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Roundup of Emmy Contenders: Lead Actress in a Limited Series

The voting period for this year’s Emmy nominations has come to a close, which means we only have until July 13 to find out who received a nod and who didn’t. In the meantime, for this installment of Roundup of Emmy Contenders, we’re giving you our top picks for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. Keep reading for a roundup of the names we think should make this year’s list of nominees.


Cynthia Erivo for Genius: Aretha

Erivo stars in the third season of National Geographic Channel’s Genius series, which focuses on some of the world’s most brilliant innovators. Aretha Franklin, the trailblazing Queen of Soul, is the subject of this season, with Erivo playing the music icon. Besides the pressure of portraying a beloved public figure, the actor also needed to deliver on the singing skills required for the role. One CNN review details how she rose to the occasion, “belting out the tunes in a manner that evokes the Queen’s style while still making them her own.” It’s an impressive chord she strikes, and we think Erivo hits all the right notes in both her musical and acting performance as Franklin.


Anya Taylor-Joy for The Queen’s Gambit

In case you missed it, Taylor-Joy has been sweeping up accolades for her performance in Scott Frank’s Netflix series based on the Walter Tevis novel of the same name. In it, she plays a young chess prodigy named Beth Harmon, who discovers the game in the 50s while still living in an orphanage. As Beth exits childhood — Taylor-Joy begins playing the character at age 15 — and the confines of the orphanage’s walls, her opportunities and success in the chess world grow. But, as her prowess expands, so does her battle with addiction. Taylor-Joy finds all the nuances that come with such a brilliant and complex character, weaving them together throughout her multi-layered performance. TVLine asserts that she “inhabited the complicated prodigy from head to toe, and the totality of the performance was no less than engrossing.” It’s work that warrants a nomination for what could be yet another award in Taylor-Joy’s collection for the series.


Michaela Coel for I May Destroy You

Besides starring in the series, Coel also created it, pulling from her personal story. I May Destroy You follows Arabella, a burgeoning writer in London who is the victim of sexual assault after her drink is spiked at a bar. She’s left piecing together what happened and figuring out how to move forward. Coel’s performance in a project so closely related to her own traumatic experience is nothing short of breathtaking, made even more impressive by the rising auteur’s ability to balance the roles of writer, executive producer, lead actor and director for some of the episodes. A New York Times review of I May Destroy You calls Coel “volcanically talented,” and we think the description is spot-on.


Kate Winslet for Mare of Easttown 

It almost feels unfair to include Winslet on this list. One might think it’s about time to offer some other actors a chance at the limelight. Winslet is well-accoladed in the film world, with an array of Oscar nominations and a win for Best Actress to her name, on top of already receiving an Emmy, as well. But she’s just too superb in the HBO limited series to not include here. In it, Winslet plays a small-town Pennsylvania detective named Mare Sheehan who’s investigating a local murder. One IndieWire review succinctly captured the thespian’s deft ability with the role, noting the “cavern of fragility in her eyes that, while rarely exposed, can surface in just a few rapid blinks.” It’s powerful work from Winslet that cannot be ignored. 


Time will tell if Erivo, Taylor-Joy, Coel and Winslet will be nominated for the 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Their work shines — even amidst their stacked competition — thanks to the multi-layered, complex characters they’ve delivered in a limited number of episodes. Regardless of if their names make this year’s list of nominees or not, they’re already all winners in our book. 


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