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. flutiefan says:

    if i could just vote for Connie Britton 6 times, i would. she is a revelation.

  2. Captain says:

    Went with Connie Britton, Anna Paquin, Piper Perabo and Katey Segal.

  3. Ashton says:

    I’m Pro Julianna, but if Emmy at least gets a nod I will be very happy!

  4. sietsx says:

    Julianna Margulies all the awards!

  5. Justin says:

    As much as i think Mad Men is one of the best TV shows ever, and as much as season 4 was my single favorite season of TV ever, and AS MUCH as I love Elizabeth Moss and January Jones in their roles. They just aren’t lead actresses and don’t belong here. The only lead on that show is Jon Hamm, and it’s just silly to think otherwise. Standing out as the lead in one or two episodes certainly isn’t lead. I’d give my vote to Juliana Marguiles, Anna Torv, Connie Britton, Katey Sagal, and the massively under-rated Maggie Q from Nikita. Who should at least be a contender.

  6. Pedro says:

    Lisa Edelstein

  7. Elle says:

    No, really, how is Stana Katic not on this list? She’s AMAZING!

  8. Natalie says:

    Stana Katic from Castle!

  9. Jessica says:

    Anna Torv, ALL THE AWARDS!

  10. Gora says:

    Emily Deschanel!

  11. S Mabe says:

    My bet this year goes 2 Mirelle Enos in the Killing, this show is so well written and she plays Sarah Linden perfectly!

  12. Sarah says:

    Jeanne Tripplehorn was heartbreaking as Barb on Big Love. The entire cast on that show was extremely talented and although the quality of the writing declined, the same cannot be said of the acting.

  13. Emily says:

    I went with Elisabeth Moss, Anna Paquin, Emmy Rossum and Anna Torv. But it’d be great if they would consider CW shows for these awards, Maggie Q and Nina Dobrev have been doing such amazing work and really deserve recognition.

  14. flutiefan says:

    i don’t get this Emily Deschanel obsession for “Bones”. i’m sure she’s a lovely person in real life, but her character is so boring, *incredibly* monotonous, and decidedly UN-romantic, i don’t see how she is appealing at all.

    now Anna Torv, she can do the straight-man scientist role, the sexy love interest, the conniving seducer, the hardened detective and the Leonard Nimoy role all at once. it would be great to see her nominated.

    and of course, Julianna Margulies is nuanced in every thing she does, even when her delivery is a little flat.

    but as much as i have loved her and the show over the years, Mariska Hargitay hasn’t been given the material needed for a nomination.

    Connie Britton FTW!

    • claude says:

      What you said about Emily Deschanel is because of what you’ve heard about the show and her character by some people who most likely don’t watch or only occasionnally because Emily Deschanel can do what you said about Anna Torv (I don’t watch the show so I won’t agree or disagree). Have a deeper look at the show and you will see that the cahracter is not boring at all, and absolutely not “unromantic”.

    • AP says:

      Have you watched the whole 6 seasons of Bones yet? If not, dont judge Emily’s acting ability so fast like that!!!

  15. Emma says:

    Do not know why Stana Katic is not on the list but she should be! Her work on Castle this year was fantastic!

  16. Cammy says:

    STANA KATIC?!!!!!!!!! WHERE IS SHE???

  17. Dave R says:

    I think, Leighton Meester should at least be rewarded a nomination for being Blair Waldorf… She is the heart and soul of the show with Ed Westwick… Though I think his role is not yet at par with Leighton… At least a nomination for Meester and a show of spreading the love to other worthy actress…

    January Jones, I think should be in Supporting for the 4th season of Mad Men, and Elizabeth Moss has been very consistent each and every episode, and she just took the driver’s seat this season for the lead actress (the same way Jon Hamm is the lead) so I’m really hoping she gets not just a nod but an Emmy as well…..

    Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
    Anna Torv, Fringe
    Anna Paquin
    Jeanne Tripplehorn

  18. Where is the CW says:

    C’mon Team TVLine – why the CW Freeze out? Are trying to earn your Emmy cred by pretending the CW does not exist?!

    NINA DOBREV – Vampire Diaries!!!! (either Elena or Katherine she is great as both characters)

    Blake Lively, Leighton Meester – Gossip Girl

    Britt Robertson – Life Unexpected

    Maggie Q – Nikita

    • GinaBallerina says:

      100% agree with Leighton Meester for GG (although she’s not really lead actress) but Blake Lively? NO WAY. She’s one of the worst actresses out there. She practically ruins the show.

  19. Jenny says:

    Emily Deschanel. That is all, she at the very least deserves a nomination. Her acting’s always been great on Bones, but she took it up a nodge this year with episodes as “The Doctor in the Photo” she was in every, absolutely every single scene and she knocked ’em all out of the park.
    Other than that I voted for Julianna Margulies and Mariska Hargitay.

  20. Temperance says:

    Voted For Emily Deschanel for two hours straight… I hope it helps! :)

  21. Jane says:

    Stana Katic from Castle for all the awards!!!

  22. Mags says:

    Stana Katic from “Castle” definitely deserves an Emmy this year. She had such a fantastic season acting-wise, including “Setup”, “Countdown”, “Knockdown”, and “Knockout”. Those episodes alone should earn her a nod.

  23. cheri says:

    I have been a fan of Lauren Grahams for a long time, even before Gilmore Girls. She is an amazing actress and I love her in Parenthood.

  24. Hanna says:

    EMILY DESCHANEL!! I love her, she deserves an Emmy so much! <33

  25. Rachel says:

    Can I just vote for Connie Britton six times?

  26. Lauren says:

    I think Ausiello made a mistake there… He forgot to list Stana Katic for her OUTSTANDING work on Castle. =/

  27. Triple M says:

    Mad Men was just great on season 4 and I’ve never seen a performance that is so pitch-perfect every episode last season like Elizabeth Moss… She just managed to showcase acting at its finest especially in “The Suitcase” episode… Though Julianna Margulies also delivered a solid performance in The Good Wife but I prefer Moss over her…

    Anna Torv on the other hand just pushed herself to the limit… It was the show’s best season yet and I hope a nomination for her and John Noble and for Outstanding Drama series is possible to reward this great season of Fringe…

    Mireille Enos provided the emotional impact for The Killing which was also a break out Drama series….

    A proper farewell to Big Love by nominating Jeanne Triplehorn would also be nice and I think Kyra Sedgwick will come back for a nod in The Closer…


    And I agree Leighton Meester was the driving force in Gossip Girl… It was an performance that evolves every season… But Emmy will just have to snub it just like the other THE WB/CW shows before…

  28. Julie says:

    I really really like most of the actresses on the list,they are all great.. And unique to their characters. BUT, I cannot think of anyone who deserves it more than Emily Deschanel. She has been just.. OUSTANDING this last season of Bones. And it hurts that she’s so underated. Hope she gets it!

  29. Julie says:

    Ugh… I meant OUTSTANDING. *shakes head*

  30. candy coated says:

    lol the stana katic fans are p*ssed.

    To be fair, Castle has it’s serious moments but the majority of it is frothy sugar coated slap stick. Not exactly, emmy nominee potential. I vote for Anna Torv and the lead actress off ‘The killing.’

    • Franek says:

      Ssij pento gównojadzie!!

    • MCO says:

      your message only proves that Stana Katic deserve even more a nod. She is great in serious moments, she’s great with action and she has a great timing for comedy.
      Why, seriously, WHY, nobody seems to see that it’s as much hard to play comedy than drama ? And with the exact same characters !

    • Jay says:

      How is Stana Katic not on this list? She was amazing!

  31. ela says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Piper Perabo got nominated over Anna Torv. Because that’s how dumb the Emmys are.

