Emmy Predictions: Lead Actor in a Drama Series – Regé-Jean Page and ‘Bridgerton’ Build Momentum Going Into June

Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Emmys ceremonies from film awards editor Clayton Davis. Following history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Emmy predictions are updated regularly with the current year's list of contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. The eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and is subject to change.

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UPDATED: May 30, 2021

AWARDS PREDICTION COMMENTARYRegé-Jean Page became the “it” man of the year, getting and keeping people talking since December 2020, when the Shondaland-produced Netflix series dropped. With the news (tragedy?) that he won’t be returning for the second season, this will be the Academy’s only shot to reward Page for his dynamic portrayal of the surprisingly deep and vulnerable Duke Simon Basset. He may be the one sure nod “Bridgerton” can expect on nomination morning.

Critics Choice and Golden Globes recognized Josh O’Connor’s work in the fourth season of “The Crown,” when he went lead for the first time as Prince Charles. Like Majors, his layered work on the Netflix royal family period is tied to Emma Corrin’s, his constant scene partner’s. She is a shoo-in for a nom, and so too does he appear to be. As a bonus, his show is undoubtedly the frontrunner for drama series, and that will keep him near the top of the pack.

Billy Porter broke huge ground when he won this Emmy for the first season of FX’s ballroom culture period piece: He became only the fifth Black actor and the first who is openly gay ever to win the category. Now eligible for the final season for playing Pray Tell, voters may feel inclined to dip into the pond one final time (until his next great role comes along).

HBO’s “Perry Mason” prequel may feel like it aired a million years ago (thanks, pandemic), but that may not stop Matthew Rhys from seeing the love. After all, his previous series, FX’s “The Americans” was a criminally underseen show, and he still managed three nominations, winning for the final season. He has the respect of his peers, so he could get a default slot on industry respect alone.

Fresh off a breakout year that included a standout performance in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” one of 2020’s Variety’s Actors to Watch, Jonathan Majors took the TV world by storm in the HBO drama that was a hit in the middle of the pandemic. Unfortunately overlooked at the Golden Globes and individual SAG Awards acting category, the TV Academy now has the chance to celebrate him, solo, for the first time. And as his co-star Jurnee Smollett is also a contender in lead drama actress, they may become a package deal when voting.

Julliard-trained Anthony Mackie has not been given the due he deserves in Hollywood, in both television and film. He was snubbed at the Oscars for “The Hurt Locker,” and had outstanding turns in “Black Mirror” and “Altered Carbon” passed over by the Television Academy. Showcasing a palpable depth and connection for Disney’s superhero series, though, he may be closer to recognition in this dynamic year.

Alongside his co-star Mackie, Sebastian Stan’s work as Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. Winter Soldier, is a fan favorite. And as the TV Academy begins to explore new genres and performers, you never know what the combined powers of Disney and Marvel can do in the persuasion department.

The eligibility period ends on May 31 before nomination-round voting begins on June 17, concluding on June 28. The Primetime Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, 2021.

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  1. Billy Porter
    "Pose" (FX)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Two nominations, one win (lead actor in a drama series for "Pose" in 2019)
    ROLE: Pray Tell

    CREATORS: Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: Drama spotlighting the legends, icons and ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture, a movement that first gained notice in the late 1980s.
    STARRING: Billy Porter, Mj Rodriguez, Jason Rodriguez, Dyllón Burnside, Angel Bismark Curiel, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar, Sandra Bernhard

  2. Josh O'Connor
    "The Crown" (Netflix)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Prince Charles

    CREATOR: Peter Morgan
    SYNOPSIS: Follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II's reign and the events that shaped the second half of the twentieth century.
    STARRING: Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson, Josh O'Connor, Emma Corrin, Marion Bailey, Erin Doherty, Stephen Boxer, Emerald Fennell

  3. Regé-Jean Page
    "Bridgerton" (Netflix)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Simon Basset

    CREATOR: Chris Van Dusen
    SYNOPSIS: Wealth, lust, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Regency-era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.
    STARRING: Adjoa Andoh, Lorraine Ashbourne, Jonathan Bailey, Ruby Barker, Sabrina Bartlett, Harriet Cains, Bessie Carter, Nicola Coughlan, Phoebe Dynevor, Ruth Gemmell, Florence Hunt, Claudia Jessie, Ben Miller, Luke Newton, Regé-Jean Page, Golda Rosheuvel, Luke Thompson, Will Tilston, Polly Walker, Julie Andrews

  4. Sterling K. Brown
    "This Is Us" (NBC)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Seven nominations, two wins (supporting actor in a limited series or a movie for "American Crime Story" in 2016 and lead actor in a drama series for "This Is Us" in 2017)
    ROLE: Randall Pearson

