Emmys 2020 predictions slugfest: Are Laura Linney (‘Ozark’) and Brian Cox (‘Succession’) the drama lead acting front-runners? [WATCH]

Netflix’s “Ozark” and HBO’s “Succession” are both tied as the most nominated drama series at this year’s Emmys with 18 citations apiece. And according to Gold Derby’s racetrack odds, both are expected to walk home with one lead acting award on September 20: the former for Laura Linney in Best Drama Actress; the latter, Brian Cox in Best Drama Actor. But do we agree with our odds? I recently joined fellow contributors Riley Chow and Kevin Jacobsen to dissect these two uber-competitive races and consider possible challengers to the odds-on favorites (watch the video predictions slugfest above).

In Best Drama Actress, Chow and Jacobsen peg four-time Emmy champ Linney as the front-runner after her character Wendy Byrde took center stage in “Ozark’s” acclaimed third season. Do not underestimate “the power of ‘Fire Pink’,” warns Jacobsen about her episode submission, in which Wendy makes a life-altering, heartrending decision regarding her brother Ben’s (Tom Pelphrey) fate. I, on the other hand, am going out on a limb by forecasting a victory for “Euphoria”’s Zendaya – fourth in our odds – who had to overcome a number of hurdles to snag her career-first bid, including the TV academy’s general apathy toward teen dramas. I conclude, “If there was so much passion to get her the nomination, there might be enough passion to get her the win.”

“I would not be surprised if any of the six nominees won,” Chow, however, admits, with “The Morning Show’s” Jennifer Aniston, “The Crown’s” Olivia Colman and “Killing Eve’s” Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh rounding out the category. All have something working in their favor: Fresh off her Screen Actors Guild Award win, Aniston does a 180 in her anticipated return to TV, on a show that collected five acting citations at the Emmys; a recent Best Actress Academy Award winner for “The Favourite,” Colman won the Golden Globe Award earlier this year for her turn as Queen Elizabeth II, a role that earned her predecessor Claire Foy the Emmy in 2018; the reigning champ in this category, Comer has an episode – her submission, “Are You from Pinner?” – devoted to solely her character Villanelle, new shades of whom the actress gets to show off this season; and Oh, now a 12-time Emmy nominee, is still seeking her inaugural victory.

Over in Best Drama Actor, Jacobsen and I give the edge to Cox’s number-one boy Jeremy Strong, whose character Kendall has a “rooting” and “underdog” factor, Jacobsen says. The actor won the Critics’ Choice Award earlier this year and bagged a Television Critics Association Awards nom for “Successions’” second season, in which Kendall’s “L to the OG” rap and drop-the-mic bombshell in the season finale are among the scenes that allowed Strong to particularly shine. But, “if ‘Succession’ is going to vote-split, the beneficiary is going to be somebody who the ‘Succession’ people would never think to vote for,” Chow, who ranks “The Morning Show’s” Steve Carell at no.1, predicts. Not only is Carell the only nominee who could extend the nine-year trend of the drama actor award going to a performer from a first-year or last-year show, but with 11 bids without a victory, he’s also due for an Emmy.

I, however, warn to watch out for “Ozark” star Jason Bateman, who is also a Best Drama Guest Actor nominee for “The Outsider” and could therefore pull off the highly specific thing Ann Dowd did three years ago: win a main acting race for a show nominated for Best Drama Series while also competing in a guest acting category as a show’s only bid (Dowd won for “The Handmaid’s Tale” in drama supporting actress and contended for “The Leftovers” in guest actress). Rounding out the category are 2017’s winner Sterling K. Brown for “This Is Us” and reigning champ Billy Porter for “Pose,” both of whom turned in searing work in the recent seasons of their respective shows.

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