Matthew Rhys (‘The Americans’) Emmy upset in the making? Watch out, Sterling, the Russians are coming!

The Americans” had some of its strongest Emmy buzz ever this spring thanks to the acclaim for its series finale, “START,” which aired on May 30. That helped the show break back into the race for Best Drama Series after earning its first nomination in 2016 and falling out in 2017. Now I think it could help Matthew Rhys win Best Drama Actor for the first time.

Granted, “The Americans” didn’t gain too much ground with Emmy voters in its last season. Besides Best Drama Series it’s back in the categories it has competed in for the last two years: Drama Actor for Rhys, Drama Actress for Keri Russell and Drama Writing for Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg. It fell out of Drama Guest Actress, but that was expected: two-time winner Margo Martindale appeared in too many episodes to compete as a guest, and last year’s nominee Alison Wright didn’t appear at all.

But the only additional nomination the show picked up elsewhere was Best Short Form Nonfiction/Reality series for “The Americans: The Final Season.” That doesn’t necessarily indicate a outpouring of new support for the show. But “Friday Night Lights” didn’t need a a huge upswing in nominations when it upset to win Drama Actor (Kyle Chandler) and Drama Writing (Jason Katims) in 2011 for its final season. In fact, “FNL” got exactly the same four nominations in its final season that “The Americans” just got, down to the fact that both shows earned their writing nominations for their creators for penning the series finales.

Rhys could also be helped by the fact that he’s up against two pairs of co-stars, who could split their votes. Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia are both nominated for “This is Us.” They both contended last year as well, and that didn’t stop Brown from prevailing, but Ventimiglia arguably had an even stronger second season, reaching its emotional peak when viewers finally learned the circumstances of his character’s death in the episode “Super Bowl Sunday.”

So Ventimiglia could be the academy’s “This is Us” actor of choice this year, or he could pull just enough support from the defending champ to let a sentimental favorite like Rhys slip through, especially considering that “This is Us” underperformed in acting categories relative to our expectations, missing out on noms for Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz.

Also nominated together are Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris for “Westworld.” The actors branch of the TV academy certainly likes the show: they nominated four of its actors in 2017 (including Wright, who competed as a supporting actor that year) and five actors in 2018. But the show hasn’t won an acting award yet, and Harris wasn’t even nominated last year. Perhaps “Westworld” will be greeted similarly to “Game of Thrones,” which is consistently nominated for acting awards but rarely wins them. However, it’s too early to tell for sure; this could be the year the HBO sci-fi series is showered with acting wins.

Rounding out the category is Jason Bateman (“Ozark”), the only nominee whose show isn’t also up for Best Drama Series. But Bateman is also nominated this year as a director of “Ozark,” which could impress his acting peers enough for him to prevail here.

As of this writing Brown is still the Emmy front-runner with leading odds of 8/13, but Rhys is right behind him with 10/3 odds. Two of the Expert journalists we’ve polled from top media outlets think Rhys will win: Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine) and Ken Tucker (Yahoo). He’s also backed by two Editors who cover awards year-round for Gold Derby, five of the Top 24 Users who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Emmy winners and six of the All-Star Top 24 who got the highest scores when you combine the last two years’ Emmy results.

So watch your back, Sterling. The Russians are coming!

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on September 17. Be sure to also predict winners for the Creative Arts ceremonies slated for September 8 and 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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