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. Stasi says:


  2. shippiebrain says:

    May I just remind you that Stana Katic won an award for Kill Shot and has an upcoming movie with Alan Rickman and Rupert Grint that involves singing? Just Sayin’

  3. Elena says:

    No SANDRA OH?!? Are you kidding me?!? Best dramatic (crying, weeping, generally falling apart) actress on television.

  4. Adrienne says:

    STANA KATIC! PAGET BREWSTER! EMILY DESCHANEL! COTE DE PABLO! Where are they?? Grrr tvline.com, I want a revote with these people in!

  5. Josh says:

    Emily Van Kamp Jennifer Morrison Madlenie Stowe Ginnfer Goodwin and Lana Parrila for me!

  6. I say Jennifer Morrison should get an Emmy nod even though her chances of winning is low. Emma Swan is a very complicated and hard character to play. Jennifer Morrison does a great performance of portraying a damaged bad ass Emma Swan. Even though she probably won’t, I hope at least the Emmy voters see her performance as well because it should be recognized. Just getting a nom for an Emmy is pretty good, knowing that your hard work is being recognized.

    • kayla says:

      I couldn`t say it better. Jennifer Morrison has the hardest part to act out and she is delivering an excellent performance. Loved her in the finale episodes where she finally got some good meaty material to work with.

    • Pascal says:

      I hope you are joking. Jennifer Morrison is one of the worst actresses out there. She is really embarrasing as Emma.

  7. WhereIsStana? says:

    I’m sure the “Other” category is really Stana Katic, you missed on this one TVLine.

  8. jasie says:

    I’d have to go with these:
    Glenn Close-by for the win
    Claire Danes
    Mireille Enos
    Anna Paquin
    Katey Sagal- runner up

  9. KalliopePL says:

    Team TVLine, do you really hate Stana Katic this much? Really? Seriously?

  10. Bobbi says:

    Absolutely the toughest category yet!

  11. L says:

    what about Lauren Graham?? :-O

  12. sara says:

    Glenn Close
    Michelle Dockery
    Julianna Margulies
    Emmy Rossum
    Claire Danes
    Katey Sagal

    Only real choices.

  13. HopelesslyaddictedtoBones says:

    Since my favorite show never gets included… You know it will be someone from Downton Abbey because that is the show that Hollywood is fixated on right now. Katey Sagal should get the award but she is ignored for some reason. Not sure why.

  14. Kaitlin says:

    Where is Stana?! Que paso?! I swear!!! In life there are just Matthew McConaugheys and Brad Pitts!! The Matthews are hotter & better actors, but will never get the credit they deserve while the Brads are prancing around like dumb A$$es!!! HMMMMMMM

  15. Tom says:

    Jennifer Morrison and Julianna Margulies

  16. Angela says:

    I am a huge fan of Stana Katic and Emily Deschanel and they have done a fabulous job, but their shows are not strictly dramas, so it makes it hard to compare them. If E&S were on these heavy drama filled shows I imagine they’d be owning it. They are only given a few episodes a year of REALLY dramatic stuff to
    sink their teeth into. And that’s okay because they wouldn’t be my Castle and Bones otherwise. Sadly, until they get a “dramedy” type of category, we will probably never see them here. We’ll get em in the People’s Choice. ;-)

  17. Claire says:

    Seriously crying with laughter at all of these Stana Katic comments. She’s decent for a competent network show, but she’s not Emmy material, people.

  18. ingmarhappy says:

    I voted for :
    Julianna Marguilles
    Ellen Pompeo
    Claire Danes
    Glenn Close
    Anna Torv
    Kyra Sedgwick

    I’m sure Ellen Pompeo and Anna Torv won’t make the cut but imo they deserve to get one. I don’t want them to win since I think Kyra, Claire & Julianna are even better but a nod will be well deserved.

  19. Where the heck is STANA KATIC ppl? Have you not watched Castle EVER?? Come on!! Kill Shot…take a look!! Add her in NOW :-)

  20. Mariel says:

    Michelle Dockery!

