Emmys 2011: A Look at the Lead Drama Actress Race — Including Our 6 Dream Nominees

In 2010, the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series seemed destined to go to Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife. Everybody said so. Apparently everybody but the Emmy voters, that is. They decided instead, that after her fifth nomination, it was The Closer’s Kyra Sedgwick who finally deserved to win. This year the big buzz surrounds Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss. Come award night, will she or some other fresh face have the statuette in their hand? Or will Margulies, again a seeming frontrunner, claim it this time? Or someone else patiently waiting their turn? Here’s our analysis of the standouts competing to get a nod.

More Emmy Races In Review: Outstanding Drama Series | Supporting Comedy Actor | Supporting Comedy Actress | Lead Comedy Actor | Lead Comedy Actress | Outstanding Comedy Series | Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

Review this slideshow of the major contenders — including TVLine’s Dream Nominees — then vote below for who you think are the six best. And check back Friday for our preview of the Outstanding Lead Drama Actor race!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. djm says:

    Sad, but I haven’t watched any of these shows.

  2. Bobby says:

    Went with Lauren Graham, Emmy Rossum, Julianna Margulies, Piper Perabo, Kathy Bates, and Anna Paquin, though its close for me between Emmy and Julianna, I have to give it to Julianna

  3. Dick Whitman says:

    Britton, Graham, Margulies, Torv, Moss & Enos.

  4. stef says:

    Lisa Edelstein of course! To me she’s (or was)the LEAD actress on House.

    • Alicia says:


    • Liz says:

      She has never been LEAD actress, get over it. Nor does she deserve an Emmy.

    • Molly says:

      So maybe her role wasn’t exactly lead, but it was the lead female, especially this season. I think her acting was fantastic this season, my personal favourite actress, and I don’t understand why she isn’t on this list?!

      • Josephine says:

        because she is one the list as the best “SUPPOTING actress” because that is what she is he is the lead and the rest is submitted as supporting just like TJ THYn from Bones is also listent as supporting and everyone who is one the list from Grey’s except Ellen Pompeo is submitted as supporting.

  5. F says:

    Anna Torv deserves a nomination!

  6. Angie says:

    Anna Torv deserves it this year! She has acted the hell out of everything that has been thrown at her.

    • Pita says:

      “Thrown at her” is right. The things she does on this show. One week she’s giving birth in a china shop, the next she’s impersonating Leonard Nimoy. She has the craziest acting job on this list. And she’s pulling it off admirably.

    • morgana says:

      agreed!! anna torv deserves the emmy! she’s proved to be a versatile actress and she delivers extremely credible performances no matter how unreal the challenge may seem (bellivia…). furthermore, the fact that her performance has been overlooked for the past two years should be what finally tips the scales in her favour! julianna margulies is a very fair contender, but this is anna torv’s year, hands down!

  7. Nate says:

    Who are all of you people voting for Piper Perabo? Are you voting solely from residual Coyote Ugly love? Because there’s no way people think she should be rewarded for her work on Covert Affairs (although in fairness NO ONE should be rewarded for the televisual abomination that is Covert Affairs)

    • Justin says:

      I agree that Piper Perabo shouldn’t be on this list, but back off Covert Affairs. Its a great show!

      • Anne says:

        It’s really really not. I watch it, but I would never ever rate it or the acting on it as anything better than “tolerable”. Her golden globe nomination should stay the fluke it was.

  8. Lola says:

    Emmy lost their credibility when they never nominated Lauren Graham for Gilmore girls. The whole awards are a bad joke to me.

    • Mike says:

      So Lauren Graham deserved to be the ONLY actress to get nominated from a CW (UPN/WB) show? I didn’t check my facts on this so I could be wrong on a couple instances, but I don’t recall there ever been an actor/actress nominated for their work on these networks.

      • Yasin says:

        No, but honestly her and Emily Bishop were robbed of Emmys. They both should have been nominated for there work in Gilmore Girls

      • Sarah says:

        I’m not a huge fan of most CW/WB shows (many are absurdly plastic) but the fact that the stars of Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, and Buffy never got nominated is just ridiculous. For one, these are some of the only shows portraying complex, well-rounded female characters (at least, teenage females). Kristen Bell was INCREDIBLE as the confident Veronica; Lauren Graham we all know was simply divine as Lorelai (and I think the actress who played her mother could have been nominated too, for giving Emily Gilmore a depth that a lesser actress wouldn’t have found; and even though it wasn’t Buffy’s best season, SMG’s work on season 6 was utterly amazing and heartbreaking.
        So, in conclusion, Emmy is blind to anything that ranges beyond courtroom/medical dramas and that is a real shame.

      • Missy says:

        If the Emmy is to reward someone from The CW nowadays with a nomination in this category, it should be Leighton Meester for Gossip Girl… Without bias, I’ve never seen a role such iconic from the network since the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Gilmore Girls and 7th Heaven on The WB…

  9. Caroline S says:

    I’m so happy Emily Deschanel is on this list; she has been amazing on Bones for years.

  10. Liz says:

    Anna Paquin must win! She is amazing in True Blood. Makes us laugh, cry… She is great.
    Of course, it would be really nice if Emily Deschanel & Lisa Edelstein were nominated as well!

  11. katie says:

    Lauren Graham to win!!! Love her as an actress!!!

  12. Sabrina says:

    Ellen Pompeo and Maggie Q need to be on that list.

    • Liz says:

      Oh yes of course! I forgot Ellen Pompeo!! She is great, and should be nominated.

    • Emily says:

      Maggie Q, yes! If only CW shows were more highly regarded. Nina Dobrev deserves an award too.

      • sana says:

        Yeah! Last year, Nina Dobrev was great, but after what she pulled off this season with the two totally different characters she definitely deserves a nomination. The Emmys overlooking at the CW is just so dumb!

  13. FP says:

    Anna Torv! Stop the sci-fi bias, please. Her work has been outstanding.

    • Mike says:

      Totally agree with you that Anna Torv deserves a nomination, but I wouldn’t say that the Emmys are totally biased on sci-fi unless you didn’t consider LOST Sci-fi. Both Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn won for their outstanding work on LOST. And Matthew Fox was nominated in the final season. Actresses, though? Maybe not as much. But Elizabeth Mitchell was nominated for her “GUEST” re-appearance in season 6.

      But yeah, Fringe needs some love this year with LOST out of the equation. The show had a fantastic 3rd season and more attention to it certainly wouldn’t hurt! I’m hoping for nominations for at least Best Drama and acting nods for John Noble and Anna Torv. We’ll see!

  14. May says:

    I watch many of these actresses and think they have been amazing this year, including Julianna Margulies. Any other year I’d say she deserves to win, however no one has done what Anna Torv did on Fringe this year. She deserves to be nominated at the very least. Winning would be justified but if she doesn’t get nominated…I’ll just have to believe the Emmy voters are oblivious.

  15. MCO says:

    WHAT ?? No Stana Katic ?
    Have you even watched Castle this season ? Because you did, you should have put Stana Katic to the list ! She was perfect this year !!!!

    • Aimee says:

      I love Castle and Stana, but Castle only had a few really outstanding episodes this season.

      Anna Torv on Fringe has been on top of her game all season, and deserves a nomination. I dream for a win, but the chances of me meeting my alternate from another universe are higher…

    • Lorena says:

      My thoughts exactly.
      That season finale was flawless!

    • Dalilla says:

      She stepped up her game, even more, this season. Along with her acting ability, she is one of (if not THE BEST) greatest non-verbal actress on primetime. She can say so much with her facial expressions than most actors can with 100 pages of dialogue.

      • ntbos says:

        My thoughts exactly. Stana Katic has the best facial expressions of any actress I’ve ever seen. She is amazing and completely deserving of an Emmy.

        • Caitlin says:

          Agreed 100%!!!! There are so many episodes I’ve said she is deserving of an Emmy for and she doesn’t even have to open her mouth. You all just took the words right out of my mouth. Stana seriously needs to be on this list.

    • Pau says:

      I agree. Stana deserve to be there, she was incredible this season. She mad me laugh out load and cry depending on the scene. Plus she really owned her character, with a facil expression you could see so much emotion or depth.

    • Myspace1529 says:

      I totaly agree with You:)
      Beckett rules !!!!!! :D

    • Jessica says:


    • Heather says:

      I was just about to post the same thing. It’s ridiculous that Stana Katic was left off this list.

    • Aiswarya says:

      OH MY GOD I KNOW RIGHT??????????? The fact that stana is not nominated has put me off the emmys :(
      But even so GOOO EMILLYYYYYY <3 She's awesome too :D But Stana Katic is the best anytime! <3

  16. Real1 says:

    Anna Torv , no question .

  17. Melissa Miller says:

    I’m a big fan of Connie Britton, Lauren Graham, and Anna Torv getting a nod, but I had to write in Nina Dobrev. Sure, it’s a CW show, but she blew me away as Elena/Katherine. I often forgot they were the same actress!

  18. MACK says:

    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv

  19. Gaby says:

    Paget Brewster for sure. After an episode like “Lauren,” how could she not.