    CREATOR: Dan Fogelman
    SYNOPSIS: A heartwarming and emotional story about a unique set of triplets, their struggles and their wonderful parents.
    STARRING: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, Jon Huertas, Alexadra Breckenridge, Niles Fitch, Logan Shroyer, Hannah Zeile, Mackenzie Hancsicsak, Parker Bates, Eris Baker, Faithe Herman, Lonnie Chavis, Melanie Liburd, Lyric Ross, Asante Blackk, Griffin Dunne, Caitlin Thompson

  5. Matthew Rhys
    "Perry Mason" (HBO)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Four nominations, one win (lead actor in a drama series for "The Americans" in 2018)
    ROLE: Perry Mason

    CREATOR: Rolin Jones, Ron Fitzgerald
    SYNOPSIS: In booming 1932 Los Angeles, a down-and-out defense attorney takes on the case of a lifetime.
    STARRING: Matthew Rhys, Juliet Rylance, Chris Chalk, Shea Whigham, Tatiana Maslany, John Lithgow

  6. Jonathan Majors
    "Lovecraft Country" (HBO)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Atticus Freeman

    CREATOR: Misha Green
    SYNOPSIS: A young African-American travels across the U.S. in the 1950s in search of his missing father.
    STARRING: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. Vance, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee, Jamie Chung, Jada Harris, Michael K. Williams

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Courtesy of Apple


  1. Pedro Pascal
    "The Mandalorian" (Disney Plus)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: The Mandalorian

    CREATOR: Jon Favreau
    SYNOPSIS: The travels of a lone bounty hunter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.
    STARRING: Pedro Pascal, Amy Sedaris, Temuera Morrison, Misty Rosas, Mercedes Varnado, Katee Sachhoff, Giancarlo Esposito, Gina Carano, Omid Abtahi, Ming-Na Wen

  2. Joseph Fiennes
    "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)
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    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination (supporting actor in a drama series for "The Handmaid's Tale" in 2018)
    ROLE: Fred Waterford

    CREATOR: Bruce Miller
    SYNOPSIS: Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.
    STARRING: Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel, Max Minghella, O-T Fagbenie, Samira Wiley, Nina Kiri, Alexis Bledel, Bahia Watson, Bradley Whitford

  3. Anthony Mackie
    "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" (Disney Plus)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Sam Wilson / Falcon

    CREATOR: Malcolm Spellman
    SYNOPSIS: Following the events of 'Avengers: Endgame,' Sam Wilson/Falcon and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier team up in a global adventure that tests their abilities -- and their patience.
    STARRING: Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Danny Ramirez, Georges St-Pierre, Adepero Oduye, Don Cheadle, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Florence Kasumba, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

  4. Justin Theroux
    "The Mosquito Coast" (Apple TV Plus)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Two nominations, two wins (outstanding variety special-live in 2019 and 2020)
    ROLE: Allie Fox

    CREATOR: Neil Cross
    SYNOPSIS: An idealist uproots his family and moves them to Latin America.
    STARRING: Justin Theroux, Melissa George, Logan Polish, Gabriel Bateman, Kimberly Elise, James LeGros

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Danno Nell


  1. Sebastian Stan
    "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" (Disney Plus)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier

    CREATOR: Malcolm Spellman
    SYNOPSIS: Following the events of 'Avengers: Endgame,' Sam Wilson/Falcon and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier team up in a global adventure that tests their abilities -- and their patience.
    STARRING: Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Danny Ramirez, Georges St-Pierre, Adepero Oduye, Don Cheadle, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Florence Kasumba, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

  2. Christopher Meloni
    "Law & Order: Organized Crime" (NBC)
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    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination (lead actor in a drama series for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" in 2006)
    ROLE: Elliot Stabler

    CREATOR: Dick Wolf, Ilene Chaiken, Matt Olmstead
    SYNOPSIS: Elliot Stabler returns to the NYPD to battle organized crime after a devastating personal loss.
    STARRING: Christopher Meloni, Danielle Moné Truitt, Tamara Taylor, Ainsley Seiger, Dylan McDermott

  3. Freddie Highmore
    "The Good Doctor" (ABC)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Dr. Shaun Murphy

    CREATOR: David Shore
    SYNOPSIS: Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and Savant syndrome, is recruited into the surgical unit of a prestigious hospital.
    STARRING: Freddie Highmore, Antonia Thomas, Richard Schiff, Hill Harper, Christina Chang, Paige Spara, Will Yun Lee, Fiona Gubelmann

  4. Forest Whitaker
    "Godfather of Harlem" (Epix)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Three nominations, one win (outstanding made for television movie for "Door to Door" in 2003)
    ROLE: Ellsworth 'Bumpy' Johnson

    CREATOR: Chris Brancato, Paul Eckstein
    SYNOPSIS: A gangster named Bumpy Johnson makes his way in Harlem during the 1960s. A TV prequel to the 2007 film, 'American Gangster', which centered on the criminal enterprise of Frank Lucas.
    STARRING: Forest Whitaker, Nigel Thatch, Ilfenesh Hadera, Lucy Fry, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Vincent D'Onofrio, Erik LaRay Harvey, Giancarlo Esposito