  21. Bri says:

    STANA KATIC. She is brilliant and lovely and wonderful!!

  22. P says:

    I hope all these Stana fangirls are actually 13 years old… For their sake. :/

    • Angela says:

      Ha. I’m 33 and proud to be a fangirl of Stana and Emily and will support them when I can. I still stand by my previous comment though, which hopefully shows my “grownup” side. :-)

    • Ashley says:

      I have to question why you say this? I’m an 18-year-old woman and I agree with many of those saying Stana is very deserving of a nomination, though they’re not saying it very eloquently. Yes, some fan girls can take it too far, but when compared to many others that are calling bull and claiming other actresses are deserving of “all the awards” I have to question why only call out those that are praising Stana? Sorry, just had to question it.

      • p says:

        You basically answered your question yourself. There are some decent answers and people are entitled to their opinion but you said it yourself, “they’re not saying it eloquently” and “fangirls can take it too far.” So yeah, they’re embarrassing.

      • p says:

        And I called out on the Stana fangirls, because they’re an overwhelming majority so.

        • Ashley says:

          Completely fine to call them out, I was simply questioning the reasoning behind it. Besides, you’re not coming off as arrogant or anything like many others that are just diminishing Stana’s acting ability all together.

  23. Nikitaverse says:

    Where is MAGGIE Q?! That woman deserves ALL the awards on Earth!

  24. Where is Stana Katic?? Seriously
    she is a very great actress. She should be on the list!!
    She is definitely one of the high caliber actresses out there. This is just so wrong. I hope she’ll get nominated because she deserves it for her amazing performance in s

  25. Gaby says:

    Jennifer Carpenter for Dexter and Maggie Q for nikita…so underrated…

  26. Tookie says:

    What? no Stana Katic or Lauren Graham???

  27. Mary P says:

    Ellen Pompeo is the only worthy of the prize! By Meredith Grey doing so well that no one can imagine the show without her. So many times she has been wronged by not making an easy and cliched character as seen in shows. Meredith Grey is the richest character with content, so human personality that makes you see yourself that moment. All this because Ellen Pompeo makes this character unique! Already got tired of waiting she wins an Emmy, because they only give this award to another criterion that is not really the talent. I’m tired see see actresses with normal characters and with normal dramas win the Emmy! I want to see one of those who always gets an Emmy make a character like Meredith Grey for 8 years and still be more and more interesting every season. Of course, the script is good, but it is the actress that does this script come to life! :)) She is the best and I don’t care with the disrespect that this award makes with her. She is the best and everyone knows!

    • VPC says:

      Absolutely agree!! Ellen Pompeo should have won at least once by now…

    • greysfan says:

      Agree 100% with you. She has been snubbed time and time again and its about time she get the gong. If it happens thats another story. The Emmy’s seem to like Cable shows in the drama category and a show about a good wife.

  28. Maggie Q deserves a nomination but Ellen Pompeo and Katey Sagal deserve to be on that list as well.

  29. Ellen Pompeo is actually overdue for a win.

  30. John says:

    I honestly dont get why they keep nominating Sedgwick for such a cliche boring show that has no challenging performances. That and her southern accent sucks. Why does this show get more attention than say Castle or Bones when it is worse than those two

    • Ashley says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. The Closet was ‘t even that challenging for it’s final season, and yet she gets a nod. I hate award shows because the same people are nominated and the same people win each year. There’s no room for diversity and many fantastic actors and actresses get screwed over.

  31. BabyFirefly says:

    I’ve always thought Sarah Wayne Callies was a horrible actress. Granted, I also despise her character. I never would have thought she had any shot at an acting nom. Am I missing something? Is she a good actress and I’m blinded by (utter, total) hatred of her character?

