The last Emmy Awards of the decade are almost here, and what's remarkable in the 2019 slate of nominees is the breadth of the types of storytelling on display, and who is celebrated for telling those stories.
This year's nominees include the first openly gay black man to be nominated for Lead Actor in a Drama in Emmy history (Pose's Billy Porter); an actress who, last year, became the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama (Killing Eve's Sandra Oh); a vital limited series that retells the true story of five young black men who were wrongfully convicted of a brutal crime (When They See Us); two comedies that thoughtfully ask big questions about life and death (Russian Doll and The Good Place); and the final season of a cinema-quality fantasy epic (Game of Thrones) looking to extend its record as the most Emmy-winning drama series.
With a new decade and a slate of new streaming platforms (Apple Plus, Disney Plus, HBO Max) on the horizon, the TV landscape seems poised to shift again. Whoever wins on Emmy night could be linked to the end of an era — or point toward what the next one might look like.
Will win: Game of Thrones, already the most Emmy-winning drama series, will win its fourth Outstanding Drama Series Emmy, no matter how much you hated Season 8.
Should win: It would be nice for forever-snubbed Better Call Saul to finally get some love after 32 nominations and no wins — but if Succession nabbed this one, it wouldn't be a crime.
Will win: Billy Porter. He's great on Pose, and his record-setting nomination — coupled with his Cinderella story, as he's finally a leading man after decades of being overlooked in Hollywood — makes him beloved. Although Jason Bateman could clinch it; this is his fifth nomination for Ozark, which includes two for directing and a nod for his work as executive producer (in the Outstanding Drama category).
Should win: Billy Porter. On top of the history Porter would make as the first openly gay black man to win Lead Actor in a Drama, you know the fashion renegade is going to serve a lewk, and given how electrifying his presence is, Porter's acceptance speech is guaranteed to be poetic cinema. It would be a crime to rob us of that moment.
Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Laura Linney, Ozark
Mandy Moore, This Is Us
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Will win: Sandra Oh. Oh lost to Claire Foy for The Crown in 2018, meaning she's even more overdue for a history-making win as the first woman of Asian descent to win Lead Actress in a Drama.
Should win: Sandra Oh — even if her co-star Jodie Comer had the meatier role in this season of Killing Eve and would absolutely deserve it if she took home the trophy.
Will win: Bill Hader, who stuns with his comi-tragic turn in the dark comedy Barry.
Should win: Bill Hader, even though it's a bit of a shame to see Ted Danson (who holds the record for most Emmy nominations for Lead Actor in a Comedy) go another year without an Emmy for his work on The Good Place.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Catherine O'Hara, Schitt's Creek
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She's won this award for her work on Veep every time she's been nominated for it, and this seventh straight win (which would be her ninth acting Emmy overall, extending her streak for the most wins by a performer in the same role) would make her the most Emmy-winning individual performer alive.
Should win: How nice would it be to see this go to Catherine O'Hara, whom everyone adores in Schitt's Creek and who has never won an acting Emmy? (O'Hara won an Emmy for writing in 1982 for SCTV.)
Escape at Dannemora
When They See Us
Will win: When They See Us — a vital story told at the right time and beautifully done.
Should win: When They See Us. Chernobyl is also outstanding, but WTSU's timeliness, message, and the power of Ava DuVernay at the helm leave no question which limited series should go home with this one.
Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Will win: Jharrel Jerome, whose stunning performance had him playing both the teenaged and adult version of wrongfully convicted Korey Wise, and who held down a solo episode that included time in solitary.
Should win: Jharrel Jerome, without a doubt.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Amy Adams, Sharp Objects
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora
Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us
Joey King, The Act
Niecy Nash, When They See Us
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon
Will win: Michelle Williams, not only because she slayed as Gwen Verdon, but also because of the symbolism: In a story about a woman's undervalued contributions to a legendary male genius, Williams was paid equally to her male co-star, and she had agency to call shots behind the camera, too.
Should win: Michelle Williams. As much as Joey King captivated audiences playing an abused kid in The Act, and Niecy Nash played against type in a strong dramatic turn in When They See Us, Williams has this on lock, and rightfully so.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Alfie Allen, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Chris Sullivan, This Is Us
Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Michael Kelly, House of Cards
Will win: Peter Dinklage, the perennial Game of Thrones fave.
Should win: Giancarlo Esposito, the captivating Better Call Saul player who is beloved but has gone unrecognized in the industry for way too long (this is Esposito's second Emmy nomination, and he has yet to win).
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones
Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones
Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Julia Garner, Ozark
Will win: Julia Garner
Should win: Gwendoline Christie. She got a bad deal with a wonky character story in Game of Thrones' final season ("Didn't they all?" I hear you asking) but she nonetheless embodied the material she was handed beautifully — and the off-screen story about Christie submitting herself for nomination makes you root for her even more.
Will win: Tony Shalhoub, who lost out to Henry Winkler last year.
Should win: Anthony Carrigan, whose party-boy assassin role on Barry is sheer art.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Sarah Goldberg, Barry
Olivia Colman, Fleabag
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Sian Clifford, Fleabag
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Will win: Anna Chlumsky, who's been nominated six times without a win and should inherit some of Veep's final-season goodwill.
Should win: Olivia Colman. The Oscar winner is up against a roster of buzzy talent, including 2018 winner Alex Borstein, GLOW scene stealer Betty Gilpin, and Barry's fantastic Sarah Goldberg, but a win for her underhanded turn as a wicked stepmother in Fleabag would add some unpredictability to a race full of unsurprising choices. And who doesn't want to hear Colman give another acceptance speech?
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal
Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora
Michael K. Williams, When They See Us
Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl
John Leguizamo, When They See Us
Asante Blackk, When They See Us
Will win: Ben Whishaw, who got a Critics' Choice Award and a Golden Globe already for his arresting, based-on-a-true-story portrayal of a young man in a secret, oppressive, and abusive relationship with a British politician in the 1970s.
Should win: Ben Whishaw, although Michael K. Williams, a steady force in When They See Us, would be a fine choice also, particularly given his years of strong performances with no wins. (This is his fourth nomination.)
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Emily Watson, Chernobyl
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects
Marsha Stephanie Blake, When They See Us
Margaret Qualley, Fosse/Verdon
Patricia Arquette, The Act
Vera Farmiga, When They See Us
Will win: Patricia Clarkson, who riveted as the estranged, manipulative mom of a reporter who comes home to investigate the murders of two young girls.
Should win: Patricia Clarkson. It's been a while since Sharp Objects aired in the summer of 2018, and she's since seen strong competitors emerge — most notably that other Patricia in the race — but Clarkson earned this win.
The 2019 Emmys air Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8/7c on Fox.