  5. Kevin Costner
    "Yellowstone" (Paramount)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: John Dutton

    CREATOR: Taylor Sheridan, John Linson
    SYNOPSIS: A ranching family in Montana faces off against others encroaching on their land..
    STARRING: Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Brecken Merrill, Jefferson White, Gil Birmingham, Ian Bohen

  6. Kevin Bacon
    "City on a Hill" (Showtime)
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    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination (lead actor in a mini-series or a movie for "Taking Chance" in 2009)
    ROLE: Jackie Rohr

    CREATOR: Chuck MacLean
    SYNOPSIS: In early 1990s Boston, ADA Decourcy Ward forms an unlikely alliance with a corrupt venerated FBI veteran, Jackie Rohr. Together, they take on a case that changes the city's entire criminal justice system.
    STARRING: Kevin Bacon, Aldis Hodge, Jonathan Tucker, Mark O'Brien, Lauren E. Banks, Amanda Clayton, Jere Shea, Kevin Chapman, Jill Hennessy

  7. Jack Dylan Grazer
    "We Are Who We Are" (HBO)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Fraser Wilson

    CREATORS: Sean Conway, Paolo Giordano, Luca Guadagnino, Francesca Manieri
    SYNOPSIS: Two American teenagers come of age while living on an American military base in Italy.
    STARRING: Chloë Sevigny, Jack Dylan Grazer, Alice Braga, Jordan Kristine Seamón, Spence Moore II, Scott Mescudi, Faith Alabi, Francesca Scorsese, Ben Taylor, Corey Knight, Tom Mercier

  8. Damson Idris
    "Snowfall" (FX)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Franklin Saint

    CREATOR: John Singleton, Eric Amadio, Dave Andron
    SYNOPSIS: A look at the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles during the beginning of the 1980s.
    STARRING: Damson Idris, Carter Hudson, Emily Rios, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Michael Hyatt, Amin Joseph, Angela Lewis, Juan Javier Cardenas, Isaiah John, Filipe Valle Costa, Alon Aboutboul, Malcolm Mays, Marcus Henderson, Kevin Carroll

  9. Antony Starr
    "The Boys" (Amazon Prime Video)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: John / Homelander

    CREATOR: Eric Kripke
    SYNOPSIS: A group of vigilantes set out to take down corrupt superheroes who abuse their superpowers.
    STARRING: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford, Tomer Capon, Karen Fukuhara, Nathan Mitchell, Elisabeth Shue, Colby Minifie, Aya Cash

  10. Nicholas Pinnock
    "For Life" (ABC)
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    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Aaron Wallace

    CREATOR: Hank Steinberg
    SYNOPSIS: A prisoner becomes a lawyer and fights to overturn his life sentence for a crime he didn't commit.
    STARRING: Nicholas Pinnock, Indira Varma, Joy Bryant, Mary Stuart Masterson, Dorian Crossmond Missick, Tyla Harris, Glenn Fleshler, Boris McGiver, Timothy Busfield, John Doman

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AWARDS CATEGORY HISTORY (Lead Actor in a Drama Series)

The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known simply as the Emmys, is television’s most prestigious artistic award. There are many records held for both wins and nominations in the near eight decades.

For wins: Bryan Cranston (AMC’s “Breaking Bad”) and Dennis Franz (ABC’s “NYPD Blue”) hold the record for the most wins in this category with four, with the former winning three consecutively and the latter two. Five actors have won three times — Bill Cosby, Peter Falk, James Gandolfini, James Spader and Robert Young.

For nominations: Four actors have been nominated in this category eight times – Raymond Burr, Peter Falk, Dennis Franz and Jon Hamm. James Garner has the second most nods with seven. Michael C. Hall, Hugh Laurie, Martin Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland have the most nominations at six, without winning (although Sheen has won an Emmy for guest actor in a comedy series for “Murphy Brown” in 1994).

“NYPD Blue” has the leading series to have nominations in this category with 14, followed by “St. Elsewhere” at 10 and “Columbo,” “Law & Order” and “Mad Men” at eight apiece.

2021 Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

About the Primetime Emmy Awards (Emmys)

The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known as the Emmys, is given out by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS). Since 1949, the awards recognize excellence in American primetime television programming. They are divided into three classes – Primetime Emmy Awards, the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards (honors artisan achievements) and the Primetime Engineering Emmy Awards (recognizes significant engineering and technological contributions). The typical eligibility period is between June 1 and May 31 of any given year. The Television Academy comprises over 25,000 members, representing 30 professional peer groups, including performers, directors, producers, art directors and various artisans and executives.

  • The 73rd Emmy Awards are scheduled to air on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8:00 pm est on CBS and on-demand on sister streamer Paramount Plus.