It’s been a strange year. And it’s going to get even stranger when the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, airing on ABC this Sunday, go virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. But even though the telecast will be different, and even though we won’t be able to drool over hunky actors in exceptionally tailored suits as they walk the red carpet, we can still predict who will win at the 2020 Emmys.
All eyes will likely be on the limited series category this year, what with HBO’s Watchmen having dominated with 26 nominations and becoming more relevant by the second. But the comedy race is also pretty exciting; Schitt’s Creek jumped from four nods last year to 15 this year, and because this is the final year the show is eligible, it could possibly sweep. And on the drama side of things, Succession has also been a runaway success, scoring a whopping 18 nominations, nine of which are in the acting categories. With one show dominating each of the three areas, it’s hard to believe there was room for anyone else, but there was.
Check out our predictions below for who will win on Sunday, as well as who you should watch out for, because even if we think we know how Emmy voters think, they never fail to surprise us.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
Who will win: Jim Parsons, Hollywood
Don’t bet against Jim Parsons when it comes to the Emmys, folks. The Big Bang Theory star took home four statuettes during the CBS show’s long run, and while that doesn’t guarantee success for his performance in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series, it’s possible Watchmen will split the vote and allow Parsons to swoop in on name recognition and goodwill.
Watch out for: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen
Having said all that about Jim Parsons, you would be absolutely insane to count out the incredible Black actors of Watchmen, which received 26 total nominations. The HBO limited series picked up four TCA Awards on Monday, and Abdul-Mateen, who was revealed to be Doctor Manhattan in one of the biggest surprises of the series, could easily pull an upset and walk away a winner.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
Who will win: Jean Smart, Watchmen
Smart has been absolutely killing it in supporting roles the last few years — first on FX’s Fargo and Legion, and now on Watchmen, which picked up nominations in all four acting categories. While she’s not as much of a lock to win as co-star Regina King, Smart is a three-time Emmy winner, which means voters have a history of liking her work. So between that, her (unsurprisingly) excellent performance, and the Television Academy’s overwhelming support of Watchmen overall, she should be first across the finish line, so to speak.
Watch out for: Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Collette was the frontrunner in this category for a long time, but Unbelievable, a harrowing limited series based on a true story involving a serial rapist, underperformed — both Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Wever failed to receive nominations — probably because the show debuted last year and Emmy voters have short memories. But there’s still a chance that Collette walks away a winner; the series received a limited series nod, which is good news, and if the nominees for Mrs. America split the votes (which is likely), and voters attempt to spread the love instead of just voting down the ballot for Watchmen, Collette has a real shot at coming out on top.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
Who will win: Paul Mescal, Normal People
In a category that also includes Jeremy Irons, Hugh Jackman, and Mark Ruffalo, it’s the newcomer who really shines. In his first television role, Mescal displayed a raw vulnerability, bringing immense depth to Connell, a character whose defining trait was that he said very little. That’s not easy, and it’s why he’s going to win his first Emmy for his first Emmy nomination.
Watch out for: Jeremy Irons, Watchmen
Jeremy Irons has two things going for him right now: Watchmen is a very hot property, and he is a respected actor with a known name. Jackman and Ruffalo are household names, of course, but very few people watched Bad Education, and I Know This Much Is True underperformed. If anyone is going to beat the odds and triumph over Mescal, it’s going to be Irons.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
Who will win: Regina King, Watchmen
It’d be easy, if disingenuous, to say that King’s past success — she is the winner of three Primetime Emmys — makes her the easy choice for voters, who are notorious for rubber-stamping. What pushes King to the forefront of the race is her commanding performance as Angela Abar, aka Sister Night, in HBO’s Watchmen. She just took home the TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama on Monday, and while that award is given out by critics and not Emmy voters, it speaks to the conversation currently happening around Watchmen and certainly feels like a precursor to Sunday’s awards.
Watch out for: Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America
Emmy voters love honoring movie stars even though it’s 2020 and we’re way past the point of entertaining the idea that television is somehow less worthy than cinema, so with two Oscars to her name (and countless other awards), Blanchett could be catnip to Emmy voters. And with good reason, too: She was incredible as Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist who led the opposition to the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, in FX’s limited series. The final scene, in particular, is a testament to how much Blanchett can do without saying anything at all.
OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
Who will win: Watchmen
Watchmen was always deserving of this award, but given how much more relevant its story about white supremacy and racism has become in the months since it first aired (make no mistake, the story was always relevant, but it has only become more obvious to voters), this is probably the easiest category of all to predict. This is Watchmen‘s award to lose.
