Golden Globes 2021: Which Actresses From a Freshman Series Can Win Comedy Actress?

Schitt’s Creek’s domination of the Emmys slapped a smile on the awards world in 2020. Few anticipated the series would so thoroughly own the biggest night in television, but the history-making event will not soon be forgotten. The Emmys remain the most prestigious venue for television success. Yet the upcoming Golden Globes have a unique opportunity.

Traditionally, the Globes prefer to be an early tastemaker, only to be rebuked by the Emmys. In the last ten years, Brooklyn Nine-Nine won Best Comedy Series, Outlander continually found love, and Amy Poehler scored Parks and Recreation one of its few acting prizes in Comedy Actress. In fact, the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series was the opposite of a Julia Louis-Dreyfus decade at the Emmys. Instead, the Globes awarded nine different women the top prize. Of those, six came from freshmen series.

Sadly, 2020 did not provide the number of quality newcomers the Globes are used to seeing. Yet what 2020 lacked in quantity was more than apparent in the quality of performances. There are also four slots open from last year’s ceremony (Christina Applegate is eligible for Dead to Me Season 2). Will we see a whole new five? Or will the Globes bow to the Emmy’s will?

There are three new leads looking to enter the Globes fray despite missing at the Emmys. Elle Fanning looks to rule the category, and she’s got a lot in her favor. First, Tony McNamara’s series on Russian royalty looks and feels like prestige content at every turn. Fanning’s excellent turn remains a missed opportunity for the Emmys, and the Globes love to award an overlooked performer. Second, it checks off the period setting and intrigue that made Outlander such a sensation with their voters. If The Great got in front of the voters, it could easily become a juggernaut.

Another who screams Golden Globe nominee is Jane Levy from Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, which is only eligible for Season 1. Levy fits the mold for a young actress, and the series allows her to flex musical and drama muscles at every turn. Luckily, those musical numbers fall in line with past Globe voters. Rachel Bloom won the top prize in 2015 and Lea Michele scored nominations in 2009 and 2010. Levy was a near-miss at the Emmys, and once again, the Globes have the ability to right the ship.

Perhaps the weakest of the three on performance alone is Awkwafina in Nora From Queens, but the young actress already has a Globe on her mantle. Just last year, the HFPA overshadowed Oscar by giving the comedian the top prize for The Farewell. The pseudo-sketch series is a star vehicle, and Awkwafina is still rising. If they still feel the love, an afterglow nomination could be in the cards.

The Globes also get a chance to crown a few actresses before the Emmys do. Kaley Cuoco won hearts and minds with The Flight Attendant this fall. Cuoco turned her charm way up, showcasing a range we’d never seen from her. Cuoco should be the Globe’s choice, in part because Emmy might feel “above” the series. Awarding Cuoco would be wise for the Globes and bears a striking similarity to Laura Dern’s win for Enlightened in 2011.

On the flip side, the love-hate relationship with Emily in Paris led many to bail on the series early. Despite some negative buzz, the show undeniably has its fans. Across that diehard community, Lily Collins was praised. Emily in Paris certainly has critics, but critics never stopped the Globes from rewarding their eccentric tastes. They rewarded Lena Dunham and Girls when the Emmys stopped short.

If the Globes wants to go with some outside the box picks, there are plenty more to consider. Zoë Kravitz seems destined for stardom, and High Fidelity earned genuine acclaim. Kravitz kept a gravitational hold over the series, easily earning raves for her dynamic performance. Charlotte Nicdao surprised on Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, often providing the series with heart and its subtle straight man. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan married the difficulties of depression, grief, and high school in Never Have I Ever for Netflix. Each would make an excellent addition to the lineup, even if they are not front-of-mind choices.

Some sophomore series should also find support. Applegate’s Dead to Me co-star, Linda Cardellini, jumps into the race and would prove the show’s popularity with the group. Natasia Demetriou should also be top-of-mind for voters. What We Do in the Shadows established itself as one of the best shows on television over its first two seasons. It appears that quarantine has intensified that love, and Demetriou would be an excellent way to reward the series at the Globes. Both Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle deliver some of the funniest material on TV in Pen15, which remains a criminally underrated awards contender.

Last but not least, there are the Emmy contenders sniffing for Globe recognition. Catherine O’Hara did not catch on with the Globes before Schitt’s Creek’s final season. She’s never been nominated by the HFPA. A mea culpa could be in order, and like Phoebe Waller-Bridge last year, O’Hara could capture a farewell prize.

Issa Rae continues her rise in Hollywood thanks to her continually poignant and hilarious performances. The Globes were the first to acknowledge Insecure in 2017, a whole season before the Emmys. Another nomination would make her one of three black women, with Debbie Allen and Isabel Sanford, with three nominations in the category.

Finally, Pamela Adlon scored a nomination in 2018 but has not returned since. Unlike Rae, this is her only nomination, and Better Things has not sniffed the Best Comedy Series category. Adlon and Rae are set to contend at the Emmys this year. However, it remains to be seen if the Globes want to follow the leader, or pave their own path.

Alan French’s projected lineup for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  1. Christina Applegate – Dead to Me
  2. Kaley Cuoco – The Flight Attendant
  3. Catherine O’Hara – Schitt’s Creek
  4. Jane Levy – Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
  5. Issa Rae – Insecure

Let us hear your predictions in the comments below!

Written by
Alan French has been writing about TV and entertainment awards for more than five years. He joined AwardsCircuit in 2016, where he became a Rotten Tomatometer-approved critic. He has also written for WeBoughtABlog, 1428 Elm, and InsideTheMagic. He's interviewed directors, actors, and craft teams from Stranger Things, The Good Place, Atlanta, and more. He holds a Masters in Mass Communication from the University of Central Florida and two Bachelors degrees from Florida State University. When he’s not watching movies, he’s usually at one of Florida’s theme parks.

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