  32. Selah says:

    Ahhhhh…….. Stana Katic!! =( She should be on there!

  33. Jared says:

    Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights! Hands down, she totally deserves to win! No questions asked.

  34. Hammy says:

    Anyone who didn’t put Stana Katic on this list definitely didn’t see the Castle season finale.

    • Laura says:


      • Kim says:

        I third that! Stabs deserves the nod more than anyone on the show, and they were all outstanding! Bedides that, how Knockout didn’t get on the emmy ep list I have no idea! It was the best ep by far, kicked butt in it’s time slot, & got raving reviews by everyone that watched it! The fact that this show not only got picked up for a 4th season early in Jan, but it already got picked up for syndication on TNT for 2012, & that its only in it’s 3rd season, says it all! Emmys are all about the politics, and they never give the deserving shows their due. Same old shows get the awards over & over again.

  35. lee says:

    Anna Torv so deserves an Emmy.

  36. Justin says:

    The six women I voted for were:
    1. Anna Torv
    2. Emily Deschanel
    3. Anna Paquin
    4. Kyra Sedgwick
    5. Jennifer Beals
    6. Katey Sagal

    It’s gotta be Anna Torv for the win. Fringe was hands down the best show on tv this year, and she’s a big reason why. Her interpretation of two different Olivias and William Bell were fantastic, let alone the conflict her and the other characters deal with everyday with two universes. Basically, Fringe for the win (as in, the entire cast).

  37. asdfadf says:

    MAGGIE Q!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. Haley says:

    No Ellen Pompeo? :(

  39. E says:

    How is Toni Collete not on that list?? I know United States of Tara got canceled, but not because of her acting. She is absolutely amazing this season. Especially when playing Bryce!

    • Amber says:

      She is submitted for lead actress in a comedy. Tvline already profiled her when they did the leading actress in a comedy list. I agree, it is a good show, it’s a shame it got canceled, and she should get nominated. It would be nice to see her win too.

  40. Tasha says:

    Emily Deschanel, what an amazing actress! She has to have an emmy! Where is Stana Katic, and Ellen Pompeo, both great.

  41. Passing says:

    Anna Torv, the outstanding lead actress.

    No other actress has done this year what Anna Torv has done: multiple versions of Olivia and channelling an 80-year old man.
    Added to that an emotional rollercoaster journey from one extreme to the other. Amazing, wonderful actress.

  42. Amy says:

    Connie Britton deserves a WIN! She is unbelievable as Tami Taylor. Though I would also be more than happy to see Julianna Margulies win as she is brilliant on The Good Wife. However, I would love to see some procedural love either Emily Deschenel or Stana Katic. People, you really need to vote Other for Stana Katic!

  43. Steph says:

    JULIANNA MARGULIES!her talent in The Good Wife is incredible,she deserves this Emmy

  44. mac says:

    Where is STANA KATIC? Seriously??? She so deserves an Emmy for her perfect portray of Kate Beckett on Castle!

    Love Emily Deschanel, Julianna Margulies and Jennifer Beals too!

  45. A says:

    Helloooo….KaDee Strickland was incredible on Private Practice.

  46. Fringie6989 says:

    Anna Torv!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  47. Sarah says:

    I can’t believe Stana Katic is not on this list!?!? She so deserves an Emmy for her work this year on Castle. An amazing, beautiful and talented actress!

  48. Sarah silverstein says:

    I am pleased the Emily Deschanel is on this list but I think that the ladys from Shows like NCIS have been overlooked. Cote de Pablo for example does an amazing job, yet has never received a nomination

  49. Teresa says:

    January Jones was disappeared in Season 4, how is that she goes as “lead female character”? O_O

    • Amber says:

      That is an excellent question indeed. I believe she made the decision to submit herself as lead actress, and it was a bad one. I think it’s going to backfire against her, especially with all the Elisabeth Moss love out there.

  50. Victoria says: