Shogun Moving to Emmys Drama Series Categories, Out of Limited Races?

“Shōgun” might be creating some drama at the Emmys.

Multiple industry insiders tell Variety that FX, the heavyweight contender in the Primetime Emmy race for outstanding limited or anthology series, is considering a bold move: shifting its submission for “Shōgun” to the drama series categories this year.

This strategic repositioning hints at the likely return of the protagonist, Lord Yoshii Toranaga (played by Hiroyuki Sanada). Created by Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks, the historical epic, celebrated for its intricate storytelling and marvelous world-building achievements, will now vie for accolades against heavy hitters like Netflix‘s concluding saga “The Crown,” Apple’s intense office drama “The Morning Show,” and Prime Video’s gripping action video game adaptation “Fallout.”

FX declined to comment.

“Shōgun” brings to life James Clavell’s 1975 novel set in 1600 Japan, a period dominated by daimyōs and samurais. The narrative centers on the fateful encounter between the cunning English navigator John Blackthorne, played by Cosmo Jarvis, and the shrewd warlord Toranaga (Sanada). It’s part of Clavell’s “Asian Saga,” a six-novel series exploring the Anglo-Saxon footprint in Asia, with the subsequent novel “Tai-Pan” taking readers to 1841 Hong Kong.

Read: All Primetime Emmy predictions in every category on Variety’s Awards Circuit.

This year, the limited series category has become fiercely competitive, sparking widespread anxiety among network strategists about optimal show placement. The Emmy nominations announced in July will likely narrow the field to only five, unlike drama and comedy series, which will have eight nominees each. “Shōgun’s” new direction could significantly shake up drama and limited categories, with vacating spots for individual acting and technical achievements.

“Shōgun’s” sibling series at FX, “Fargo,” has made a triumphant return with Season 5, earning some of the best reviews since its early days. This clears the way for previous Emmy winner Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), as a corrupt sheriff, to secure a nod. Other actors like Matt Bomer (“Fellow Travelers”), Tom Hollander (“Feud: Capote vs. The Swans”) and David Oyelowo (“Lawmen: Bass Reeves”) now also see less crowded paths to recognition.

Meanwhile, Netflix is pushing forward with the stalker-thriller “Baby Reindeer” and the monochromatic stylish “Ripley,” both gaining traction. The former, which had a late release, has been surging since its debut in April and could be argued as the one to beat. “True Detective: Night Country” on HBO/Max, featuring stellar performances by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, will be a significant force that will help the anthology crime series push its way near the top. With “Shōgun” out of the category, Apple TV+’s “Lessons in Chemistry,” fresh from a DGA win, and Showtime’s “Fellow Travelers” with Jonathan Bailey have better chances of not being overlooked.

But if “Shōgun” entered the drama fray, is it the new frontrunner? Despite the potential hurdles faced by non-English language shows (i.e., “Squid Game” and “Pachinko”), the sheer enthusiasm for “Shōgun” is a game-changer. It will square off against “The Crown’s” less fervently received final season, and as seen with the final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which was universally criticized for its subpar ending, sometimes, that doesn’t matter when a TV Academy member is filling out their ballots.

In the drama landscape, Jarvis and Sanada would both be poised for lead acting nominations, injecting fresh energy into a category that was begging for excitement with pundits split between Gary Oldman (“Slow Horses”) and Dominic West (“The Crown”). Tracking favors Sanada, also a producer on the series, to potentially make him the second Asian actor to win this prestigious award after Lee Jung-jae for “Squid Game” in 2022.

Emerging star Anna Sawai, portraying the dutiful translator Toda Mariko, would move to the forefront for best lead drama actress, contending with seasoned previous nominees like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon (“The Morning Show”), Oscar laureate Emma Stone (“The Curse”) and Imelda Staunton (“The Crown”).

The supporting actors in “Shōgun,” notably Tadanobu Asano and Fumi Nikaido, would likely fit comfortably to make significant impacts, enriching the series’ dramatic texture. However, the shift would open up new opportunities in the guest acting categories, expanding the field for “Shōgun’s” talented cast. The details of who will be eligible to compete are still unfolding.

Originally adapted into a beloved 1980 miniseries, the latest iteration of “Shōgun” has captivated a new generation, with Variety’s TV critic Alison Herman praising it as “the most transportive TV epic since ‘Game of Thrones.’” With its premiere episodes drawing a record 9 million global viewers, beating out “The Bear” and “The Kardashians” premieres, “Shōgun” is poised to leave a formidable imprint on this year’s Emmy race. Submissions close at midnight — let the games begin.

The newest Emmy predictions have been updated to reflect the changes on Variety Awards Circuit.

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