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Roundup of Emmy Contenders: Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy buzz is ramping up with voting on this year’s nominations starting next month, and it’s time to tackle with this installment of Roundup of Emmy Contenders a category that always seems to be stacked. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series often proves quite competitive, with a number of strong performances vying for a nod from the Television Academy. Suffice it to say, narrowing down the plethora of contenders to just three of our top picks was no easy task. Keep reading to find out who made our list and why.


Octavia Spencer for Season 2 of Truth Be Told

For the uninitiated, the first season of Apple TV+’s mystery-drama anthology series introduced us to Poppy Parnell (Spencer), a journalist turned true-crime podcaster who reopens the murder case that made her career. Season two sees Poppy diving into a new murder case, one that involves her childhood friend. Kate Hudson plays the latter in her first-ever lead role in a television series. Even a career milestone performance cannot steal Spencer’s spotlight, though. Just like in the first season of Truth Be Told, her grounded work as Poppy holds everything together through each twist and turn the show brings. Hudson even shared during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Spencer drew her to doing the show, calling herself a “huge fan” of Spencer’s work. We’re also in that fan club and think that the actor’s sophomore turn as Poppy could be the one that earns her a second Emmy nomination, following her nod for Self Made in 2020.


Toni Collette for Season 1 of Pieces of Her

Collette stars in Pieces of Her as Laura, a seemingly mild-mannered speech pathologist living in a small town with her adult daughter, Andy (Bella Heathcote). But during a shooting at their local diner, Laura reveals a different side of herself, putting the massacre to a stop by deftly killing the shooter with a knife. From there, a secret past rears its ugly head, and we discover — along with Andy — the truth behind who Laura really is. Collette’s ability to play into the enigmatic quality of her character is next level. You may find yourself wanting to re-watch the series after discovering at its conclusion how all the pieces of Laura actually do fit together, just so you can fully appreciate how Collette masterfully played the character’s various secrets from the beginning. The Guardian went as far as suggesting that her performance in the series raises the question, “Why isn’t Collette in everything?”


Minha Kim for Season 1 of Pachinko

Soo Hugh’s adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s bestseller Pachinko was the first U.S. production Kim ever did and only her second professional acting role. Having a newcomer star in a sweeping epic  — one that follows a Korean immigrant family across four generations — would create high enough stakes already, and then add to it the fact that legendary actor and recent Oscar-winner Yuh-Jung Youn portrays the older version of Kim’s character, Sunja, in the series. Another actor may have buckled under the pressure, but not Kim. That doesn’t mean it was easy, though. “We had a lot of intense scenes that were very emotional, but it’s our job to tell the stories to the audience,” Kim told Entertainment Weekly. “Sometimes it was hard for me to carry these emotions for a whole day, but I just tried to focus… and be present.” Her dedication to telling the story of Pachinko — which is fiction but rooted in history — resulted in much critical praise for the newcomer, with calling Kim’s work in the Apple TV+ series “an incredible breakout performance.”


You’ll have to wait to find out if Spencer, Collette, and Kim make this year’s list of Emmy nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Nominations will be voted on from June 16 to June 27 and announced on July 12. And then come September 12, the winner of the category will be named at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony.