Voting on this year’s Emmy nominations starts next month, and buzz about contenders for that list has already begun. It’s about time for a revival of the Casting Networks series in which we give you some of our top choices from the favorites for each category. And we’re kicking off the first of this year’s Roundup of Emmy Contenders installments with the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category. Keep reading for three picks from this year’s contenders, along with why they made it on our list.
Lee Minho for Season 1 of Pachinko
The Hollywood Reporter calls Minho “one of the most beloved celebrities throughout Asia,” and it may come as no surprise that the superstar’s performance in what he calls “my first Hollywood series” — Soo Hugh’s adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s bestseller Pachinko — is generating some serious Emmy buzz. Minho plays an anti-hero named Hansu, the businessman who seduces the series’ protagonist, Sunja, in the sweeping Apple TV+ epic that follows a Korean immigrant family across four generations. The part is a far cry from the leading man roles Minho has played in the past, and Hugh told Variety that the actor showed his range with the character right from the start. “[He] had a lot of fun in the audition and really stretched himself and showed us a side that we’ve never seen of Minho, and the world has never seen of Minho.” The resulting performance met with much critical praise and could garner Minho his first Emmy nomination.
Sterling K. Brown for Season 6 of This Is Us
Brown may be personally advocating that the Television Academy recognize his co-star Mandy Moore for her work on the final season of NBC’s popular family drama. And as someone who’s been nominated every single previous season of the series — along with taking home a win in 2017 — it’s not like Brown hasn’t already been recognized for his work on the show. So why is the actor one of our hand-picked contenders? Because he’s consistently taken the character of Randall Pearson through the emotional highs and lows that This Is Us throws at the character. Watching Brown in the role is like a master class on how to deliver vulnerable and authentic performances. His work in season six is no exception, with the actor deftly navigating Randall through the emotional roller coaster that comes with his mother’s illness. The actor’s five nominations for the five previous seasons he’s portrayed the character on This Is Us speak for themselves, and time will tell if he goes six for six with the show’s final season.
Jonathan Bailey for Season 2 of Bridgerton
It’s no small feat to follow in the footsteps of Regé-Jean Page’s wildly popular performance as “The Duke” in Shondaland’s Bridgerton. Shonda Rhimes even told Vanity Fair that she was “shocked” at the overwhelming outcry in response to the news that Page would not be returning for the second season of the hit Regency Era romance series. So, Bailey already had his work cut out for him in taking up the mantle as the male lead of the central love story in season two. Plus, he and Simone Ashley were tasked with building believable onscreen chemistry between their respective characters of Lord Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sharma without the copious amount of sex scenes the first season afforded its main couple. One might argue that such an endeavor — creating a passionate on-camera connection between two characters without the assistance of them constantly copulating to prove it — would be the harder challenge. And Bailey rose to the occasion, bringing the internet to its knees with his delivery of lines such as, “You are the bane of my existence and … the object of all my desires.” The actor also tapped into unmined emotional depths of the character left unexplored until this season and shared with Entertainment Weekly that he pulled from his own grief of “losing someone in my early twenties” as “the way in” to connecting with his character. Between Bailey’s ability to continue Bridgerton’s relevance as a cultural phenomenon — despite the challenges that came with leading its sophomore season — and the grounded authenticity he brought to scenes both heavy and light, the actor has a firm place on our list of contenders.
Emmy nominations will be voted on from June 16 to June 27 and announced on July 12. At that time, you can find out if Minho, Brown, and Bailey made this year’s list of nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. And come September 12, the winner of the category will be named at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony.