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. Danielle says:

    Stana Katic! Come on people, vote for her in the Other category! She so deserves an Emmy. <3

  2. Cher says:

    STANA KATIC has to be on the list !!!

  3. Emmanuelle Works says:

    So, we have Piper Perabo for Covert Affairs. We have actresses who are good but from brand new shows like Harry’s Law, Shameless, Chicago Code (not even renewed after one season) and Body of Proof. Granted Bates, Beals, Delany and even young Rossum are very talented, they haven’t had time to do that much on their shows yet to be honest and they shouldn’t be on the list just because we know they’re good.

    And we don’t have Stana Katic from Castle (3rd season was epic)or Toni Collette from United States of Tara, or Patricia Heaton, or Martha Plimpton from Raising Hope. Oh yeah, Castle is a dramedy, not a drama, and all the others I listed are in Comedies. Is Parenthood considered a drama or is it the comedy thrown in to mislead us?

    As everyone knows, drama is so much harder than comedy! And I guess having any kind of comedy element discredits any PHENOMENAL dramatic work put in the mix (Castle). Really, really pathetic. Guess won’t be watching the emmys this year either if they go that route again.

    • Hey says:

      What is with all the Stana fans? Look Stana is probably not on this poll because she doesn’t have a realistic chance of being nominated. They left out Leighton and Blake from Gossip Girl as well and other people. They submitted episodes too but they aren’t on this poll. No sense in complaining about it. She’s not here so vote for someone else!

      • Really? says:

        She doesn’t have a realistic chance of being nominated? What the hell? Why do you say that? Of course she has a chance of being nominated!! Castle has really grown in the last few years and her fanbase and the popularity is all over the place. She has a good of a chance as any of the other actresses on this list.

  4. JJ says:

    Seriously where is Stana Katic in this list?!? She’s the best freaking actress on TV! She’s flawless and she has this amazing ability to make you go from laughing to crying in mere minutes. PLUS, I’ve never seen any actress who is able to convey so much with just her eyes. STANA KATIC FOR THE EMMY!!

    • Dan says:

      I second that!!!! I’ve never seen an actress capable of conveying so much with just her eyes or facial expression! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! STANA KATIC FOR THE EMMY!!!!

  5. Soso says:

    #1 Connie Britton
    #2 Julianna Margulies
    #3 Elizabeth Moss
    #4 Jeanne Tripplehorn
    #5 Katey Sagal
    #6 Mireille Enos
    But I’ll be happy if Lauren Graham, Ana Torv or Emmy Rossum get nod !!

  6. Ben says:

    STANA KATIC from CASTLE! That is all.

  7. Sidney says:


  8. Angel B says:

    Hey, Mr Ausiello, please you have to nominate Stana Katic. She’s the best actress in Drama right now.

  9. Frank says:

    Stana Katic from Castle should be a shoe-in for an Emmy! This list is a joke!

  10. Cate says:

    Wow, TVLINE. Epic fail. No Stana Katic?

  11. Amber says:

    Oh man, TVLine staff, be warned, your readers are about to revolt for your lack of Stana Katic from your list, lol. I personally hate the show Castle, but that’s just me, I guess. Also, some of these people need to do a little research before jumping all over your back for omitting actresses who are actually submitted for different categories, like those who are in comedies or are supporting actresses.

    Anyways…my list of who I would like to see win in order (Cuz I’m sure everyone gives a crap about my opinion):
    1. Connie Britton
    2. Elisabeth Moss
    3. Mariska Hargitay (I’ve always liked her on SVU)
    4. Lauren Graham (She’s just so spunky!)
    5. Mireille Enos (Okay, I admit it. The Killing has grown on me. I thought it was boring and cheap looking at first, but now I really like it.)
    6. Juliana Margulies (I’m late to the party. I’m only 2/3 of the way through watching the first season so far, but it’s also growing on me a little bit. I’m hoping the second season is less procedural and less predictable though.)

    It was a hard choice to decide who I want to win. I think Elisabeth Moss probably had the best performances out of any female on TV last season. But Connie Britton is so good on such an excellent show, and it’s her last chance to win one for FNL. Friday Night Lights has never really gotten the Emmy love that it deserves, so I’m hoping they make a sweep this year for their touching and heartbreaking last season. They probably won’t, but a girl can dream.