  20. karl says:

    I don’t think people realize how the emmy nomination process works.

    Ballots with all of the qualified entries are mailed to academy members. Each peer group member votes in his own category — performers for performers, directors for directors — and everyone votes in the program categories, such as best comedy series and best miniseries.

    So, as much as I want Anna Torv to be nominated, the truth is that probably not enough people in her peer group even know who she is. Unfortunately, it’s name actors that people vote for, those who are in the public eye and are well known. Which she isn’t. Thankfully we have the CCTA who have a brain and see talent over names. That awards show is going to make the EMMYS look dated in a nano second.

    • Pita says:

      Sad to see that if you are low profile in real life, your Emmys chances are slim even if your work warrants kudos.
      My problem with the Emmys voting process is that when do the others performers get the time to actually watch the shows?? They are all working in television, that means crazy schedules and few time off. That doesn’t make sense. So they probably vote on word of mouth more then anything else. Meh.
      It should be a committee devoted to the task (majors critics included) that votes for these things. That’s why the CCTA list is so right on this year.

  21. Kate says:

    KATEY SAGAL! Gemma kicks booty on SOA. Greatest show on TV.

    • alr says:

      Totally agree! I’m not sure that Maggie Siff shouldn’t be in this category as well. She’s becoming more and more of a lead actress as well and both she and Katey are fantastic!

  22. steeper says:

    I swear CBS are so desperate for an EMMY they have their staff voting on these polls. Anna Torv for the win!

  23. Roy says:

    I voted Kathy Bates, Anna Torv, Julianna Margulies, Dana Delaney, Emily Deschanel and Lauren Graham. And the Emmy should go to either Anna or Julianna. They’re on my 2 favorite drama series on TV from last season. But in the end I think it would be great to see Aussie Anna Torv win it for playing Olivia in Fringe. The show had an absolute stellar season, and should also get a best drama series nomination. As should The Good Wife which had some of the best writing I have ever seen on TV.

  24. Gigi says:


  25. sarah says:

    It’s gotta be Julianna. I’m hoping for a Good Wife sweep this year but I’m guessing that Archie will lose to Michelle Forbes.

  26. Allie says:

    The lack of love for Connie Britton in these comments makes me sad. She’s incredible and had an AMAZING final season. The last few episodes were some of her best ever.

  27. Ella says:

    Emmy Rossum and Connie Britton of course! Both did a fantastic job and I really hope they will get their nomination.

  28. quantumx says:


  29. Mafalda says:

    Emmy Rossum, Anna Torv and Julliana Margulies hands down!
    Elisabeth Moss and Lauren Graham had a great year too :D

  30. Vivienne says:

    Stana Katic “Castle”
    This season showcased her talents. If she can only submit one performance . . . . send in the season finale “Knockout”!
    It’s time for the award shows to branch out and stop with the same nominee’s time and time again. Especially when others who are deserving don’t get recognition. (I.E: Sarah Michelle Geller should have 2 Emmys at least for Buffy, if it were on a big network she would have.)

    • ann says:

      Agreed- top to bottom of your comment, Vivienne. SMG should have been given the recognition she deserved from the Emmy panel. But because “Buffy” was on a smaller network and considered a “genre” show…

      Anyway, Stana Katic should have been on this list, and especially on the official one. She shined on this past season of “Castle.”

  31. L. says:

    Emily Deschanel is more than deserving for her excellent acting on Bones for the last 6 seasons.

  32. Leigh says:

    Lucy Lawless in “Spartacus” was *amazing*! But that show will never get Emmy love. It’s Julianna Margulies in a lock.

  33. Kristina says:

    I like that Anna Torv is listed but where is Regina King? She does great in every seasonof Southland and in particular, ‘Sideways’ from this past season she was exceptional. More Southland love, please.

    • Amber says:

      Regina King does great, I agree. And she submitted herself for supporting actress. I would be shocked if tvline omitted her when they get around to doing that category.

  34. max says:

    I hope Kathy Bates get a nomination! She deserves it!

  35. Samantha says:

    Emily’s work on Bones this year was incredible! She deserves at least a nomination. And Lauren Graham’s work has always been great.

  36. Eve says:

    Connie Britton and Jeanne Tripplehorn deserve this.

  37. John says:

    Since no one’s said it yet, I’m going to step up and pledge my love for Elisabeth Moss, Peggy Olsen, and the brilliance of everything that was “The Suitcase” this year. Best Emmy submission episode ever.

    • Yo Mama says:

      I agree. The Emmy race is Elizabeth Moss’ to lose this year. Nothing I’ve seen even comes close to touching “The Suitcase.”

