Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) won Best Drama Actor in 2017, but then lost to Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) in 2018. Rhys is out of the way this year, though, since “The Americans” has ended, so could Brown come back to win more gold? If he does, it would be a rare feat. Only two black actors in Primetime Emmy history have ever won multiple awards as a lead.
The first to do so was Bill Cosby, whose groundbreaking legacy on television now comes with a big fat asterisk. But long before his crimes were widely known he won Best Drama Actor three years in a row for “I Spy” (1966-68). It would take almost 40 years for another black actor to join that club, and it was a man Brown paid tribute to in his own acceptance speech in 2017: Andre Braugher.
“Nineteen years ago, Detective Frank Pembleton won this joint, as impeccably played by Andre Braugher,” said Brown of Braugher’s Best Drama Actor victory for “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1998. “I just want to say whether it’s at Stanford or on this stage, it is my supreme honor to follow in your footsteps.” Braugher won a second lead acting award in 2006 — Best Movie/Mini Actor for “Thief” — so Brown could follow in his footsteps again if he takes home a second Emmy for “This is Us.”
A number of other black actors have won multiple Emmys — including Brown himself, who also won a supporting award for “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” — but none more than once in lead categories. Two won Best Comedy Actor once each: Robert Guillaume (“Benson”) and Donald Glover (“Atlanta”). One other won Best Drama Actor: James Earl Jones (“Gabriel’s Fire”). Two others won Best Movie/Mini Actor: Louis Gossett Jr. (“Roots”) and Courtney B. Vance (“People v. O.J. Simpson”).
Among black women, only one has won Best Comedy Actress: Isabel Sanford (“The Jeffersons”). One won Best Drama Actress: Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”). And six won Best Movie/Mini Actress: Cicely Tyson (“The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman”), Lynn Whitfield (“The Josephine Baker Story”), Alfre Woodard (“Miss Evers’ Boys”), Halle Berry (“Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”), S. Epatha Merkerson (“Lackawanna Blues”) and Regina King (“Seven Seconds”).
As of this writing Brown ranks fourth in our Best Drama Actor predictions with 6/1 odds based on the combined predictions of thousands of Gold Derby users, but one of the Expert TV journalists we’ve polled, Eric Deggans (NPR), says Brown will take back his title and join this elite club. And since he’s the only past drama actor winner among our top six predicted contenders in the category, Deggans might be right that we’re underestimating him. Do you think he has a better shot than we’re giving him credit for?
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 nominations are announced on July 16. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.