Watch out for: Unorthodox
Unbelievable was incredible, but it also premiered last year, which means it’s far from voters’ minds. The fact that its two leading ladies, Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Wever, failed to secure nominations also tells us voters don’t care. Meanwhile, Mrs. America flew under the radar with little fanfare despite its all-star ensemble cast, and Little Fires Everywhere failed to live up to expectations. That paves the way for Netflix’s Unorthodox to pull off an upset, though it still feels very unlikely.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
William Jackson Harper, The Good Place
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Mahershala Ali, Ramy
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Who will win: Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Shalhoub is a previous winner — he has three Emmys as a lead actor on Monk, and one in the supporting category for this role. Also working in his favor is the fact that he has now walked away with two Screen Actors Guild Awards for his performance in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. While this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s guaranteed to win again this year, the odds of him repeating is high.
Watch out for: Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek
It’s likely Emmy voters will award Levy, a co-creator of the hit series, in one, if not all, of the other categories in which he is nominated. He is up for both writing and directing the Schitt’s Creek series finale, and, as an executive producer, he’ll also take home an Emmy if the show wins Outstanding Comedy Series. So it would not be too surprising if voters saw this and, knowing they could honor Levy’s accomplishments elsewhere, tried to spread the love around. However, it also wouldn’t be surprising if Levy, whose character David was heavily featured in the show’s final season, took home this award too.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place
Yvonne Orji, Insecure
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live
Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek
Who will win: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Borstein is the reigning champ, having won this award the last two years for her supporting performance as Susie in the Amazon Prime series. And even though Schitt’s Creek appears to be the frontrunner in several categories at the Emmys, it’s too difficult to definitively say Borstein’s run is over. If she wins, she’ll join Valerie Harper and Laurie Metcalf as the only three-time winners in this category (well, technically, as Doris Roberts and Rhea Perlman each have four).
Watch out for: Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek
We could joke about the work Murphy has done to elevate the art of wrist acting, but the truth is, over the course of Schitt’s Creek‘s six seasons, Murphy’s performance evolved alongside the character to reveal Alexis’ unseen depths. Yes, she could make you laugh, but she could also surprise you with her moments of vulnerability, which made her stay with you. Although the odds of Murphy dethroning Borstein seem slim, the Television Academy is clearly in love with Schitt’s Creek, and this is the one and only time they’ll have the opportunity to honor Murphy for her work in the series, so don’t completely count her out just yet.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Who will win: Ramy Youssef, Ramy
Youssef is somewhat of a dark horse; Ramy wasn’t nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, which generally makes it a bit harder for him to win lead actor, especially when you consider Schitt’s Creek scored 15 nominations, and four were for the main cast, meaning voters are very into the competition. But working in Youssef’s favor is the fact he took home the Golden Globe for his performance earlier this year, and did so without a series nod. And the fact the show received two other nominations in above-the-line categories — supporting actor in a comedy and directing — means it might not matter he’s up against a murderers’ row of comedic talent.
Watch out for: Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Emmy voters are notoriously slow to catch on — Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights weren’t nominated until the show’s final two seasons either — but they do sometimes get there eventually (see also: Matthew Rhys of The Americans). So if we follow the voters’ habit of rewarding people at the last possible moment for a full body of work, it’s likely that Levy, who was nominated last year but did not win, could take the award for the final season of Schitt’s Creek. He’s also a comedy legend, so if the two-time winner for writing wins on Sunday, it would be both deserving and a nice send off for the show, which he co-created with his son.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Who will win: Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
O’Hara has been the frontrunner in this category all season long, and although it’s becoming increasingly likely she won’t be the only Schitt’s Creek cast member to walk away a winner this year, she does have the best track record going into the Emmys. She was the only cast member of the four main actors to be nominated for an individual acting award at both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Television Critics Association Awards. And she took home the latter on Monday. What can we say? The people love Moira Rose.
Watch out for: Issa Rae, Insecure
Insecure scored a handful of nominations over the course of its first three seasons, including one for Rae in 2018. But after the HBO comedy’s stellar fourth season, it seems the Television Academy has embraced the show in a big, big way, rewarding it with eight nominations this year. Emmy voters seem to be waking up to how incredible both Rae and the show are, which can only be considered a good thing.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Who will win: Schitt’s Creek
Emmy voters finally took notice of Schitt’s Creek last year, when it received four nominations. This year, for the show’s final season, that number jumped to 15, which tells you that voters have either finally caught on to how good this heartfelt show is, or they want to appear to have jumped on the bandwagon before they miss their chance altogether. We’re pretty cynical, but we’re also pretty sure that the love for this little comedy that could is the real deal. So that love, plus the fact this is the show’s final year of eligibility, has all but secured its win.
