2021 Emmy Predictions for Drama Series & Performances: Matt Roush’s Picks

Gillian Anderson in The Crown, Michael K. Williams in Lovecraft Country, Mj Rodriguez in Pose
Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix; Eli Joshua Ade/HBO; Eric Liebowitz/FX

The Emmy Awards are by tradition among the hardest to predict, because it’s often impossible to know just when a show or star’s moment in the spotlight has arrived—or when the Emmy voters will turn away from the tried and true to celebrate the new kid on the block.

Ahead of the 2021 Primetime Emmys, Senior Critic Matt Roush takes a crack at reading the tea leaves to pick the presumed winners, while revealing which nominees are the most deserving and lamenting the most obnoxious snubs.

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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.

73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Sunday, September 19, 8/7c, CBS

Antony Starr as Homelander, Erin Moriarty as Starlight in The Boys
Jasper Savage/Amazon Studios

Outstanding Drama Series

The Boys (Amazon Prime Video)

Bridgerton (Netflix)

The Crown (Netflix)

The Mandalorian (Disney+)

Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Pose (FX)

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

This Is Us (NBC)

Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown in This Is Us
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

The Frontrunners

With Succession out of the running this year, Netflix’s deluxe royal drama The Crown finally is positioned to take that elusive top drama honor—and for one of its strongest seasons, featuring the arrival of Princess Diana and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (But wouldn’t it be fun if This Is Us surprised everyone and won as a reminder of the power of crowd-pleasing network TV? It will never happen, but it would do a lot to correct the Emmy bias toward streaming and premium cable.)

Josh O'Connor, Charles Dance, Olivia Colman in The Crown
Des Willie/Netflix

Most Likely to Win

The Crown

Emma Corrin as Diana, Josh O'Connor as Charles in The Crown
Des Willie/Netflix

Should Win

The Crown

Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason in Perry Mason
Merrick Morton/HBO

Should Have Been Nominated

Perry Mason (HBO)

Regé-Jean Page as Simon Basset in Bridgerton
Liam Daniel/Netflix

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Billy Porter, Pose

Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country

Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason

Josh O’Connor, The Crown

Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason in Perry Mason
Merrick Morton/HBO

The Frontrunners

The real Prince Charles is still waiting for his coronation, but as the conflicted young heir cornered into a loveless marriage, Josh O’Connor will likely take the crown over a very strong field. Billy Porter deserves a second Emmy for his tragically defiant swan song in Pose, and former The Americans winner Matthew Rhys was a stunner as he turned an iconic TV character into a flawed film-noir anti-hero in HBO’s revisionist origin story for Perry Mason.

Josh O'Connor as Charles in The Crown
Alex Bailey/Netflix

Most Likely to Win

Josh O’Connor

Billy Porter as Pray Tell in Pose
Pari Dukovic/FX

Should Win

Billy Porter

Freddie Highmore as Shaun Murphy in The Good Doctor
ABC/Art Streiber

Should Have Been Nominated

Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor (this and every year)

Uzo Aduba in In Treatment
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emma Corrin, The Crown

Olivia Colman, The Crown

Uzo Aduba, In Treatment

Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Jurnee Smollett, Lovecraft Country

Mj Rodriguez, Pose

Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

The Frontrunners

Some very worthy candidates here: Mj Rodriguez sensational in her groundbreaking Pose role, three-time winner Uzo Aduba as In Treatment’s compassionate new therapist, former Handmaid’s champ Elizabeth Moss tasting freedom and seeking revenge in a strong comeback year, and Jurnee Smollett on fire in Lovecraft’s supernatural allegory. But the battle comes down to The Crown’s leading ladies, and while Oscar winner Olivia Colman as the repressed queen has yet to win Emmy gold in four tries, Emma Corrin’s powerful presence as the insecure princess seems a fresher choice.

Emma Corrin as Diana in The Crown
Ollie Upton/Netflix

Most Likely to Win

Emma Corrin

Mj Rodriguez as Blanca in Pose
Eric Liebowitz/FX

Should Win

Mj Rodriguez (for Emmy history’s sake)

Rebecca Breeds as Clarice
Brooke Palmer/CBS

Should Have Been Nominated

Rebecca Breeds, Clarice

Giancarlo Esposito in The Mandalorian
Disney+

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Michael K. Williams, Lovecraft Country

Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale

Max Minghella, The Handmaid’s Tale

O-T Fagbenle, The Handmaid’s Tale

John Lithgow, Perry Mason

Tobias Menzies, The Crown

Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian

Chris Sullivan, This Is Us

Michael K. Williams in Lovecraft Country
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

The Frontrunners

The tragedy of Michael K. Williams’ untimely death is only amplified by his front-runner status in this category for another bold performance in a memorable HBO series. Even if he weren’t now the sentimental favorite, he was already the odds-on choice as the Lovecraft hero’s conflicted, closeted father.

Michael K. Williams in Lovecraft Country
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Most Likely to Win

Michael K. Williams

Michael K. Williams in Lovecraft Country
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Should Win

Michael K. Williams

John Benjamin Hicky in In Treatment
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Should Have Been Nominated

John Benjamin Hickey, In Treatment

Samira Wiley in The Handmaid's Tale
Sophie Giraud/Hulu

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Gillian Anderson, The Crown

Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown

Emerald Fennell, The Crown

Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale

Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale

Aunjanue Ellis, Lovecraft Country

Yvonne Strahovski in The Handmaid's Tale
Sophie Giraud/Hulu

The Frontrunners

Earning this year’s inevitable slam-dunk honors: Gillian Anderson for her astonishing transformation into the formidable “Iron Lady” herself, Margaret Thatcher, a role that earned Meryl Streep one of her Oscars. I’m still hoping Yvonne Strahovski will someday be recognized for her brave work on The Handmaid’s Tale, but it won’t be this year.

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher in The Crown
Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix

Most Likely to Win

Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher in The Crown
Des Willie/Netflix

Should Win

Gillian Anderson

Wunmi Mosaku in Lovecraft Country
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Should Have Been Nominated

Wunmi Mosaku, Lovecraft Country