      • Tom says:

        I agree. The Suitcase was not only one of the best episodes of Mad Men (I say the best), but one of the best television episodes ever. Both Moss and Jon Hamm were absolutely incredible in this episode. They should both get nominated.

    • Triple M says:

      I second the motion!!! Elisabeth Moss FTW…

  38. CC says:


  39. Dawn says:

    Stana Katic should be on the list!!

  40. Kelly says:

    Anyone else sick to death of the popularity contest they call “Emmy”? Maybe if we didn’t see the same nominees each year, it might mean something. Time to consider shows on smaller networks & time to consider shows on the genre fence. A worthy performance should be just as worthy on the CW, for example. Time to realize that “the best” shouldn’t always be “the most popular”.

    And, let me add….Lauren Graham for “Parenthood”? Seriously? Whoever left her off of the nominee list for early “Gilmore Girls” needs their head examined. Her new character doesn’t showcase HALF of her talent. And, honestly, this show is the epitome of an ensemble show – she doesn’t even belong in this category.

    • Clara says:

      Could not possibly disagree with you more. Anyone who has watched Lauren Graham’s performance this year in Parenthood – in particular the storyline dealing with the father of her children returning – absolutely knows she deserves this. She belongs there. It’s too bad you don’t recognize the incredible range of her acting. Loved her in Gilmore Girls, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t desrve to be nominated for Parenthood. She does!

    • Allie says:

      I disagree completely, Kelly. I adore Lauren Graham and Lorelai Gilmore remains one of my favorite television characters of all time. But Lauren has been able to showcase her dramatic talents beautifully on Parenthood. She was never really given that opportunity with Gilmore Girls. Through Parenthood, I’ve found that Lauren has one of the most expressive faces and is one of those very few actresses who doesn’t need words to have a conversation– all she needs are her eyes. She’s at her best in those really quiet, emotional moments. The scenes between her and her TV daughter, Mae Whitman, are particularly amazing.

      I will agree with you that it’s an ensemble show. She might be better suited for a Supporting Actress category (mostly because I don’t know how I’d possibly be able to choose between her and Connie Britton), but I think she’s absolutely worthy of ANY nomination she’d receive.

      • Clara says:

        I agree with all of your post, Allie. except for the part about the lead actress category. Ensemble shows can have lead actresses, and that is exactly what Lauren is (w/ Peter Krause as lead actor). She deserves this so much, I really hope her talent is someday rewarded.

  41. Rini says:

    Some of those nominees are wonderful, but where is Stana Katic? This year of Castle has been phenomenal and in no small part because of her tremendous acting ability and deep understanding of her character Katherine Beckett. Not having Stana Katic on this list is a glaring oversight.

  42. Brittany says:

    Julianna, Anna Torv, Lauren Graham, and Connie Britton should all be nominated imo. I hope Julianna wins. I’m surprised though that Sally Field isn’t in the running for the final season of Brothers & Sisters, along with Lisa Edelstein for her final season of House. Weird. Maybe Lisa is in supporting actually, I don’t know.

  43. Brittany Vogel says:

    And PLEASE no nomination for Piper Perabo. I was astounded by her Golden Globe nomination. And not in a good way.

  44. Ingmar says:

    Emily Deschannel should win, but I dont think she will get a nod even. Julianne Marguilles deserves to win in that case. Lauren Graham and Kyra both deserve a nod.

  45. Luiza says:

    I think that stana katic
    will be cool if she win

  46. Fernando says:

    Dana Delany-Body of Proof and then Sarah Shahi-Fairly Legal

  47. Michelle says:

    Maggie Q from ‘Nikita’ should definitely be on theis list. She is a phenomenal actress!

  48. Tracy says:

    Jennifer Beals – I have no idea if she is any good on “The Chicago Code” but Emmy owes her one for her portrayal of Bette on “The L Word”

  49. Susan A says:

    Katey Sagal!!! She’s overdue for her role as Gemma.

  50. Paige says:

    Stana Katic from Castle, she was absolutely stunning this season. If anyone deserves even an Emmy nod, it’s her.

    • alisonfaith297 says:

      i dont mean to be mean but how does being beautiful affect her acting??

    • AK says:

      Where is our lovely Stana Katic????? What list in their right minds would omit her??? I’ve watched tons of The Good Wife and I just have to say it: Stana blows the perpetually-wooden Julianna Marguiles out of the WATER. This just proves that the Emmys really are favoritist, I guess, because Stana Katic’s talent is massive and she deserves the award more than anybody. VERY disappointing list. I hope Castle actors will stop being snubbed one of these days.