There’s a wide variety of great roles for lead actresses in this age of peak TV, and this year’s drama Emmy nominations prove that. Emilia Clarke is living out her best fantasy in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” while Mandy Moore tugs at the heartstrings on NBC’s “This Is Us.” Robin Wright on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” Viola Davis on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” and Laura Linney on Netflix’s “Ozark” are the ultimate in power, a reminder that antiheroes aren’t only male. And then there’s Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh on BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” mixing all of those elements together in one wild ride. Among the nominees, only Linney and Davis are previous Emmy winners, opening the door to a first-timer finally making it on the stage next month. There are clear frontrunners to this year’s lead actress race, but this is another category where the candidates are all worthy, and anything could very well happen.
The Case for Laura Linney
If history is any guide, don’t bet against Linney at the Emmys. The actress has won four out of the five times she’s previously been nominated: in 2013 (lead limited series/TV movie actress for “The Big C: Hereafter”), 2008 (lead limited series/TV movie actress for “John Adams”), 2004 (guest comedy actress for “Frasier”) and 2002 (lead limited series/TV movie actress for “Wild Iris”). In Season 2 of “Ozark,” it’s Linney’s character, Wendy Byrde, who perhaps evolves the most: Going from a character still grappling with the morality of what she and Marty (Jason Bateman) are doing, to taking control and essentially, to borrow the title of another series, “breaking bad.” If Oh and Comer do split the “Killing Eve” vote, there’s a good chance that Academy favorite Linney could break through.
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The Case for Sandra Oh
The past 12 months have easily been the year of Oh. The “Killing Eve” star was nominated in 2018 for lead drama actress. She ultimately lost the trophy to Claire Foy (“The Crown”) but was still a big winner on Emmy night: Her chemistry with fellow presenter Andy Samberg led to a gig co-hosting the Golden Globes in January, when she won for drama actress. Oh also hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live,” and the momentum has been building since. If she wins, Oh would become the first actress of Asian descent to take the top prize. Oh is nominated this year opposite her co-star, and the two could potentially cancel each other out. But Oh has quite a bit of good will with TV Academy members, and “Killing Eve” saw its viewership grow in Season 2, and her character also grew stronger as her original cat-and-mouse game escalated while also taking on a new assassin. This could be the year Oh makes Emmy history.