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2023 Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

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We will update this article throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2023 Emmys race. The nomination round of voting takes place from June 15 to June 26, with the official Emmy nominations announced Wednesday, July 12. Afterwards, final voting commences on August 17 and ends the night of August 28. Currently in limbo, the 75th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were set to take place on Monday, September 18, and air live on FOX at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

See our previous thoughts on what to expect at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards here.

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The State of the Race

With the actors on strike since the 2023 Emmy nominations were announced, there has been almost no opportunity for performers to campaign for Television Academy votes. What has happened instead is the show’s directors and below the line staff who have earned nominations as well have become the ones advocating for them.

When it comes to the nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, the performers who would likely have the most difficulty winning over voters considering the new dynamics are Jeff Bridges, the sole Emmy nominee from freshman FX series “The Old Man,” and Bob Odenkirk, who’s show “Better Call Saul” has yet to win a single Emmy after five seasons and dozens of nominations. Though there was a case to be made early on in the TV awards season that TV Academy members would push hard to give the latter AMC series a parting gift, it has now been over a year since it ended, and the conclusion of “Succession” has all but eclipsed it. 

It is best to expect the unexpected at the Emmys though. Three nominations in this category for “Succession” means vote-splitting is bound to happen, and if TV Academy voters consider that they never gave Bob Odenkirk an Emmy for his work on “Breaking Bad,” the Emmy-winning series “Better Call Saul” builds upon, then some may find it egregious to overlook him this last time at bat.

That all said, Pedro Pascal is still a major dark horse in the race, especially now, when a show’s craft takes a larger focus. With so many below the line nominations in all sorts of different categories, those voters who have yet to see HBO hit “The Last of Us” are all poised to be won over by Pascal as final voting commences.

Power Rankings:

  1. Jeremy Strong, “Succession” (HBO)

  2. Pedro Pascal, “The Last of Us” (HBO)

  3. Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)

  4. Kieran Culkin, “Succession” (HBO)

  5. Brian Cox, “Succession” (HBO)

  6. Jeff Bridges, “The Old Man” (FX)

Will Win: Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
Could Win:
Pedro Pascal, “The Last of Us”
Should Win:
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

More Drama Category Predictions:
Outstanding Drama Series
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

To see IndieWire’s full set of predictions for the 75th Emmy Awards click here.

Last Year’s Winner: Lee Jung-jae, “Squid Game”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Last year continued a streak that has lasted over a decade, where no one has won this award for back-to-back seasons of their series. The last to do so was “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston in 2008-2010. There is a chance for Dominic West to win and start a streak for the same role as Josh O’Connor, who won this Emmy in 2021 for playing a younger Prince Charles on “The Crown.” Otherwise, the only person vying for a repeat win is “Succession” star Jeremy Strong, who won in 2020, but did not win last year.
Notable Ineligible Series: Adam Scott, “Severance” (Season 2 was not eligible); Jason Bateman, “Ozark” (ended); Sterling K. Brown, “This is Us” (ended)

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