A couple of days ago, I gave you my selections for who I think should win at the Emmys in the major categories on Sunday night. Today, I give who I think will win, based on guesswork informed by historical patterns of how Emmy voters tend to think when casting their ballots. So if you have an office pool and want to be sure to win it… well, take a look at my picks, then go back and look at my should-wins, and decide for yourself. I’m confident in my choices, but I wouldn’t want you to lose money, either.
Related: The Emmys: Who Should Win
Lead Actor in a Drama:
Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
WILL WIN: Rami Malek. Yes, I do believe the young star of Mr. Robot will defeat his more prominent colleagues. Remember, Emmy voters are basing their support on Mr. Robot’s first, spectacular season — not its second, more problematic one. Malek was, and is, transfixing.
Lead Actress in a Drama:
Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Keri Russell, The Americans
Robin Wright, House of Cards
WILL WIN: ROBIN WRIGHT. I hope Keri Russell pulls a surprise victory, but who can deny that Wright gave a superb performance as a first lady who became every bit as powerful as the president in the past season of House of Cards. Wright’s steely control serves her very well in this role.
Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie:
Bryan Cranston, All the Way
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Idris Elba, Luther
Cuba Gooding Jr., The People v. O.J. Simpson
Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager
Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson
WILL WIN: BRYAN CRANSTON: It’s going to be close between Cranston and Vance (who did an amazing job of playing a showy man — O.J. defense attorney Johnnie Cochran — in an unshowy way), but I think Emmy voters cannot resist rewarding Cranston’s excellent Broadway-show interpretation of LBJ.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie:
Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson
Lili Taylor, American Crime
Kerry Washington, Confirmation
WILL WIN: SARAH PAULSON. If I had to pick one category that’s a lock, it’s this one. Paulson should and will win here, I believe, for her febrile portrayal of prosecutor Marcia Clark. Working with tricky time-period hairdos and a real-life subject who radiated tense control, Paulson managed to make Clark a multidimensional woman onscreen.
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:
Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth
William H. Macy, Shameless
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
WILL WIN: JEFFREY TAMBOR. Tambor is always marvelous in his Transparent role, and deserves all the accolades he receives, including, I’m guessing, another Emmy for this part. But I do wish some new-to-the-winner’s-circle actor will sneak in, either Anderson or Ansari.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Laurie Metcalf, Getting On
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
WILL WIN: JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS. Yes, Louis-Dreyfus has won for her Veep role before. But who can deny that this season she was, if anything, even funnier, in the show’s best season thus far? If anything, Louis-Dreyfus showed even more range this time around; those moments after she lost the election were charged with melancholy drama.
Outstanding Comedy Series:
Master of None
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
WILL WIN: VEEP. It had its funniest season yet, which is really saying something for one of the most riotous, joke-dense comedies around. Perhaps the best current use of an ensemble cast as well, which is really saying something when you look at all the funny people in Silicon Valley, Modern Family, and Transparent.
Outstanding Drama Series:
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
WILL WIN: GAME OF THRONES. This was the season the show outpaced the productivity of author George R.R. Martin, and yet it had what many, including me, consider its best season. I’m not sure there’s a connection there, but I do know that the storytelling was more sleek, the characterizations every bit as vivid, and the narrative momentum charged along at a fast clip — amazing for a show with a story this sprawling.
Outstanding Limited Series:
The Night Manager
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
WILL WIN: THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY. I had a hard time choosing between Fargo and The People v. O.J. To break my inner tie, I tried to imagine an Emmy voter’s mind, and decided that he or she would be more attracted to voting for this unusual stunt that paid off. A reality-based miniseries that worked as a legit drama; a show with a large cast loaded with diverse and fine performances; a huge hit in both ratings and buzz in a town (Hollywood) that prizes ratings and buzz highly. My decision was made.
The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will air on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. on ABC.