Emmys 2012: The Drama Actress Race in Review, Including Our Dream Nominees

One of the big questions surrounding this year’s Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama race: Can anyone beat Claire Danes? She hasn’t even scored a nomination yet, but Homeland‘s leading lady is already considered the frontrunner to grab gold in September. But Danes’ road to Emmy glory is paved with two big obstacles, one of ’em named Julianna Margulies (last year’s winner for The Good Wife). The other: Elisabeth Moss (the Mad Men actress is long overdue).

And speaking of long overdue, Sons of Anarchy anti-heroine Katey Sagal is once again gunning for her first-ever nod. If she manages to make the cut, all bets are off.

EMMYS | American Horror Story Enters Miniseries Races, Downton Abbey Moves to Drama Category

More Emmy Races In Review | Outstanding Drama Series | Lead Drama Actor | Supporting Drama Actor | Supporting Drama Actress | Outstanding Comedy Series | Lead Comedy Actor | Lead Comedy Actress | Supporting Comedy Actor | Supporting Comedy Actress | Outstanding Reality-Competition Series | Outstanding Movie/Miniseries

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 next week as we tackle the supporting races!

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. veronic says:

    I know is impossible, but I want GINNIFER GOODWIN.
    I totally love how she acts so different as Mary and Snow, indeed, it seems another actress¡¡¡

    • guest says:

      I’m not even a huge TVD fan but the queen of duel-roles is Nina Dobrev. She genuinely seems like two actresses playing two roles. Ginnifer is good, but not THAT good. She seems like one actress playing two different variations of the same character, which is what she’s suppose to appear to be.

    • Me too!! at least she deserve a nomination, She does a wonderfull job!

      • justin121 says:

        THE GOOD WIFE’s Julianan Marguiles

        Glenn Close

        Grey’s Anatomy Ellen Pompeo

        REVENGE’s Madeline Stowe and Em Van Camp

  2. ANNA says:


  3. Chiara says:

    NO Stana Katic??!?!?!? SERIOUSLY?!?!!? Have you seen the killshot episode of Castle???

    • missy says:

      Yeah!!!!!!!!!! WTF??

    • tishka says:

      exactly my reaction! if she’s not deserving of a nomination, I honestly don’t know who is.

    • Anon says:

      WTF!? where is stana katic!? I vote for her, and all should do it!

    • Ann says:

      Im with them! Watch Stana in action and then get back to us. Seriously

    • Alex says:

      Unfortunately, those voters don’t like procedurals like Castle, NCIS, and Bones (just to name a few).

      I hate how biased they are. I wish they’d open their eyes and see how much talent there is in other categories.

      I want so shocked (but in a good way) when Game of Thrones got nominated last year, and even more so when Peter Dinklage got the win.

      I want her to get the nomination, but these voters probably won’t allow that to happen.

    • mcnevs says:

      What is wroing with these people? Why is Stana Katic NEVER on the list???

      • Jim says:

        To me range of skill is the most important element. Can they do comedy as well as they do drama? I don’t see any of these women in any of these shows displaying any ability at humor, gallows or otherwise. Katic on the other hand has demonstrated range these others haven’t. So, is she the better actress? In my book yes.

        • Emily says:

          Er, it’s based on an actress’ performance in one episode of one show. I don’t think range is entirely the point.

        • Teresa says:

          Amen to that! And even if it’s based on one episode… Watch “Kill Shot” before judging. If that’s not Emmy material, they need to re-evaluate this list. Cause if Stana’s performance in that episode is not deserving, at least 70% of that list aren’t either.

        • Michele says:

          I agree 100-percent!

    • P says:

      Clearly, you need to watch more television. Stana has NOTHING compared to the women on this list. Js. (Especially the constantly snubbed ones.)

      • mac86cro says:

        Clearly, you need a dose of reality. After you watch Castle or anything else with Stana, then judge. And don’t say you did watch, you wouldn’t say something like that if you did. Stana is one of the best actresses at the moment, if not THE BEST. Way better than any from this list. YOU watch more television.

        • P says:

          I do watch Castle. But I also watch The Good Wife, Homeland, Shameless, Sons of Anarchy, Southland, etc. So, talk about a “reality check” on you, boo. “THE BEST” lol. Pretty sure you watch none of these cable shows or YOU wouldn’t think so highly of Stana’s, um, “acting” skills.

          • isabel says:

            I totally agree with P. I watch Castle as well but I know the difference between bad, good and great acting (and I’m sorry to all the Stana Katic fans but yeah, she has nothing compared to some of the actresses on that list).

          • Cynthia V. says:

            I’m not even sure there exists a BEST – there are so many factors to consider, especially the content of the shows themselves. The “best” usually kneel at the feet of subjectivity and politics. Notwithstanding “Who’s the best,” I do think Stana Katic has earned a nomination among these acting peers.

          • I’m a television junkie and I’ve seen all of these cable shows. These women are great actors, but so is Stana Katic. She’s phenomenal and definitely deserves to be in the ranks with them.

            Emmys may look down on procedurals, but they’ve been nominating Mariska Hargitay for years (who’s completely deserving), so I’m not really buying that either.

        • Elisabetta says:

          YOU ARE MY HERO.
          I agree with every single word you said. i’t a shame that Stana is not on the list….again. -.-”’

        • Viv says:

          Stana is a great comedie actress! She would do great in comedy, she has great timing and funny expressions.
          Sometimes she does drama good. But some other times. Ouch.
          I mean, come on, it breaks my heart to admit it because I love te show Castle, but she wasn’t that good in the series finale. Especially during that final scene, I thought her lines were poorly delivered and I wasn’t “in to it” as much as I would have liked.
          Nathan Fillion, on the other hand is a great actor, and it’s a shame he’s not on the list.


    • Jenny says:

      Exactly what I thought!! If she doesn’t deserve an Emmy, I don’t know who does! Seriously!
      ***STANA KATIC FTW*****

    • Holly says:

      Yup IKR! absolutely ridiculous

    • Michele Scott says:

      I am with you there! I put her name in too! Kill Shot, Always, and any many in many others her acting has been beyond compare!

    • LAura Smith says:


  4. Franklin says:

    Emmy Rossum needs to be nominated for Shameless. Many of those in the cast ought to be nominated in fact.

    • Lauren says:

      God yes. Emmy Rossum deserves this nom so freaking much. She was absolutely amazing this season, along with everyone else in the cast.
      I also think Anna Torv should be nominated, but not holding my breath. The Emmys are a farce.

    • Wouter says:

      This! One of the best actresses on TV!

    • Emily says:

      Emmy Rossum anchors the show. She’s phenomenal. I voted for her, Claire Danes, Elisabeth Moss, and Anna Torv because I’ve seen them do some amazing work, and Julianna Margulies because I’ve never heard a bad word about her work in the Good Wife, even though I’ve never seen it.

      The last slot is up for grabs. I don’t watch Necessary Roughness, Damages, Downton Abbey, The Closer, Sons of Anarchy, Smash or SVU, so of those who are left… perhaps Kerry Washington. Scandal was an unexpected treat.

    • MIchael says:

      Emmy is a terrific actress and, as good as she was in season 1, I thought that she was even better in season 2.

      Emmy R and Katie Sagal, without a doubt(IMHO) gave two of the top six performances this year. It would be a shame if either didn’t make the ballot. Too bad that Shameless has such a small audience.

      I’d have to go with Kyra again, as well. I’m not always crazy about the show but she nails every scene she’s in. Despite winning, she’s underappreciated for the amazing body of work that she’s accumulated on the Closer.

    • pria says:

      AGREED! Emmy Rossum deserves not only a nomination but a win for season 2 of Shameless. She was so impressive in those final episodes, kicking Lip out and begging her mom to get out of bed. She breaks my heart.

  5. Amanda Leigh says:

    Lana Parilla!

    • veronic says:

      I think she is as secondary character ;)
      I vote for GINNIFER here and for LANA in the other nomination ;)

      • Nara says:

        Parrilla’s not playing a supporting character at all, but ABC was smart enough to submit her in the supporting category. Means OUAT’s two best actresses (Parrilla & Goodwin) are not up against each other in the same character. Smart choice. But I doubt in the end either will stand a real choice because the Academy still snubs fantasy shows. Real shame though.

      • amy says:

        ABC have put her forward as supporting but don’t understand how! Her performances are the reason a lot of people are watching!

        • veronic says:

          NOT TRUE.
          Assuming people watch the show for Regina/lana is……
          I love her, but I don’t watch OUAT for Lana.
          I prefer Snow.

          • sara says:

            So…you watch the show for one character?

          • veronic says:

            I watch the show for SNow&Charming&Emma story.
            But I love everybody (well, I dislike Emilie as Belle)

          • Nara says:

            She didn’t say everyone watches it for Parrilla. She said a lot of people watch it for her. And considering the size of her online fanbase, I’d say that’s probably true. I don’t see how you think this puts others down or why you felt attacked by that? It doesn’t say that the other actors on the show aren’t popular with fans. It’s simply a statement about LP, nothing more.

    • sara says:

      She’s in Best Supporting.

    • Dan says:

      You people are freaking delusional. It doesn’t matter how beautiful Lana Parrilla is or how much you love her or her character. She’s a classic scenery chewer. Yeah, she’s that bad and no one in OUAT is any great, to be honest, love the show or not (and I truly like it anyway). Get used to it.

  6. missy says:

    NO STANA KATIC???? SERIOUSLY????!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Claire says:

    If Michelle Dockery doesn’t get a nomination, I will be livid.

  8. veronic says:

    Sorry, ladies, but there is more life than just Castle show.

    • Anon says:

      not, castle! stana is an amazing actress!

    • ship says:

      Stana neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeds to win ….c’mon she had one episode of serious stuff and she nailed it !! and one just doesn’t base a persons’ acting talent on crying and bawling…has anyone even seen the range of emotions she does within a few seconds’ time…respect the list, but so many people can’t be wrong at the same time !!!!

  9. f says:


  10. violinka says:

    Where is SANDRA OH?? Come on…

  11. Kat says:

    I know that it will never realistically happen, but Maggie Q. Did you watch Wrath? Chills.

  12. 1822 says:

    Stana Katic (Castle)!!!!!!

  13. Jen E says:

    Lena Headay (Cersei) from Game of Thrones!

  14. Megan says:

    Katey Sagal,who SHOULD’VE been nominated for her fabulous work on SOA in S2, should win. Also, Emmy Rossum still deserves one.

    • Carmen says:

      I completely agree with this comment. If it were up to me, one of those two would win.

    • Lime says:

      God, Katey in S2 STILL makes my heart hurt! She was beyond fabulous. I don’t know why SOA gets overlooked at awards season, it’s consistently one of the best shows on the air.

      • Tamara says:

        Same here! I’m about to rewatch Season 2 of SoA, but I keep putting it off because her season 2 performance is just SO GOOD AND HEARTBREAKING. Who would have thought Peggy Bundy would play a dramatic role/storyine so flawlessly. Kudos, Katey.

      • kimberly says:

        I agree 100%… the episode in S2 when she tells Jax and Clay was beyond amazing work. I’d also like to see Maggie Siff get the supporting actress nom this year…. her work in S4, especially the second half, was very strong.

    • TheBeach says:

      Katey, along with Emily R., Elizabeth Moss, Clare Danes, Glenn Close and Michelle Dockery definitely should be there judging by the shows that I watch. I’m sure there are several other deserving noms on the list for shows that I don’t watch.

  15. Annie says:

    Can I vote for Elisabeth Moss 5 times? She really deserves this!

  16. Mel says:

    I wish I was an Emmy voter just so I could vote for Elizabeth Moss. She has been so incredible this season.

  17. Mari N says:

    Stana Katic? Emily Deschanel? Sandra Oh? Where are these amazing actresses on this list????

    • Brandy says:

      I’m a huge bones fan, but Emily really wasn’t given enough to work with this season to deserve an Emmy. Not hat this season was bad, but it didn’t really stretch her at all acting-wise. She should have been nominated in season 2 or 5.

    • Emily says:

      Sandra Oh is always in the supporting category.

    • madbengalsfan85 says:

      In the case of Stana and Emily, they simply aren’t given enough Emmy caliber material to earn a nomination (Not saying it as a bad thing, Bones and Castle are more lighthearted, with serious moments thrown in). Stana has her moments (“Always” comes to mind) as does Emily (“The Doctor in the Photo” going back to last season) but there simply aren’t enough of these moments to earn a nomination

  18. Che says:

    Claire Danes is going to win, but Emmy Rossum should get a nomination for sure.

  19. Jake says:

    Kerry washington gives a powerhouse performance in scandal . I really hope that Madeline Stowe and Emily can camp get nominated. Stana katic should too.
    My list:
    Julianna marguelis
    Claire Danes
    Kerry Washington
    Madeline stowe
    Elizabeth moss
    Stana katic

  20. Bridget says:

    Ginnifer AND Jennifer.

    Just… no to the others. Especially Ellen Pompeo. Since when?

  21. Colleen says:

    Dear gawd, how does one really pick only 6 out of such an amazing list? Its like a Spohie’s choice of hot, talented women

  22. Marissa says:

    Ellen pompeo all the way. This woman and actress is awesome

  23. Larsson Ronny says:

    Emmy Rossum MSUT be nominated. She is AMAZING in Shameless. A to the mazing.

  24. R says:

    Ellen Pompeo is highly underrated actress! Although Grey’s has/had some finest actors in their cast (Sandra Oh, Chandra Wilson, Chyler Leigh, Katherine Heigl), she still manages to shine as the lead character – She has given us a brilliant journey from a “dark and twisted intern with a dysfunctional life” to a “successful doctor, wife, friend and mom”!

    It’s time to give her and Sandra Oh and Emmy! (just see the season 8 finale- her acting deserves a nod!)

  25. isabel says:

    There are some really great actresses in this list but, Julianna Margulies’s work is just phenomenal.

  26. onthegointo says:

    Glenn Close wans’t nominated last year because she wasn’t eligible. No new episodes of Damages had aired.

  27. Annie says:

    Of course Claire Danes will win!!! Why Ellen Pompeo is here? She’s terrible, never will win an emmy or other award.

  28. It seems to me like Jessica Pare was left off this list. Don’t count her out.

  29. Monica says:

    I understand that actresses can choose to submit for either lead or supporting but I seriously cannot comprehend how is it possible for Elizabeth McGovern to consider herself a lead in this season of Downton Abbey. And to think that she could divert votes from the extremely deserving Michelle Dockery upsets me. In any case, it’s a race between Julianna Margulies and Claire Danes and I for one would not know how to choose. They are both amazing in their roles.
    Do you know if Lena Headey is entering the race in the Supporting Category?

  30. Shashwat says:

    Jessica Pare?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  31. Anon says:

    WHERE THE HELL ARE STANA KATIC AND CHYLER LEIGH?! Have you seen the episode “kill shot” of castle, and “flyght” of grey’s anatomy!? Ok, maybe these shows aren’t the best, but their acting is amazing!

  32. PFitzDC says:

    Lana Parilla is considered SUPPORTING?! That’s ridiculous…. I love Snow/Mary Margaret, but the Evil Queen is a MUCH more significant role….

    • sara says:

      Best Actress is more of a Big Name game and Jennifer and Ginny have bigger names. They also have no chance of being nominated in this category.

    • Nara says:

      I suspect it’s more of a tactical move. Parrilla is one, if not the single best shot OUAT has at getting a nomination. Ginnifer Goodwin is fab too, but I don’t think she stands a chance against people like Danes, Margulies, Sagal, Close, etc. Supporting could be a different kind of game. If OUAT weren’t a fantasy show Parrilla would have a real chance at getting a nod. Either way, it’s smart to not put their two best actresses up against each other in the same category.

  33. Carmen says:

    Katey Sagal, Katey Sagal, Katey Sagal, Katey Sagal, and Katey Sagal. But that’s never going to happen so she really is part of my “dream” nominees/winner. :(

  34. David says:

    Glenn Close was not left off the ballot left year – Damages had a very large gap between airing Season 3 on FX and Season 4 on DirecTV, and therefore, Close had no new material to submit last year. Close has been nominated 3 times for 3 seasons; if she is nominated this year, she will have been nominated for every season of the series. Certainly this is not a real con, but an oversight by whoever wrote the caption.

  35. Jennie M says:

    Glen Close or Julianna Margulies!!!! Not Anna Torv or Ellen Pompeo, they are bad actress, Ellen Pompeo dont deserve that.

  36. mac86cro says:


    Seriously, have you forgot about her?!?!?!?!? Killshot, anyone?????

    • nina says:

      AMEN!!! exactly what I was thinking…. where the heck is Stana Katic!!! She deserves it so so much…

  37. Maggie Q for an Emmy, and all the awards.

  38. guest says:

    I’d love to see Emily VanCamp get some love (it wont’ happen BUT) she’s definitely the heart of the show and in my opinion delivers a much better performance than Madeline Stowe. Yes Madeline is great as Victoria but her performance boils down to the same three faces while Emily has really done it all this season.

  39. Becks says:

    Love Julianna Margulies, she’s just a consistently great actress. And Ellen Pompeo definitely deserves some Emmy love, but if she hasn’t gotten any the past 7 years I doubt they’ll start now.

  40. Lia says:

    Where is Stana Katic!?

  41. P says:

    Are people being serious with the Stana comments on here? Wow, okay… Go watch Sons of Anarchy 4.O9 “Kiss” or 4.10 – “Hands” or the ENTIRE season 2 of Shameless, or the second-half season 1 of Homeland or Regina King in Southland. I mean, Stana is a decent actress but most of the women on this list are on a league of their own. (I’m so ready for the hate I will get for this…)

    • shippiebrain says:

      lol its okay, we respect your opinion. :)

      • Lisa says:

        Look I love Castle more than anyone, but SK is not doing anything special on the show. She really isn’t asked to honestly. Even Killshot, which was a good idea (highlighting PTSD) was way too over the top.

        Have people here seen some of her other work? She really has a lot to learn about the subtlety of acting.

        • JAA says:

          over the top? I guess you’ve never had PTSD or met someone who did.

          • cait1626 says:

            exactly! i have PTSD and if you knew how it works you’d stand and scream for Stana Katic to receive the EMMY. Ovver the top? uh uh… EVERYTHING SHE PORTRAYED WASS\ RIGHT ON!!!!!!

          • JAA says:

            thank you, it bothers me a lot when someone says Stana Katic’s acting on Kill shot was over the top in some scenes (the hallway scene for example), I also have PTSD and as you said she nailed it.

        • Michele Scott says:

          I have PTSD and if it wasn’t for Stana Katics exempletory acting of someone who has an “Over the Top-PTSD, which it definately is, I would not have gone in for treatment! You have to experienced it in order to understand it! Obviously you have not. The writers were right on as were Katic’s portrayals of someone suffering from this terrible disorder. I had a college professor who had fought in WWW II who would still hit the deck if someone dropped a book or something! Over-the-top? Not at all!

        • Chiara says:

          I have not PTSD, I simply had a couple of Panick attacks. Well let me tell you, Her portrait of them is more than accurate!

    • JAA says:

      It’s called having an opinion, you know. So, if they think Stana Katic should be nominated for best actress we should take their opinion seriously, acting is subjective.

  42. YowzaPowza says:

    I know they nominated themselves this way, but I wouldn’t consider Elisabeth Moss or Madeline Stowe the leads on their shows. They would both have such a better shot at winning if they put themselves into the supporting race, where they belong. Same with Ginnifer Goodwin I suppose. The only lead on Mad Men is Jon Hamm and the only lead on Revenge is Emily Van Camp.

    • Cal says:

      Can’t say I agree. The first season started off with Peggy’s first day. She may have been in the background for some episodes, but she’s a co-lead.

    • murley says:

      I am pretty sure Madeline Stowe gets top billing on revenge so it makes sense she would submit in the lead category.

    • Giovanni says:

      Actually Madeleine and Emily are both the leads. Everything it’s about them both. And in the credits Madeleine always appears first so.

  43. AbbySmeeze says:

    GUYS. Why am I not seeing Stana Katic up there hello, KILLSHOT SHE WON A FRIGGIN AWARD FOR THAT WAT.

  44. A says:

    Um.. Excuse me… Where is Stana Katic?

  45. Nik says:

    Stana Katic. That is all. She had a banner season and I can think of at least 5 Emmy worthy episodes from her.

  46. Mandy says:

    Stana Katic, for sure. Not only was Kill Shot amazing, but so were a number of other episodes this season that showcased her amazing talent. And Castle might get lumped in with the procedurals, but I would put it up against any other in the category in terms of character development over the course of four seasons.

  47. Emmys are so overrated. They ignore almost all the best shows, especially the cop, fantasy and sci-fi shows.
    I’m really glad that Anna Torv is in the list but she deserved it so much more last year and she wasn’t even nominated so it’s pretty sure that they’re gonna ignore her… again. Even if she played like 10 characters in only one show.
    Anyway, my dream nominees are:
    Anna Torv, Lena Headey, Elizabeth McGovern, Claire Danes and Stana Katic.
    As much as I love Julianna Margulies and I was really happy that she won last year, this season was really disappointed and she didn’t have much to do.

  48. Vince says:

    Katey Sagal, man. Woman is like TV royalty by now. Can’t believe she’s never even been nominated once. She is also worthy of a voiceover acting for Futurama, imo. She is awesome.

  49. Miles says:

    Gotta I would be ecstatic with either Torv or Danes taking the win. Both of them were AMAZING. I also agree with all the poster asking where Stana is. She’s been consistently awesome and while I do think that Kill Shot was wrecked by some… odd writing, it didn’t damage her performance.

  50. My question is WHERE IS STANA KATIC ? Do those guys have seen Kill Shot ?? I’m sure not otherwise she’ll be in this list. This woman is so talented, “she can play with paper bag” . So why isn’t she in it ?
    All the Emmys for Stana !!!!!!