2020 Emmy Predictions for Drama Series & Acting: Matt Roush’s Picks

Succession HTGAWM Cicely Tyson Laura Linney Ozark
Graeme Hunter/HBO; ABC/Raymond Liu; Steve Dietl/Netflix

When the Emmy Awards ceremony airs Sept. 20 on ABC, it won’t look like business as usual. But pandemic or no pandemic, what hasn’t changed is the increasingly competitive nature of the various races, with so many more platforms and so much talent vying for recognition.

In these galleries, critic Matt Roush analyzes the categories, suggesting which nominees are most likely to, and should, win. And after having scoured the official ballot, he also points out contenders he wishes had made the cut.

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Scroll down for Matt’s picks in the categories of Drama Series, Lead Drama Actor and Actress, Supporting Drama Actor and Actress, and Guest Drama Actor and Actress.

72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Sunday, September 20, 8/7c, ABC

The Mandalorian Season 1 Disney Plus

CATEGORY: Drama Series

Better Call Saul, AMC

The Crown, Netflix

The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu

Killing Eve, BBC America/AMC

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Ozark, Netflix

Stranger Things, Netflix

Succession, HBO

The Crown Olivia Colman Tobias Menzies Season 3
Des Willie / Netflix

There are few sure things in the Emmy race this year, but it would be hard to bet against Succession. Blistering, impeccably acted and written, scandalous family intrigue at its juiciest. Some see momentum in a resurgent Ozark, and The Crown is still TV’s classiest act. But I’m all in with the unscrupulous Roy clan.

Succession Cast HBO Brian Cox Jeremy Strong
Graeme Hunter/HBO

Most Likely to Win, and Should Win


Ozark Season 3 Laura Linney Jason Bateman Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

Possible Spoilers

Ozark, The Crown

The Good Fight Season 4 Audra McDonald Christine Baranski Cush Jumbo
Patrick Harbron/CBS

Wish They'd Been Nominated

David Makes Man, Evil, The Good Fight, Orange Is the New Black, Outlander, Pose, This Is Us

This Is Us Season 4 Sterling K Brown
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

CATEGORY: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, Ozark

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Steve Carell, The Morning Show

Brian Cox, Succession

Billy Porter, Pose

Jeremy Strong, Succession

Billy Porter Pose Season 2
Michael Parmelee/FX

Will Succession‘s father (Brian Cox) or son (Jeremy Strong) emerge as the winner? Hard to say. Emmy logic goes with the veteran actor, and while Strong’s internalized performance is amazing, it’s not as showy. If they cancel each other out, look for Jason Bateman to add an acting trophy to his directing Emmy for Ozark. But if the voters are diversity-minded, don’t count out a repeat win for Pose‘s flamboyant Billy Porter.

Succession Brian Cox Jeremy Strong
Zach Dilgard/HBO

Most Likely to Win

Brian Cox or Jeremy Strong (odds favor Cox)

Succession Jeremy Strong
Zach Dilgard/HBO

Should Win

Jeremy Strong

Ozark Season 3 Jason Bateman
Tina Rowden/Netflix

Possible Spoilers

Jason Bateman, Billy Porter

Better Call Saul Bob Odenkirk
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Wish They'd Been Nominated

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (what were they thinking!); Sam Heughan, Outlander; Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor; John Malkovich, The New Pope; Michael Sheen, Prodigal Son (should have been submitted as supporting); Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us; Forest Whitaker, Godfather of Harlem

Killing Eve Season 3 Sandra Oh Jodie Comer
Laura Radford/BBCAmerica/Sid Gentle

CATEGORY: Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show

Olivia Colman, The Crown

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve

Laura Linney, Ozark

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

Zendaya, Euphoria

Laura Linney Ozark Season 3
Steve Dietl/Netflix

As the cunning Lady Macbeth of Ozark, the terrific Laura Linney seems to have this category sewn up—although the competition is stiff, with TV and movie royalty represented in Jennifer Aniston‘s slick comeback as the embattled anchor on The Morning Show and Olivia Colman‘s powerful introductory season as Queen Elizabeth II.

Ozark Season 3 Laura Linney
Steve Dietl/Netflix

Most Likely to Win

Laura Linney

Olivia Colman The Crown Season 3
Des Willie / Netflix

Should Win

Olivia Colman

Jennifer Aniston The Morning Show
Apple TV+

Possible Spoiler

Jennifer Aniston

Katja Herbers Evil
Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

Wish They'd Been Nominated

Caitriona Balfe, Outlander; Christine Baranski, The Good Fight; Claire Danes, Homeland; Katja Herbers, Evil; Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies; Mj Rodriguez, Pose; Cobie Smulders, Stumptown

Westworld Jeffrey Wright
Courtesy of HBO

CATEGORY: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Nicholas Braun, Succession

Kieran Culkin, Succession

Billy Crudup, The Morning Show

Mark Duplass, The Morning Show

Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul

Matthew Macfadyen, Succession

Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale

Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Succession Matthew Macfadyen Nicholas Braun
Peter Kramer/HBO

Oh my, how to choose between all of that Succession talent. Personally, my money is on Matthew Macfadyen, a versatile TV veteran—check him out in this year’s Quiz—who suffers exquisite humiliation at the hands of the family into which he has ambitiously but haplessly married. His co-stars may cancel him out, though, and odds-makers are favoring Billy Crudup‘s Machiavellian TV exec, a worthy successor to Network‘s Faye Dunaway.

The Morning Show Billy Crudup
Apple TV+

Most Likely to Win

Billy Crudup

Succession Matthew Macfadyen
Zach Dilgard/HBO

Should Win

Matthew Macfadyen

Succession Kieran Culkin
Graeme Hunter/HBO

Possible Spoiler

Kieran Culkin

Better Call Saul Jonathan Banks
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Wish They'd Been Nominated

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul (what were they drinking?); Tom Pelphrey, Ozark (huge oversight); Griffin Dunne, This Is Us; Michael Emerson, Evil; Nathan Lane, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels; Delroy Lindo, The Good Fight; Josh O’Connor, The Crown; Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Westworld Thandie Newton
John P. Johnson/HBO

CATEGORY: Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown

Laura Dern, Big Little Lies

Julia Garner, Ozark

Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve

Thandie Newton, Westworld

Sarah Snook, Succession

Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Big Little Lies Meryl Streep
Merie W. Wallace/HBO

Is it possible Meryl Streep could be denied an Emmy? Seems impossible, but the further the meh second season of Big Little Lies recedes in memory, the larger Helena Bonham Carter looms for her spectacularly entertaining performance as the fun-loving but eternally frustrated Princess Margaret. Still, Streep’s mother-in-law from hell is a formidable presence. And if Succession sweeps, it could boost Sarah Snook as the wily daughter who deserves to, but may never, inherit the corporate throne.

The Crown Helena Bonham Carter
Des Willie / Netflix

Most Likely to Win, Should Win

Helena Bonham Carter, with Meryl Streep a very close second

Succession Sarah Snook
Graeme Hunter/HBO

Possible Spoilers

Sarah Snook (plus past winners Julia Garner and Thandie Newton; this is the Emmys, after all)

Better Call Saul Rhea Seehorn
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Wish They'd Been Nominated

Rhea Seehorn (were they asleep?), Better Call Saul; Danielle Brooks, Orange Is the New Black; Cynthia Erivo, The Outsider; Natasha Lyonne, Orange Is the New Black; Audra McDonald, The Good Fight; Janet McTeer, Ozark; Chrissy Metz, This Is Us; Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black; Kelly Reilly, Yellowstone; Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

The Mandalorian Giancarlo Esposito

CATEGORY: Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, The Outsider

James Cromwell, Succession

Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian

Ron Cephas Jones, This Is Us

Andrew Scott, Black Mirror

Martin Short, The Morning Show

Andrew Scott SAG Awards
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Denied a nomination last year as Fleabag‘s Hot Priest, Andrew Scott should score a win, chewing the upholstery as the world’s most desperate ride-share driver. (Starring in an episode of Emmy darling Black Mirror can’t hurt his chances.) I’m also rooting for Jason Bateman, whose tragic fate in the opening chapter of The Outsider haunted the remainder of that series.

Andrew Scott
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Most Likely to Win

Andrew Scott

Jason Bateman The Outsider HBO Premiere
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Should Win

Scott or Jason Bateman

Ron Cephas Jones This Is Us
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Possible Spoiler

Past winner Ron Cephas Jones

Timothy Omundson This Is Us
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Wish They'd Been Nominated

Beau Bridges, Homeland; Charles Dance, The Crown; Robert Forster, Amazing Stories; Michael J. Fox, The Good Fight; Dermot Mulroney, Prodigal Son; Timothy Omundson, This Is Us

Orange Is the New Black Laverne Cox
JoJo Whilden/Netflix

CATEGORY: Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale

Laverne Cox, Orange Is the New Black

Cherry Jones, Succession

Phylicia Rashad, This Is Us

Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away with Murder

Harriet Walter, Succession

Cicely Tyson How to Get Away With Murder
ABC/Raymond Liu

After five nominations as one of the few redeeming features of How to Get Away with Murder, the legendary Cicely Tyson might just win for the final lap. The competition is all grade-A talent, but with the exception of Cherry Jones (who won in this category last year for The Handmaid’s Tale) as a steely media rival in Succession, the scene-stealing in this category isn’t as memorable as usual.

How to Get Away With Murder Cicely Tyson
ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Most Likely to Win

Cicely Tyson

Succession Cherry Jones
Peter Kramer/HBO

Should Win

Cherry Jones

Jennifer Morrison This Is Us
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Wish They'd Been Nominated

Maria Doyle Kennedy, Outlander; Jane Lapotaire, The Crown; Jennifer Morrison, This Is Us