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Emmy Nomination Predictions, Limited Series and Movies: You Don't Need WandaVision to See a Bloodbath Coming

With "The Queen's Gambit," "Mare of Easttown," "The Underground Railroad" and many more, there's too much good work and not enough nomination slots

AWARDS BEAT

The pandemic year may have been made for limited series. While continuing drama and comedy series fought to get back into production, many 0f them missing this year’s eligibility period, limited series brought the star power and provided the virtual water cooler moments.

Emmy-contending shows in this field include one of the biggest TV sensations of the past year, Netflix's “The Queen’s Gambit”; one of the most impactful shows of 2021, Amazon Prime's “The Underground Railroad”; a rare example of true appointment television, HBO's “Mare of Easttown”; Marvel’s celebrated takeover of TV, “Wandavision”; and critical darlings like HBO's “I May Destroy You” and Amazon's “Small Axe,” the latter of which was somewhat inexplicably deemed the year’s best film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.   

These are the categories where film directors like Barry Jenkins and Steve McQueen go to stretch out, and where actors like Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Ethan Hawke and Cynthia Erivo can do some of their best work. And when it comes to Emmy nominations, it’s going to be brutal.

Within each section, potential nominees are listed in order of likelihood.

OUTSTANDING LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES
Number of nominees: 5

Here’s the big question: Did enough voters watch “I May Destroy You?” The limited series from Michaela Coel was a critics’ favorite and a devastating piece of work that examines the aftermath of a sexual assault, but it had a lower profile than competitors like “The Undoing” and “Small Axe.” And that places it on the bubble in a tough category made even tougher because it’ll only have five nominees.

“The Queen’s Gambit,” “Mare of Easttown” and “The Underground Railroad” seem to be locked in, and “WandaVision” is a good bet unless voters have a real Marvel aversion. (But we know they like “The Mandalorian,” so they’re not scared off by sci-fi or genre shows.) If those four get in, it only leaves a single spot for “I May Destroy You,” “Small Axe,” HBO's “The Undoing,” Showtime's “The Good Lord Bird,” Netflix's “It’s a Sin,” NatGeo's “Genius: Aretha” and half a dozen others. My guess is that attention from the film community will give “Small Axe” a little boost, but it’s a very close call.

Predicted nominees:
“The Queen’s Gambit”
“Mare of Easttown”
“The Underground Railroad”
“WandaVision”
“Small Axe”

Watch out for: “I May Destroy You,” “The Undoing,” “The Good Lord Bird,” “It’s a Sin,” “Genius: Aretha”

Danielle Brooks in Robin Roberts Presents Mahalia
"Mahalia" (Lifetime)

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE
Number of nominees: 5

Where Outstanding Limited Series is a bloodbath, Outstanding Television Movie seems to be less competitive and more cut-and-dried. There’s a pretty clear top five here, with Amazon's “Sylvie’s Love” and “Uncle Frank” leading, followed by HBO's “Oslo,” Lifetime's “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” and Netflix's "Christmas on the Square” with Dolly Parton.

A handful of films could challenge that five, including HBO Max's “Unpregnant” and Jay Roach’s time capsule of 2020 for HBO, “Coastal Elites.” But despite some very strong work in this category, all the firepower in the limited-series categories makes television movies feel like something of an afterthought this year.

Predicted nominees:
“Sylvie’s Love”
“Uncle Frank”
“Oslo”
“Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia”
“Christmas on the Square”

Watch out for: “Unpregnant,” “7500,” “Coastal Elites”

Ethan Hawke Good Lord Bird Showtime
"The Good Lord Bird" (Showtime)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of nominees: 5

With only 51 entries, this category is a full 30 submissions short of triggering a move from five to six nominees. And that’s a real shame, because some great work is going to be left out. You’d think that Jeff Daniels in “The Comey Rule,” Ewan McGregor in “Halston” and Bryan Cranston in “Your Honor” would be sure things, but they’ll have to get past Ethan Hawke in “The Good Lord Bird,”  Paul Bettany in “WandaVision,” Hugh Grant in “The Undoing” and Joel Edgerton in “The Underground Railroad.” And what about “Hamilton?” It’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show, but Leslie Odom Jr. won the Tony for playing Aaron Burr -- which one gets a nomination here?

This won’t be the biggest bloodbath of any Emmy category -- that’s coming up next -- but it’ll be brutal.  

Predicted nominees:
Ethan Hawke, “The Good Lord Bird”
Paul Bettany, “WandaVision”
Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”
Joel Edgerton, “The Underground Railroad”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”

Watch out for: Jeff Daniels, “The Comey Rule”; Leslie Odom Jr., “Hamilton”; Ewan McGregor, “Halston”; Bryan Cranston, “Your Honor”; Chris Rock, “Fargo”

Mare of Easttown Kate Winslet
"Mare of Easttown" (HBO Max)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of nominees: 5

Here’s the biggest bloodbath of any Emmy category. You can start with five unassailable performances -- Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Queen’s Gambit,” Kate Winslet in “Mare of Easttown,” Elisabeth Olsen in ”WandaVision,” Thuso Mbedo in “The Underground Railroad” and Michaela Coel in “I May Destroy You” -- and realize that a slate made up of those women is one that leaves out Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin, Danielle Brooks as Mahalia Jackson, Nicole Kidman in “The Undoing” and Kate Mara in “A Teacher,” for starters.

So maybe Olsen and Coel will lose their spots to Erivo and Kidman. Maybe only Taylor-Joy and Winslet are safe, and the rest will be a free-for-all. Whatever happens, it’ll be a shame to see who’s left out.

Predicted nominees:
Kate Winslet, “Mare of Easttown”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit”
Thuso Mbedo, “The Underground Railroad”
Elisabeth Olsen, “WandaVision”
Michaela Coel, “I May Destroy You”

Watch out for: Cynthia Erivo, “Genius: Aretha”; Nicole Kidman, “The Undoing”; Danielle Brooks, “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia”; Kate Mara, “A Teacher”; Ruth Wilson, “Oslo”

John Boyega Small Axe 9G3A6187 Feature Image
"Small Axe" (Amazon Studios)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of nominees: 6

At least the supporting categories will have six nominees each. That provides a touch of breathing room, though it’s still not enough to encompass all but a fraction of the worthy work done in the past year. Bill Camp, in some ways the heart of “The Queen’s Gambit,” is close to a lock, and so is John Boyega for his wrenching performance in one of the “Small Axe” films. Other strong contenders include Donald Sutherland in “The Undoing,” Daveed Diggs in “Hamilton” and Chase W. Dillon in “The Underground Railroad,” although William Jackson Harper is a contender for that last series as well.

The last spot could go to Evan Peters for “Mare of Easttown,” but will voters resist Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump in “The Comey Rule?”

Predicted nominees:
Bill Camp, “The Queen’s Gambit”
John Boyega, “Small Axe”
Daveed Diggs, “Hamilton”
Donald Sutherland, “The Undoing”
Chase W. Dillon, “The Underground Railroad”
Evan Peters, “Mare of Easttown”

Watch out for: William Jackson Harper, “The Underground Railroad”; Brendan Gleeson, “The Comey Rule”; Courtney B. Vance, “Genius: Aretha”; Paapa Essiedu, “I May Destroy You”; Shaun Parkes, “Small Axe”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of nominees: 6

Kathryn Hahn is delicious in “WandaVision,” and she’s in. So is Jean Smart in “Mare of Easttown” -- but while Smart looked like that show’s best shot at a supporting-actress nod for most of the season, the shocking finale probably locked in another nomination for Julianne Nicholson. Meanwhile, Marielle Heller proved that she’s not just a director with her performance as Anya Taylor-Joy’s mother in “The Queen’s Gambit,” and she’s probably in as well.

The rest of the category could include either Renee Elise Goldsberry or Philippa Soo for “Hamilton,” Letitia Wright for “Small Axe,” Weruche Opia for “I May Destroy You” or Krysta Rodriguez for playing Liza Minnelli in “Halston.” Tony winner Goldsberry, also an Emmy contender for “Girls5eva,” may have a slight edge over Soo, while the last spot may be a tossup between Wright and Opia.

Predicted nominees:
Kathryn Hahn, “WandaVision”
Julianne Nicholson, “Mare of Easttown”
Jean Smart, “Mare of Easttown”
Marielle Heller, “The Queen’s Gambit”
Letitia Wright, “Small Axe”
Renee Elise Goldsberry, “Hamilton”

Watch out for: Weruche Opia, “I May Destroy You”; Philippa Soo, “Hamilton”; Krysta Rodriguez, “Halston”; Teyonah Parris, “WandaVision”; Jessie Buckley, “Fargo”