    • Hey says:

      Honestly the Stana fans are being ridiculous. She clearly doesn’t have a realistic chance of being nominated which is why she isn’t on this poll. He left out Leighton from Gossip Girl as well and other people. This isn’t the People Choice Awards. It’s not a fan voting thing.

      I disagree with Mariska on your list. She doesn’t show her acting ability off as much as she use to. She has been nominated like 20 times. It’s time to give someone else a chance.

      • hi says:

        We were just trying to show our support. If your favorite actress wasn’t on here when you thought she should be, you would be as upset as all of us Stana fans are.

  12. George says:

    Stana absolutely deserves an Emmy for her flawless performance in the Castle season finale. Such a talented, beautiful actress. One of my favorites.

  13. Hey says:

    Stana fans, Vote for someone else and stop complaining. You are making yourselves look bad. Complaining under a poll isn’t going to get her nominated. The people on this poll have an actual shot at being nominated. She doesn’t. That’s it.

    • MCO says:

      I am a fan of Castle and a fan of stana.
      Here what I seriously thinks, trying not to be biased.

      Stana Katic doesn’t stand a chance against Katie Sagal, The actress from The closer or Anna Torv. However, If you list Dana Delany or Emily Deschanel, you have to list Stana Katic.
      If you have time. Watch, Two Episode of Castle this year : “3×11 Nikki Heat” and “3×24 Knockout”. That will show you that Stana Katic can play Drama, Comedy action, really great. She deserves a nod.

    • Hannah Stanatic says:

      We will NOT vote for someone else. We are NOT complaining. We are showing our support for our favorite actress! She does have a shot. It’s slim, but it’s a shot. So we all put her in “Other” and all is well. Alright? Thanks

    • KB says:

      Stana Katic has just as good of a chance as any other actress on this list. I for one thinks she deserves an Emmy. Did you see her performance this season on Castle?? I’m not a person to cry from watching a tv show, but I get so invested in the show because Stana makes it so believable. So please stop being a total witch to all of Stana’s fans. We are just trying to support our favorite actress, as I’m sure you did by voting for them. do you see any of Stana’s fans commenting on other people’s about who they think should be on this list? so please be nice to my fellow Stanatics. Thankyouu

  14. Juliet says:

    Emily without a doubt! She’s incredible!

  15. Amy says:

    All the awards to Anna Torv.

  16. Cam says:

    Emily Deschanel, without a doubt. She’s the most underrated actress on TV. She’s INCREDIBLE! She can say the hardest lines like it was the most natural thing and she can show 5080958029580248950 emotions in like, 2 seconds.
    She also plays a character that could easily be very, very annoying and unlikable.
    Instead, she make her the most adorable and funny scientist on TV!

    • naya says:

      thats true!! she deserve to be nominated!!

    • Claude says:

      Yes, Emily Deschanel is an amazing actress, so underrated. She is fantastic with facial expressions, as seen throughout the 6 seasons, but especially this season, with “the doctor in the photo” in particular.

  17. Alyssa says:

    Emily Deschanel sooo deserves this! She’s been so great on Bones for years! I hope she wins. :)

  18. laia7art says:

    Anna Torv!! she’s fantastic, fringe’s third season is amazing!she’s one the keys to success.

  19. AJ says:

    My picks are Julianna Margulies, Elisabeth Moss, Anna Torv, Connie Britton, Emmy Rossum and Lauren Graham. Sadly I don’t think Torv, Rossum or Graham will be nominated. Instead they will probably go with Kyra Sedgwick, Mireille Enos and Katey Sagal (all deserving as well). Hope they finally dump Mariska Hargitay from this line up, if she gets in over Connie Britton that will suck.

  20. nikitalove says:

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

  21. Alex says:

    If SOMEONE from Fringe (Noble, Torv, even the series itself) doesn’t get a nomination, it’s going to be an absolute tragedy. Walter is one of the best characters on TV right now, and Anna played Olivia, AltLivia, William Bell, Future Olivia, Altlivia PRETENDING to be Olivia. She was fantastic in Bloodline… The whole season really.. I could go on. But anyone who as seen the show knows how much work is put in. One of the most deserving shows, Anna definitely one of the most deserving on the list.

  22. DryedMangoez says:

    Connie Briton.

    Nuff said.

  23. Cortexifan says:

    Anna Torv!!!!!!
    By far the most versatile actress I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve seen her Aussie stuff too and it’s great, so different from Fringe.

