Billy Porter is the defending champion for Best Drama Actor at the Emmys. He stars in “Pose” as ballroom emcee Pray Tell, and his victory was a historic first in that category for a queer Black actor playing a queer character. And he could pull off another feat if he wins again in 2020: he would be the first back-to-back Best Drama Actor winner since Bryan Cranston‘s “Breaking Bad” threepeat from 2008 to 2010 (Cranston won a fourth in 2014 too). And he would be the first Black actor to win this category multiple times in more than half a century.
In addition to a lack of back-to-back winners, the last 10 years of Best Drama Actor has also been marked by an unusual trend: every winner since Cranston’s 2010 victory has prevailed for the first or last season of his show. Five won in their debut years: Damian Lewis (“Homeland,” 2012), Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom,” 2013), Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot,” 2016), Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us,” 2017) and Porter (2019). The other four won for their swan songs: Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights,” 2011), Cranston (2014), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men,” 2015) and Matthew Rhys (“The Americans,” 2018). So Porter would end that trend too if he wins for the sophomore year of “Pose.”
Only five Black performers have won Best Drama Actor over the course of Emmy history, but most of them have been one-timers. James Earl Jones (“Gabriel’s Fire,” 1991), Andre Braugher (“Homicide: Life on the Street,” 1998), the aforementioned Brown (“This is Us”) and Porter have won single prizes. The only multiple winner was Bill Cosby, who claimed three in a row for “I Spy” from 1966 to 1968, and boy would it be nice to have a different example to cite in this regard. Brown and Porter are both eligible again this year, so either of them could pull it off.
But repeating for either of them might be tough. According to our latest racetrack odds, which are based on the combined predictions of Gold Derby users, both Porter and Brown will be nominated, but it’s a crowded race where we’re currently favoring Golden Globe winner Brian Cox (“Succession”) for the title. The good news for Porter and Brown, though, is that we’re also predicting a nomination for Cox’s co-star Jeremy Strong, so vote-splitting could open the door for other actors.
Will Porter be the first to take home back-to-back kudos in a decade?
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