show as a whole over-performed this year, also taking Best Drama Directing for Stephen Daldry (for the episode “Paterfamilias”) and winning three last weekend at the Creative Arts Emmys for its casting, costumes and cinematography, bringing its grand total to five.
Foy was an obvious choice for me. Most tellingly, back in January she triumphed at the SAG Awards for the second year in a row. Moss was the only other nominee from that event who also scored a nomination in this category at the Emmys this year, and industry actors at that event loved Foy enough to bypass Moss and hand her a second consecutive trophy. Perhaps Foy might’ve won last year at the Emmys too if “Handmaid’s” hadn’t been such a first-year juggernaut and Moss such an overdue contender after multiple nominations and losses for “Mad Men.”
Then a couple of months after the SAG Awards “The Crown” became embroiled in an equal-pay controversy after it was revealed that co-star (and eventual Best Drama Supporting Actor nominee) Matt Smith was paid more than Foy for their two seasons of work on the show. The industry might have remembered this, handing Foy an Emmy for her trouble while Hollywood continues to grapple with the gender pay gap and the other controversies driving the #MeToo movement.
After Emmy nominations were announced in July the Best Drama Actress race shaped up to be a very strong field without an obvious front-runner. 2006 winner Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) as well as Foy and Oh were considered serious threats to take the Emmy from Moss, while Keri Russell nabbed her third and final nom for “The Americans” and Evan Rachel Wood returned with her second bid for her lauded work on “Westworld.” With such a divided field, perhaps it only took a few extra votes or a particularly strong faction of support (such as, for example, the ever-expanding Netflix camp) to tip Foy over the edge.
On top of all that, Foy chose very wisely for her Emmy episode submission. Since the Emmys expanded voting to allow all members of the actors branch to vote in all acting categories, as opposed to the former system with small, restricted judging panels, episode submissions haven’t had as much influence over the winners. The races are now effectively popularity contests. But Emmy voters are still made aware of the episodes submitted for consideration, and must attest to watching them before marking their ballots.
Foy submitted “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” arguably the best episode of season two, revolving around US President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy‘s tour of Buckingham Palace. As Queen Elizabeth II struggles with self-doubt when comparing herself against America’s royalty, Foy perfectly demonstrates the emotional range, impact and empathy — plus ample screen time — that attracts votes in the acting races.
Another factor that tipped Foy over the edge was that this was her last chance. Like fellow nominees Russell and Maslany, who contended for shows that wrapped their final seasons, Foy has left “The Crown.” Next season the entire cast — including Foy and fellow nominees Smith and Vanessa Kirby — will be replaced with a new ensemble as the show explores the next era in the characters’ lives. Olivia Colman is taking over Foy’s role as the Queen, so Elizabeth’s Emmy reign might not be over even though Foy’s now is. Colman for Emmy 2019 — who’s with me?
And now on to another big awards show for your predictions! Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.