  32. Ashley says:

    I hate how all these award shows just keep goin through the same television shows and for the most part it’s always the same actress winning. Personally, after watching Stana Katic for four seasons I have seen not only character develeopment but also great actress growth as well. She has taken the character of Det. Kate Beckett and made her her own. She has done simply an amazing job that both equals and outshines many of these women listed above. My vote goes to her, though I know unfortunately she may never win.

  33. gm465271 says:

    Re: Glenn Close for Damages…I was under the impression that she wasn’t eligible last year because Season 4 of Damages didn’t premiere until July 13, 2011. I thought that a show had to air by the end of May 2011 in order to be eligible.

    Anyway, I hope that she gets a nomination. She really is great as Patty Hewes. Would like to see a Supporting nom for Rose Byrne too!

  34. tty says:

    Katey Sagal has played Peggy Bundy, Cate Hennessy, Helen Norwood, Leela Turanga, Gemma Teller-Morrow, and has never been nominated for an Emmy? What a shame. Talk about being the ‘dark horse.’ She desrves some serious recognition already!

  35. VPC says:

    Ellen Pompeo has been snubbed time and time again. She has been the lead actress on one of the best Drama series for 8 years now, alway proving worthy of winninng an Emmy.

    And all those who keep on saying Sandra Oh should be on the list, she would be on the Supporting Actress list not this one!!

    • Amanda says:

      Going by the amount of storyline carried and screen time (and the fact this is a “dream” list), Sandra Oh deserves to be on. She had more story to carry and more screen time than Ellen Pompeo.

      • VPC says:

        All that might be true, but still it would be Sandra Ohs choice to be in the Supporting Actress category. So there is absolutely no reason to hate on Ellen.

  36. T says:

    Hahaha, some people need to spend money on cable television…

  37. Amanda says:

    The only actresses from any Shondaland show that should be on this list aren’t on – Sandra Oh and Caterina Scorsone. Sandra Oh and Caterina Scorsone delivered throughout the entire season in many powerful scenes. To suggest that Ellen Pompeo is more deserving is laughable. She’s always been the weak link on Grey’s in acting. Its why every other character/actor always has to prop her. Really can’t see her fake scream-cry in the finale as Emmy worthy. She is one of the worst fake criers on television today.

  38. Ela says:

    I love the caption for Julianna! So simple yet so spot-on! \m/

  39. greysfan says:

    If it were me as much as i love my shows Claire Danes deserves this hands down. Homeland is the best show to come out of cable this year. Other nominees i would love to see nominated are:
    Ellen Pompeo – obviously lol
    Kerry Washington
    Jennifer Morrison
    Ginnifer Goodwin
    Emily Vancamp
    Madeline Stowe
    Michelle Dockery

    Yes i know my list is too long but if at least 2 of these ladies can be nominated i would be happy. If i had to pick one favourite its Vancamp. She is brilliant in Revenge and deserves it most. Washington would be close 2nd in my list as her performance in Scandal has been absolutely amazing.

  40. Beckstle says:

    The Emmy’s should think about separating the categories into cable and network television. Cable has no real restrictions on how far they can go in their dramas, so it’s really not fair to put them head-to-head with the network shows. It’s like having primetime shows up against daytime soaps.

    • greysfan says:

      Agree. I have been saying this for over 4 years now every time these and the Globes come along. I am surprised it hasn’t happened yet but to be honest i don’t think it ever will. One of the networks need to come up with a brand new awards show that splits the awards because i am over Cable winning 95% of the awards. Yes they are deserving but so many great shows, actors and actresses get snubbed, Ellen Pompeo case in point, because of cable shows.

      • Beckstle says:

        Agreed. Writing a network show is a craft in and of itself. Even the cable channels with commerials have the advantage of a shorter season – something many a network showrunner has talked about. The shorter season allows the writer to move the plot along directly, without having to slow things down in order to fill the 22- 24 episodes of a normal network order. Also, yes, it is surprising that the networks haven’t really brought this up in terms of the Emmy’s and Globes.

