Emmys: Will the Drama Actor streak of a new winner finally be broken?

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Every so often, you come across a curious Emmys stat that just grabs your attention. This year, we noticed Emmy voters’ love for variety in one specific category — Best Drama Actor.

In this category, the last eight years have given us eight new, different winners for different shows. They are, in descending order: last year’s winner Lee Jung-jae (“Squid Game”), Josh O’Connor (2021, “The Crown”), Jeremy Strong (2020, “Succession”), Billy Porter (2019, “Pose”), Matthew Rhys (2018, “The Americans”), Sterling K. Brown (2017, “This Is Us”), Rami Malek (2016, “Mr. Robot”), and Jon Hamm (2015, “Mad Men”). Bryan Cranston won in 2014 for “Breaking Bad” — he’d already won for the same show in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

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So, there you have it. That’s a run of eight years where this Emmy has gone to a different performer and a different show. In that timeframe, there has been no overlap in terms of the same actor winning, nor has the same show won for different actors. Complete newness across the board for eight years. Exciting! This may not seem that special but it is when you compare it to all of the other acting categories. Here’s the breakdown:

Lead: In Drama Actress, Zendaya has won two of the last three awards for “Euphoria” (in 2020 and 2022 — Olivia Colman won in between for “The Crown”). In Comedy Actor, Sudeikis has won back-to-back Emmys in the last two years for “Ted Lasso.” Similarly, Jean Smart has won consecutive Comedy Actress Emmys in the past two years for “Hacks.”

Supporting: In Drama Supporting Actor, Peter Dinklage won in 2018 and 2019 for “Game of Thrones;” Julia Garner has won two of the last three Drama Supporting Actress awards for “Ozark” (in 2020 and 2022, with Gillian Anderson winning for “The Crown” in between). Brett Goldstein has won the last two Emmys for Comedy Supporting Actor for “Ted Lasso,” while Alex Borstein won Comedy Supporting Actress in 2018 and 2019 for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Guest: Ron Cephas Jones won Drama Guest Actor in 2018 and 2020 for “This Is Us,” while Drama Guest Actress has overlapped a few times. Firstly, Cherry Jones won consecutive awards in 2019 and 2020 for two different shows — “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Succession,” respectively. Secondly, “The Handmaid’s Tale” won this award three times in a row for three different actresses in 2017 (Alexis Bledel), 2018 (Samira Wiley), and 2019 (Jones). And, thirdly, Margo Martindale won this award back-to-back for “The Americans” in 2015 and 2016. It’s a similar story in Comedy Guest Actor, where “Saturday Night Live” won consecutive awards in 2020 (for Eddie Murphy) and 2021 (for Dave Chappelle). Chappelle also won this award for the same show in 2017. And, last but not least, Comedy Guest Actress went to Maya Rudolph in 2020 and 2021 for “Saturday Night Live.”

So, the longest current streak of variety and “newness” in any of the other acting categories come in Drama Supporting Actor and Comedy Supporting Actress, which are on a streak of three each. Therefore, the eight years of freshness in Drama Actor stands out by itself.

You could also heighten this by including past winners for the same show in this streak and just focusing on different winners rather than new winners. In that case, Drama Actor is on a streak of 13 different winners for different shows. Before Hamm won for “Mad Men” in 2015, Cranston won in 2014 for “Breaking Bad,” Jeff Daniels won in 2013 for “The Newsroom,” Damian Lewis won in 2012 for “Homeland,” and Kyle Chandler won in 2011 for “Friday Night Lights.” Cranston breaks the streak due to his three consecutive wins ending in 2010.

Whereas in other acting categories, they like familiarity, here they really crave variety. But what does that mean for this year’s Best Drama Actor hopefuls?

Well, here’s who we predict will be nominated this year: Jeff Bridges (“The Old Man”), Brian Cox (“Succession”), Kieran Culkin (“Succession”), Pedro Pascal (“The Last of Us”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), and Strong (“Succession”).

Out of these nominees, this track record benefits Bridges, Pascal, and Odenkirk the most. They are all different performers who haven’t won in the last 13 years in this category and neither have their TV shows. The other three are all up for the same show — “Succession,” which won in 2020 for Strong.

Strong is the favorite to win here and, if he did, it would be both the actor and the show doubling up and would break both the eight and 13-year streaks. This curious track record could suggest he’s under threat. The Emmys in the past 13 years (even more so in the last eight) have been very reluctant to give the same winner or show more than one award in this category. If they continue this trend this year, it could spell trouble for Strong but could give his closet competitors, Odenkirk and Pascal, a major boost. Watch out, “Succession.”

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