8 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series Winners, Ranked

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Every year we see some of the most successful and sought-after actresses in the industry take on the challenge of starring in a limited television series. From Kate Winslet to Frances McDormand to Nicole Kidman, these huge movie stars have gone from the big screen to the TV in our living rooms to deliver some of the best performances of their careers. One of the most exciting parts of such a powerful actress starring in a limited series rather than a movie is simply that they have more time to develop the story and their characters and deepen the plot. Rather than trying to tell a story in two or three hours, with a TV series they now have up to eight or ten hours.



The Primetime Emmys has been honoring actresses in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series category annually since 1955. American Horror Story, Big Little Liesand Easttown Mare are just a few limited series with powerful lead actresses who received the Outstanding Lead Actress award. On July 12, per Variety, we’ll find out which talented and acclaimed actresses will be nominated for the award this year. Then, on September 19, TV fans will tune in to the Primetime Emmys to see who will win. In the meantime, here are eight of the most deserved wins for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series, ranked.

8 Michelle Williams — Fosse/Verdon

In 2019, Oscar-nominated actress michelle williams starred as legendary dancer and choreographer Gwen Verdon on the Hulu original series Fosse/Verdon​​​​​​. Tony Award-winning Gwen Verdon was one of America’s biggest jazz dance influences, and she’s the mastermind behind her husband Bob Fosse’s signature choreography and aesthetic. Williams completely embodied the role and gave an incredible performance. Other great works by Williams include her performances in films like Manchester by the Sea, Blue Valentine, Shutter Island, Brokeback Mountain, and The greatest showman.

Related: 8 Most Deserving Acting Category Wins Of The 2010s

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seven Sarah Paulson – The People vs. OJ Simpson

We’ve all heard of the OJ Simpson trial in 1994, where the infamous football star was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, but in 2016 FX released the chilling limited series The People v. OJ Simpsonwho told the story from a new perspective. Sarah Paulson starred in the series as Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the Simpson murder case. Her performance is raw, heartbreaking and certainly one of the actress’ most exciting. She won her first Emmy for the role in 2016 after being nominated more than six times for her work on American Horror Story, Game Changerand Impeachment: American Crime Story.

6 Kate Winslet—Mildred Pierce

No matter what role she enters Kate Winslet always delivers an exciting, authentic performance that you know will be amazing. Over the years, she has starred in some of the most successful and beloved films of all time, from Titanic at Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind at The reader, the latter for which the actress won her first Oscar. In 2011, she entered her first television role as the titular Mildred Pierce, a struggling single mother trying to support her two children during the Depression. Mildred Pierce was released on HBO Max and almost immediately captured the attention of audiences and critics around the world.

5 Meryl Streep – Angels in America

Meryl Streep is undoubtedly one of the most talented and influential women in Hollywood, paving the way for young actresses and setting an example for people around the world. She is a force to be reckoned with and a truly amazing actress. Angels in America is a perfect example of Streep’s range and ability to completely embody every character she portrays. With 21 Oscar nominations to her credit and three wins, she’s arguably one of the most deserving actresses to ever receive the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series.


4 Jessica Lange – American Horror Story: Coven

Jessica Lange is the leading actress who has worn american horror story throughout its first four seasons. She played the role of Constance Langdon in AHS: Murder House, Sister Jude Martin in AHS: AsylumFiona Goode in AHS: Convent, and Elsa Mars in AHS: Monster Show. While all of her performances are outstanding, her most memorable work is that of Fiona Goode, the former supreme of her clan and a descendant of Salem. The character is cruel, elegant and intimidating, and Lange plays her perfectly.

Related: Emmys 2022 Predictions: Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series

3 Nicole Kidman – Big Little Lies

In 2017, big little lies, an adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel, completely dominated the world of television. Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern play five mothers living in Monterey, California, who look like normal women, but who, deep down, face their own demons and struggle to keep their darkest secrets buried. Kidman gives an incredible performance as Celeste Wright, a former lawyer, mother, and wife trapped in a mentally and physically abusive relationship with her husband Perry Wright. Throughout the series, we see Celeste consider her marriage and grow from a quiet, shy person to a confident woman who isn’t afraid to make tough decisions to keep herself and her sons safe.


2 Frances McDormand—Olive Kitteridge

One of the most special aspects of Frances McDormandthe performance of Olive Kitteridge it was how easily women around the world could identify with her. We all find ourselves a little bit in Olive through the different stages of his life. In every work McDormand is a part of, the actress grabs the audience’s attention and dominates every aspect of the scene. Her power as an actress is unmatched, and when you watch her perform it becomes clear that she is one of the most respected and sought after people in the industry for a reason.

1 Kate Winslet — Easttown Mare

Kate Winslet tops our list for her second Emmy win in Easttown Mare. In 2021, Winslet returned to the television world to play Mare Sheehan in this HBO crime limited series. Mare is a desktop police investigator in a small town in Pennsylvania, who takes her job very seriously. Her endless determination and tough exterior push her beyond her breaking point when she tries to solve a terrible murder, while simultaneously trying to overcome her own demons that she faces every day in her personal life. Winslet gave one of her best performances in the role, and fans can all agree that her Emmy win was more than deserved.

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