Emmy Experts Typing: Can anyone stop Emma Corrin from reigning over Best Drama Actress?

Welcome to Emmy Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Emmy race — via Slack, of course. This week, we wonder if Best Drama Actress is a tighter race than it looks.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s Friday, the Summer Olympics have started, and while we’ll never be royals what better time than now to discuss Best Actress in a Drama Series at the Emmy Awards, where a princess is poised to reign over the competition. According to our odds, Emma Corrin is the overwhelming pick to win Best Actress for playing Princess Diana on “The Crown.” But while this has long seemed like a kind of Jean Smart-y blowout, I wonder if this sneaky competitive category will give us an unexpected winner on Emmys night. At the moment, Mj Rodriguez, who made history as the first trans woman nominated for Best Actress in a Drama, is the top runner-up here for the final season of “Pose.” Close behind her is past winner Elisabeth Moss for a resurgent season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Corrin’s “Crown” ruler, Olivia Colman, is locked into the fourth spot. But it would be fairly easy to make a case for any of those actresses, not to mention Uzo Aduba and Jurnee Smollett, the category’s ostensible long-shot nominees. What I’m saying is that Corrin’s ascension to the throne may not be as locked into place as one might think. Not that we’ve altered from the narrative: both of us have Corrin winning here, although I was on Moss immediately after the nominations and still think she could snag an upset win. There’s also a really strong case to be made for Rodriguez, whose work on “Pose” throughout its lauded run was remarkable. What do you think? Is this just me tying myself in knots trying to pick against the grain, or do we have a legitimate race on our hands?

joyceeng: This category is as lit as the Olympic flame, so let’s hope it doesn’t extinguish after 17 days. Corrin is still very much the frontrunner, and for good reason, but, yes, I agree that this is a closer race than meets the eye. Of course, we will never know how close it was unless Corrin loses, but that’s part of the fun. I too contemplated putting Moss or Rodriguez in first before defaulting to Corrin for now. Rodriguez is sending strong vibes as one of those cases where getting the nomination is the harder part than the win. She’s always had passionate fans of her performance and perhaps she had been missing out by a slot or two for the first two seasons, and she got some luck this year with so many shows delayed. “Pose” also broke into writing and directing for the first time and returned to the series lineup. If she wins, I don’t even know how much of it would be the historic narrative because her supporters could also feel like they finally have a chance (and the last one at that) to vote for her for her series-long work on the show. Any “Handmaid’s” fan will tell you that Moss gave her best performance on the show this season — and voters were clearly watching, what with its 21 nominations — and she arguably has the showiest and most material of the nominees. (She could also exact revenge on “The Crown.”) Those are the consensus top three, but I would not be shocked if Aduba somehow took this. They love her, she’s won three out of four times in three genres (albeit two were for the same show), and her personal success at the Emmys has always been independent of her shows’ success or lack thereof. Are we sleeping too much on Uzo?

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Christopher Rosen: It would be foolish to count Aduba out. Of her four nominations before this year, she nabbed three wins — including last year for in Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series for “Mrs. America” in a category many people had pegged Jean Smart to capture (guilty). But I just don’t think “In Treatment” is the one, no matter how great her submission episode is and regardless of how much the Television Academy rightfully loves and respects Aduba as a performer. I’d argue “In Treatment” very much underperformed here: in a weak year for drama series, it couldn’t grab an nomination and its very worthy cast of supporting stars (including “Hamilton” Emmy nominee Anthony Ramos) were shut out. To me, that means the nomination here is its own reward — but your bullishness on her is not entirely misplaced. She’s probably ahead of Colman, who isn’t really campaigning or even expecting to win here — instead ceding her territory to Corrin. Who, let’s be honest, does remain in the driver’s seat. And let’s talk about her here, since she is the favorite. If the Emmys were held in February, she would have been a no-doubt winner on my imaginary ballot. (Television Academy, hit me up! I’d be a good member — “Gossip Girl” reboot and “Never Have I Ever” Season 2 clean sweeps in 2022.) But again, “The Crown” is a distant memory at this point and I think that’s allowed Moss and Rodriguez, both of whom shined in projects this year, to take up some of the oxygen. But Corrin is incredible as Princess Diana — a relative unknown playing a relative unknown who becomes a global sensation. It’s an incredible performance that blends mimicry on par with absolute witchcraft (how does she look and sound so much like Diana?) with true craft and it has the added heft of being a huge part of “The Crown.” I think in the end that matters, because if voters are checking out Josh O’Connor and the other acting nominees from the show, they’ll inevitably run into a scene of Corrin crushing it. What do you think, are we just looking for an excuse when the obvious ruler is in front all along?