Watch out for: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The undeniable power of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Fleabag kept The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel from repeating last year, but there is still plenty of life in the Amazon Prime series, at least when it comes to Hollywood.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul
Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
Mark Duplass, The Morning Show
Nicholas Braun, Succession
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Matthew MacFadyen, Succession
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
Who will win: Kieran Culkin, Succession
Much like in the lead actor race, it’s possible that Succession‘s multiple nominees will ultimately split the vote and result in none of them walking away a winner on Sunday. But it’s also possible that Culkin, who scored Golden Globe nods for both seasons of the HBO drama, has what it takes to pull it off. While Macfadyen and Braun certainly have their moments on the HBO drama, Culkin’s got the flashier performance overall, as Roman’s cockiness makes him stand out, so he’s likely to secure more votes.
Watch out for: Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
Although Crudup could also fall due to vote-splitting — he’s nominated alongside co-star Mark Duplass, who has a larger role in the Apple TV+ series — he has a few things going for him. He received a SAG Award nomination for his performance earlier this year, and he also took home the Critics’ Choice Award in this same category. This tells us that someone out there is watching The Morning Show, despite its lackluster debut, so if Succession is going to struggle in any category, it’s going to be this one.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale
Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve
Julia Garner, Ozark
Sarah Snook, Succession
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Who will win: Sarah Snook, Succession
Support for The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies has all but disappeared, and since Better Call Saul‘s Rhea Seehorn was snubbed again, Succession‘s Sarah Snook is the person to watch in this category. Much like how Emmy voters have finally discovered Schitt’s Creek, they’ve also discovered the HBO series after a strong first season and an even better second. Overall, Succession earned 18 nominations, with half of them coming in the acting categories, and as the show’s female lead, Snook more than holds her own in a sea of scheming and plotting men. However, unlike them, she doesn’t have to fight her co-stars to walk away with the Emmy here, as the other women from the show were nominated in the guest categories.
Watch out for: Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Emmy voters have already handed awards to two Crown stars for their work on the Netflix drama — John Lithgow in 2017 (supporting actor) and Claire Foy in 2018 (lead actress). Given this history, and knowing the show won the ensemble award at this year’s SAG Awards while Bonham Carter also received an individual nomination in a category that does not separate leading from supporting performances, we can deduce that the acting branch of the Television Academy might be more than keen on The Crown and Bonham Carter’s performance in it. Overall, the series received 13 nominations for Season 3, So no matter how much voters might like Succession and Snook, they still clearly also love The Crown as well.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Who will win: Jeremy Strong, Succession
If Succession fans don’t end up splitting their votes, it’s most likely they’ll award Strong for his performance as Kendall Roy in the HBO drama about the inner workings of a dysfunctional and power-hungry family who owns a media conglomerate. The show received nine nominations in the acting categories for its stellar second season, and experts are predicting Strong, who has become one of the breakout stars of the show, to triumph, noting that he received a Television Critics Association Award nomination while Cox did not, which could help his chances of winning.
Watch out for: Brian Cox, Succession
If Strong doesn’t walk away the winner, his co-star will. As the patriarch of the Roy family on the HBO drama, Cox commands nearly every scene he is in, and that strength and screen presence is what earned him a Golden Globe earlier this year (Strong was not nominated). Either way, Succession wins.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Who will win: Laura Linney, Ozark
Emmy voters love Ozark. It’s just a fact at this point. But Linney, a four-time Emmy winner and seven-time nominee, has also been the best part of the show since its start. And after a third season in which her character was in the spotlight thanks to the arrival of her brother, it’s finally Linney’s time to shine.
Watch out for: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
The Morning Show was ripped apart by critics, and it failed to receive a series nomination, but Aniston took home the SAG Award earlier this year, which could signal that Emmy voters like what they see. Aniston, who was nominated five times for her work on Friends, and won once, also plays against type, which could be in her favor, as it makes her stand out more than she already does thanks to her star power.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Who will win: Succession
It took a year for Succession to hit the radar of Emmy voters — Kendall’s infamous rap being all over the internet probably helped — but it made a huge, lasting impact when it finally landed. The series received a whopping 18 nominations for its sophomore season, and nine of them were in the acting categories.
Watch out for: I’d like to say Better Call Saul, which TV Guide recently declared the best show on television right now, but I can read the room.
The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on ABC.