  24. Carlie says:

    Lauren Graham definitely deserves a nom for her work! She was always snubbed for Gilmore Girls! But she’s awesome as Sarah Braverman!
    -I’m assuming Monica Potter is under supporting…not looking forward to having to vote for that category!

    Julianna Margulies was also awesome this season. It’d also be nice to see Elisabeth Moss finally get the award!

  25. karla says:

    where is STANA KATIC???? come on she is amazing!! she really should be nominated

  26. Kate says:

    Slow down, I’m not saying that any of these women don’t deserve the award but where’s Stana Katic from Castle? She should easily by up there with these other great women.

  27. Sam says:


    Watch the finale. You will know. I just sorta liked her before that epi, and now I understand how amazing she is. She deserves it. I can’t believe she isn’t on this poll at all.

  28. Confused says:

    I’m sorry…did you just compare Stana to someone from Gossip Girl?

    And we’re just here hoping to get her added.

  29. Ashley says:

    I really think that this list is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, some of these women are great and others are just so-so. In my opinion, I don’t understand why women from newer shows are being nominated and yet Stana isn’t. I think some women really got screwed out of a nom. I love Mireille Enos on The Killing but I’m surprised not to see some other names. It seems like the same woman are nominated each year and the same person always wins. The Emmys in my opinion is a complete popularity contest and it doesn’t even bother looking at the tremendous amount of work and heart some of these women put into their shows. Stana Katic did such an amazing job this season and Castle has really put her name on the map. I’m really disappointed not to see her name up here though her name was on the ballot list. Personally, some of these names need to be thought about again.

  30. VBarkley says:

    Mireille Enos, ‘The Killing’


  31. Joy says:

    I really do think Stana should have been at least on this list. Even if she doesn’t get nominated. Its hard on a dramedy to get any love because there’s both comedy and drama. To me it takes a skilled actress to be able to do both. So yeah I honestly think that Stana should at least get some love from the blogosphere. She’s got the acting chops, and the timing, but its all about the critical momentum. She should be there before Piper Perabo and Emily, Dana and Jennifer Beals.

    • nessa says:

      before emily hahaha emily plays one of the most unlikable roles and make it absolutely charming
      stana deserves to be there but these ladies have proved their acting chops for years now and deserve to be there as much as stana

      • Joy says:

        True. But on season alone, or work THIS year, I think that there is quite a few that should be skipped on the list. Emily has done a wonderful job, but should have been nominated for prior seasons. Dana, done a wonderful job on all the shows she’s ever been on, but Body of Proof is new and not entirely shown its dramatic gravitas. Jennifer Beal, same.

  32. nessa says:

    cool emily is leading the poll she absolutely needs to get an emmy or at least a damn nod

  33. Vail says:


  34. Kate says:

    I’ll add to the long list of people who would like to see Stana Katic on this list. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone who is so good at displaying such a range emotions with her facial expressions and eyes. I hope she eventually gets the recognition she deserves.

  35. Mellie says:

    Anna Torv blew my mind on Fringe this season. She played every role excellently and if she doesn’t get even a nod it’ll be an awful, awful snuff.

  36. wycwyg says:

    Hey! why is MAGGIE Q & ELLEN POMPEO not on the list???

  37. Hannah says:

    Okay, so everyone bashing us Stana fans, shut up!! We love her and want to show our support for her! And we WILL vote for her in the “other” (sigh). You’re being really mean, and yes, I know her chances are really slim, but she DESERVES an Emmy so feakin’ much!! I’m appalled at so many online polls just totally blowing her off like she’s nothing! She’s such an AMAZING actress in ALL of the episodes, she just really made me CRY like a BABY (which is what should happen in the Castle season finale)!! Not only is she REALLY talented in her work, but she is REALLY friendly on her Facebook page (she responded to me :DD) and REALLY friendly to all the fans that go and watch them film. Such an amazing woman all around. But I do have one question, is she on the supporting role for a drama? I just kinda want to know. Thanks!

    • sarah says:

      Not my intention to bash any Stana fans.
      I watch Bones and Castle, and sorry, Emily Deschanel is a better actress than Stana Katic. When I watch Castle I see Stana playing Kate Beckett. When I watch Bones, I see Temperance Brennan, not Emily playing Temperance Brennan. This is because Emily just becomes her character.
      And also, Emily is able to convey a lot of different emotions with facial expressions (even with eyes only), sometimes opposite emotions, often within seconds. To this day, I have not seen that with Stana.
      Again, not my intention to bash Stana or her fans, just my opinion.

      • Hannah says:

        See, I totally disagree. Stana Katic for me is sooo much better then Emily. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure all the girls on this list and not on this list are good. Obviously, they had to be good to get the part. There are SO many audition rounds and TONS of girls auditioning. But for me, when I’m watching Kate Beckett, it’s Kate Beckett. I forget that it’s my favorite actress and I become 100% engrossed in her character. She makes it feel like I know her in person. And how can you say you don’t see Stana’s facial expressions? OMG they’re HILARIOUS when she’s doing something funny and TEAR JERKING when she’s doing something sad. Her facial expressions are AMAZING. And I NEVER notice it with Emily the way I do with Stana. But, this is just my opinion, I’m not trying to start and argument.

        • Sandra says:

          I agree 100%!!!

        • sarah says:

          That’s ok, everybody has the right to their own opinion. It’s just that while I agree that Stana is a good actress, and she has good facial expressions, I can’t see that she is better at this than Emily is, who not only is very good at obvious facial expressions but also at subtle ones, there for a split second and then covered up. Or 5 or so different emotions in one scene within one minute. Which is something I have not seen yet with Stana.
          But again, that’s ok. If everybody was seeing the same thing, tv land would be boring. I respect what you see/don’t see.

          • Rita says:

            thank you, thank you, thank you ! you said exactly what I wanted to say. I love Castle, I love Stana. She’s a good actress, really, but emily … oh wow, she’s just that good !
            “5 or so different emotions in one scene within one minute” . She majored it .

      • Barb says:

        Sorry Sarah, I disagree. I have to keep reminding myself that Stana Katic is NOT Kate Beckett–she plays her so well. She plays Beckett very understated and cautious bc that’s the character. Unfortunately people sometimes interpret that as poor acting style when I think it is quite brilliant actually. I know you’re not alone though. Some of my friends feel the same as you.

        • Sarah says:

          Well, I will say the same about Emily Deschanel. Emily Deschanel is nothing like Temperance Brennan. Hart Hanson, the creator of “Bones”, said that Emily is the one who is the most different from her character, among the whole cast of “Bones”. It’s obvious in interviews.
          When I watch “Bones”, I totally forget that this is Emily Deschanel playing Brennan, I see Temperance Brennan.

          I don’t say Stana Katic is not a good actress, but contrary to Emily Deschanel, she does not really bring emotions to me when I watch “Castle” (except a few times, and that was mostly in season 2).

  38. annie says:

    If Julianna doesn’t win this year, I’m going to be so upset!

  39. Hey says:

    I’m sure Stana does an amazing job on Castle every week. I have plenty of friends who adore the show but the poll isn’t going to be edited so she can be added. Yes, I did compare Stana to someone from Gossip Girl but I wasn’t comparing their acting at all. I was just trying to say that other people who have submitted their name for Emmy’s aren’t on this poll either. This poll probably just lists the people with the best chance. Castle is still new and it isn’t praised by important critics like Fringe is so her chances aren’t high. If Stana is ever nominated, it will probably be seasons from now.

    • MCO says:

      Sadly, you’re right. Emmy isn’t about who shown most talent in their work this year but about reputation and popularity with important critics (who overlooked any kind of procedurals and dramedies). Thanks for the reminder.

    • Bla says:

      Im a huge Stana Katic and Castle series fan but I think you are right. Series like Castle gets overlooked but I think that it is getting better with every season so I agree that there will be a chance in seasons to come. I know that Stana wont win this year emmy, even though i hope so haha not because she doesnt deserve it but because there are a other great actress with different story lines that are more “drama”. Actually if she gets a nomination, it will be huge. I also agree that they arent going to edit the list, but at least the TVline people will raise an eyebrow or two about her and Castle’s season for the future.

  40. elena ivanova says:

    Wives, mistresses, mothers, doctors, actresses, business women were heroines of serials. But main never was the police chief of the largest city of USA.LENNIFER BEALS!!!

  41. Andrea says:

    why do some people have to look for someone who is not on the list???? it oNly means one thing!! their best/acting wasn’t good enough that’s why they are not on list?? sooo stop complaining and hating someone who is on the list!! and stop telling them they’re not deserving… because they are!!

    YEAY!! for emily Deschanel!!

    • Hannah says:

      We have to look for someone who is not on the list because we believe in them – we believe they deserve to be on it. It’s NOT because their acting wasn’t good enough, it’s because the show they’re on might not be popular enough. (I’m talking about Stana Katic, to be specific) We are NOT hating on other actresses. So DON’T hate on us, or our actress!! There is a reason they put “Other:”. So people who believe in an actress who is not on it can vote for them. We are posting on this to article our support! I did not see any hate on any other actresses! I think everyone is deserving!

      • andrea says:

        then go vote for OTHER! :)

      • andrea says:

        i respect your support for her but maybe all actresses who are in the list are more deserving than her. i didn’t say she’s not because like what you said everyone is deserving. anyways this list is just a dream list of TVline! maybe emmy people will consider her! we never know! *phalanges crossed*

    • Barb says:

      …..ah, maybe we – some people – felt we could look for someone who was not on the list because they included “other”?? Tells me we were being INVITED to add someone and I agree with my fellow Stanatics – Stana Katic should be nominated. She is good in drama and totally awesome with comedy —AND the woman can sing too…I watch other shows but Stana is who I really look forward to watching

  42. Laugh says:

    Elisabeth Moss…hands down should win for The Suitcase episode of Mad Men…I’m so glad that Kyra Sedgewick won last year, but this season’s eligible episodes to vote for have been VERY strong for her! I also would love it if Mary McCormack got a nomination for ‘In Plain Sight’. She makes that show so tasty!

    • Laugh says:

      I am sure I’d want Julianna M. to get nominated for The Good Wife if I watched it. I loved her on ER, but I just didn’t put it on my DVR and then didn’t want to start watching in the middle. I will power through the whole season 1 sometime, and why not since Mr. Big is also on there? I just voted on this poll for people I actually watch and think deserve a nomination. January Jones…doesn’t do much for me…she can pull off a good “stand-there-and-look-nasty” but that’s about it. Her dialogue comes off as really flat and unemotional so I see her more as a one-dimensional “character”, whereas Peggy I believe her as a PERSON. I love Peggy! GOGOGOGOPEGGY!

  43. Loren says:

    Emily deserves to be recognized for her great work on Bones. She should have been nominated long before, I mean, how many actresses can pull off Brennan’s character? She and David have been amazing. I hope they both get an Emmy nod. And it seems like TV critics think so, too. I just hope the Emmy voters see that this time.

  44. boronia-lee says:

    I love Stana Katic and she should definitely be on this list, but if Anna Torv isn’t nominated (at the very least!) for an Emmy, I’ll be extremely confused as to why not. It’s sad to hear that just because she’s not a household name that she mightn’t get a nomination. She’s taken on several characters, all in the space of one season, and has pulled them all off incredibly. Her characters all have incredible depth, and while they LOOK to same, each of them has a very unique feel to them, while still holding some resemblance to the other. If you haven’t seen FRINGE it’s incredibly hard to explain, but she’s taken everything the writers have throw at her, and performed it without a fault. There are some incredible actresses in this list, but I believe she’s the one that definitely deserves the most recognition.

  45. Katrina says:

    How is Stana Katic not on the list!?! For the hanger scene alone in the s3 finale she should be on there. The women is a phenomenal actress! Every week she blows me away with her acting & emotions! She can tell an entire story with her eyes, she can make us feel Beckett’s pain & she takes us on this amazing emotional journey each week that is just beyond words! And while it is my honoured opinion that she should win in this category it would be a huge shame if Stana gets overlooked for even a nomination! EMMY FOR STANA!!!!

  46. Amber says:

    Seriously no Stana Katic. Season 3 finale of Castle was AWESOME and no Stana Katic this is so no fair, she TOTALLY DESERVES and Emmy!

  47. Sophia says:

    Seriously no Stana Katic. Season 3 finale of Castle was AWESOME and no Stana Katic this is so no fair, she TOTALLY DESERVES and Emmy she did a WONDERFUL and GREAT job on Castle.

  48. Vicki says:


  49. Christine lee says:

    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv
    Anna Torv

  50. Bianca says:

    I agree with the people, Stana Katic should be on this list! If you don’t understand why than watch te show Castle! After that I think you would all agree with us!