    • Beckstle says:

      Even the basics of the scripts give cable an advantage. An hour-long drama on HBO is an hour, while on network it’s 43 minutes. That means the cable show has alot more time per episode to develop character and plot. It’s amazing to me how much a network show can do in that time-frame. Shows like Grey’s, Good Wife, and some of the Castle episodes get so much information and emotion nuances in there that it seems like I’ve watched a movie instead of a TV show. I’d like to see Homeland try to cut itself down to 43 minutes, implement FCC restrictions, and see how it does. I’m not knocking Homeland by any means, just pointing out that the comparisons between cable and network drama are pretty much apples and oranges.

      • Becks says:

        Completely agree with this! Cable and network t.v. require actors and actresses with a different set of skills, because cable and network t.v. shows are completely different. It’s unfair to compare them. That’s a great point about the length of the seasons as well. It’s significantly harder to find a really meaty episode of a network show because they have to spread their story lines out much more than they do on cable. And I think that makes it appear that actors and actresses on network shows aren’t as talented as the ones on cable, even if they are. Plus, it would be kind of nice to have a reputable awards show (i.e. not the People’s Choice) that showcased the shows that the general population are actually watching. I’m not knocking cable shows, but the fact is that a lot more people watch network shows than cable ones.

    • Emily says:

      And then there would eventually be cries to separate basic cable from premium — that’s another level of restrictions, after all. I think it should be dependent on the number of episodes in a season. 1-15 and 16+?

  41. Jennifer says:

    Where exactly are the women of Criminal Minds?? I agree that Stana should be on list too. These lists are popularity contest, exactly how many times do people from Greys Anatomy, Good Wife or endless cable shows need to be on here? I’m just grateful that Desperate Housewives will no longer be contender, except for Kathern Joonsten, in supporting catagory.

    • isabel says:

      Because they deserve to be there. Just out of curiosity, do you watch The Good Wife or any of those “endless cable shows” ? Some of these actresses’ work is phenomenal. I’m a big fan of Criminal Minds too, but they’re not exactly at the same level as Claire Danes, for example.

  42. Kristen says:

    Lena Headey- Game of Thrones!!!!

  43. alenka052 says:

    STANA KATIC! Why wasn’t she nominated?????

  44. LuLu says:

    Maybe @bluearql can write an app to spam this poll like she has others. Guess that’s a true fan these days. People with so much time on their hands that skewing internet polls for tv is how they spend their time may want to get outdoors and enjoy some fresh air.

  45. Gracie says:

    Another con for Katey Sagal is Kurt Sutter’s twitter rants… But my God, Katey deserves some recognition so badly. That scene where she “revealed the truth” to Jax (about his dad’s death) was so subtle and perfectly acted by her.

  46. Devon Bryce says:

    Maggie Q in “Nikita” should absolutely be on this list. This show is so well-written, so well-acted and just amazing in so many ways, that it is simply tragic that it’s as underrated as it is. And Maggie Q’s performance is stunning. Her Nikita is strong, independent and a leader, while at the same time struggling with darkness, doubt and loneliness. Maggie moves perfectly from Nikita before she was trained by the government, to Nikita during her training and then Nikita in the present day. Maggie Q is able to go through the whole spectrum of human emotion and bring this character to life in a way that is simply extraordinary. Check out Season 2 Ep. 19 if you want to know why this woman absolutely deserves an Emmy.

  47. Dana says:

    I like Once Upon a Time well enough, but why on earth are Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison even on here? They don’t belong in the same sentence with most of these actors.

  48. EvilStanatic;) says:

    pfffftttttt… it needs to happen!

  49. Suhara says:

    Anna freaking Torv. This woman deserves an Emmy more than all of the other combined. I would love it if Emily Deschanel was given a nom, but son’t see Emmy voters watching those kind of procedurals. I love Tana Katic, and while she was good in Kill Shot, she wasn’t incredible, and there are certainly other performances by actresses in this list that outdo her completely. Please Emmy voters, recognize Anna. It is long overdue.