joyceeng: Not to completely derail this typing, but we need to mount an aggressive campaign for “Never Have I Ever” next year, especially for my dear John McEnroe in narrator since everyone rudely ignored my plea last year. Anyway, drama actress. Funnily enough, I never seriously considered anyone else for “In Treatment” beyond Aduba (no offense to John Benjamin Hickey and Ramos) or for the show to make series. It just kinda felt like it came too late with a low profile and there were so many episodes to keep up with (remember the original that aired five days a week?) that it was mainly an Aduba play, which bore out. Corrin is having a “star is born” moment that, if the script follows, ought to culminate with her Emmy coronation (#sorrynotsorry). I don’t think we’re looking for excuses but reacting to data, which is that both “Pose” and “Handmaid’s” did better in nominations than expected. Like I said, I think she’s still the favorite. It helps that her show is the series frontrunner, her show has won drama actress before, and she’d fit the recent trend of young winners in this category. Jodie Comer became the category’s youngest winner two years ago at 26 and then Zendaya immediately dethroned her last year at 24. At 25, Corrin would be the second youngest champ. The kids are all right? That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing a former drama actress champ — Moss, in this case, as she’s the only one — win again. I know repeat wins are boring to some people, and they especially stick in your craw if your favorite continues to lose to the same person, but I feel like if you consistently do great work over the course of series, why shouldn’t you be rewarded more than once? This category has not had a multiple champ since Julianna Margulies won her second Emmy for “The Good Wife” in 2014, which, incidentally, was also the final year of the tape system. Margulies was also not nominated the year before, just like how Moss wasn’t last year. You said you briefly considered Moss. What if she pulled a Jules and went from snubbee to winner again?

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Christopher Rosen: To keep this a little derailed before getting to your question: Not only should McEnroe get in there next year for narration, but I’d mount a serious campaign Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in the Best Actress in a Comedy Series category. Next year has nothing to do with this year, of course, but if “Never Have I Ever” Season 2 was eligible, I’d have her ranked third among this group of comedy actress nominees. She’s incredible, full-stop! Legendary performance. But yes, back to the matter at hand instead of hope-dicting future nominations that probably won’t happen: Moss is a true contender. I had her at the top immediately after the nominations because of what you said: she’s past winner in a resurgent show that over-performed. Plus, Moss directed three episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” this year and that doesn’t matter to her acting except for the fact that it does make for a really compelling narrative. I’m not entirely convinced voters will come back to “The Handmaid’s Tale” in full — and, truthfully, with more seasons remaining in that show, they don’t really have any reason to at this point. That brings me back to Corrin and Rodriguez — this is the only year voters will be able to reward them for these roles. And I just think because of its overall juice that “The Crown” will wind up stickier than “Pose.” So, it’s Corrin for me in the end — but talk to me in three weeks and we’ll see if I’m still so certain.

joyceeng: This is now a “Never Have I Ever” stan account. We’re talking so much about Rodriguez’s and Moss’ upset potential that we haven’t even mentioned a key point, which is that it’s easier for upsets and surprise wins to happen if there is one clear alternative to the frontrunner. We’re talking about two here, and there’s a faction that believes Rodriguez is in second and there’s a camp backing Moss in No. 2, which is good news for ostensible No. 1 Corrin. So for now it is hard to go against a… Corrination. (That one’s really bad, I’ll show myself out.)

Emmy odds for Best Drama Actress
Emma Corrin is out front

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