Emmys 2014: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series -- Our 6 Dream Nominees!

“Where’s Bryan Cranston?”

That’s the obvious question most of you will ask as you peruse our gallery of Dream Emmy Nominees for Best Actor in a Drama Series — and realize the Breaking Bad star isn’t included. So, please, allow us to explain ourselves.

More Emmy Races In Review | Outstanding Comedy Series | Lead Actor in a Comedy Series | Lead Actress in a Comedy Series | Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series | Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series | Outstanding Drama Series

Cranston is as much a lock to garner his sixth nomination in the category as Kim Kardashian is to post a selfie on Instagram in the next 72 hours. And given Cranston’s stunning work as spiraling drug kingpin Walter White in the second half of Season 5, we’d never begrudge him of another nod.

But let’s be honest: With five nominations and three wins, it’s not like Cranston hasn’t gotten his due. So in the spirit of advocating for wonderful performances that might never be recognized by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, we zigged — and zigged hard — where we could’ve/should’ve/migt’ve zagged. And if Emmy zigs, too, and opens up a slot for one of the worthy gents on our list — all of whom would be first-time nominees in the category for these particular roles — we can’t say it wouldn’t be tremendously exciting.

So, click through our gallery (via the blue button underneath the accompanying Blacklist photo or THIS LINK) to see if your dream nominees match up with ours, and then hit the comments to tell us where we got it right, which ones we got wrong and what shows you think we snubbed egregiously.

And then check back Wednesday as we reveal our dream picks for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

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. torimelching says:

    I think the Best Actor will look like this

    Bryan Cranston
    James Spader
    Kevin Spacey
    Jon Hamm or Michael Sheen
    Woody Harrelson
    Matthew McConaughey

  2. LK says:

    James Spader always plays the same kind of role though.. Blacklist isnt really any different than what he did in the past….

    You really should fix these gallery things on the new site.. after you scroll through the current list it takes you back to some other gallery.. rather annoying.

    • John NYC says:

      Yes and having scrolled past the end scrolling back reveals the “back to the article” link is no longer there!

      Truly silly.

  3. Cassandra says:

    My ideal list would be Bryan Cranston, Michael Sheen, if eligible for last season Aden Young, James Spader, Kevin Spacey, and Matthew McConaughey

  4. Meg says:

    Charlie Hunnam ftw

    • the girl says:

      I would love for Charlie Hunnam to be nominated here. When he found Tara’s body, I thought I was going to crumble right along with him. But this is a testament to how great things are on television right now that he probably won’t hear his name on announcement day. It’s unfortunate too because he’s put in solid work for six years running.

    • EJ386 says:

      I really hope he gets some recognition he is amazing as Jax, but he probably won’t… To bad he is my favourite actor in this category.

  5. Michelle says:

    Really really hope Hugh Fancy (lol keeping the autocorrect) gets nominated!

    And can’t wait for Wednesday because I know Tatiana Maslany’s rightfully dominating that list.

  6. MattArmando says:


    James Spader, THE BLACKLIST
    Woody Harrelson, TRUE DETECTIVE
    Hugh Dancy, HANNIBAL
    Mads Mikkelson, HANNIBAL (Yes, Mads submitted in the LEAD category.)

    Kevin Spacey, HOUSE OF CARDS
    Bryan Cranston, BREAKING BAD
    Matthew McConaughey, TRUE DETECTIVE
    Woody Harrelson, TRUE DETECTIVE,
    Jon Hamm, MAD MEN
    James Spader, THE BLACKLIST

  7. cjeffery7 says:

    what happened to the “Back to Article” link?? i have very little motivation to interact with gallery-based articles as is….

  8. Aprilcot says:

    Matthew McConaughey
    Woody Harrelson
    Mads Mikkelson
    Hugh Dancy
    James Spader
    Tom Mison
    Peter Dinklage
    Yes…I realize that I chose seven. :) I’d love to see Mads win this, but I won’t be shocked if he’s snubbed. My next pick would be McConaughey, but if any of these guys were to win, I’d be happy.

    • dee says:

      Dinklage will be in the supporting character. Game of Thrones doesn’t have any leads.

      Agree that Tom Mison is deserving, but those types of roles rarely get recognized, unfortunately. But I’d argue that what he pulls off every week is a lot trickier and difficult than what James Spader does.

  9. HAP says:

    I have to agree with your assessment of Woody Harrelson. His was the more nuanced performance. I think all the hoopla surrounding mcConnaughey was more about the resurgence of his career what with the accolades he’s gotten for Mud, Dallas Buyers Club and Wolf of Wall Street.

    • The Beach says:

      Mud was a really, really good film.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      You nailed it. I love that McConaughey won the Oscar for Dallas Buyers’ Club because I freaking love that movie and he is great in it, but Harrelson was the more interesting character in True Detective. However, McConaughey will get the attention because he is the Oscar winner.

  10. j says:

    Did Josh Charles submit as Supporting? That could make sense. Otherwise: “Hitting The Fan” and the 100th where he fantasizes about cross-examining Alicia were outstanding moments, and this is his last chance to be nominated for this role, so… COME ON.

  11. Tran says:

    Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), James Spader (The Blacklist), Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex), Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (True Detective) and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards).

  12. msnyder1985 says:

    I say Bryan Cranston, Andrew Lincoln (which I know will never happen even though it should), Peter Dinklage, Charlie Hunnam, Jon Hamm, and Kevin Spacey. I have a feeling only one of these names will actually make the cut though.

    • Summer says:

      I’m right there with you re: Andrew Lincoln. Such a splendid actor but unfortunately will never get his due. If for some miraculous reason he’s nominated I’m rooting for him, but for now I’ll root for Peter Dinklage.

  13. MrMank says:

    I’m guessing Fargo will be submitted in the miniseries category. At first I was floored that there was no mention of Billy Bob Thornton or Martin Freeman, who quite possibly gave the performances of the season.

  14. Katrina says:

    Charlie(SOA), Peter(GOT), Matthew(TD), Woody(TD), James Spader(BL)…I really feel like they should give it to someone new! Im so tired of seeing the same actors be nominated and get the award year after year. Charlie had me crying so bad when I watched his scenes. It was so real and raw he must get nominated!

  15. jss0058 says:

    Where is Matthe Rhys for The Americans?! He absolutely belongs here

    It’ll be interesting to see if this comes down to a battle between Cranston & McConaughey. I’m really curious to see which tapes they each submit. Also really curious to see if both McConaughey & Harrelson will both make it in. My “dream” six:


  16. ScorpionGlow says:

    James Spader or Hugh Dancy, I know full well Charlie Hunnam won’t be nominated no matter how good he is.

  17. angelwings1 says:

    Charlie Hunnam is way overdue for an Emmy nomination.

  18. Ron says:

    My 6 dream nominees:
    – Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
    – Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
    – Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy)
    – James Spader (The Blacklist)
    – Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
    – Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
    The 6 I think will be nominated:
    – Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
    – Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
    – Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
    – James Spader (The Blacklist)
    – Woody Harrleson (True Detective)
    – Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)

  19. Beth says:

    Charlie deserves a nomination pure and simple. That last scene was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen on TV. He displayed everything he had feared happening to his family in that last desperate moan. Sadly they will go with safe choices and Sons and Charlie will be snubbed once again.

  20. Frank says:

    Cranston has 5 norms and 3 wins

  21. Cara says:

    After this season’s performance, Peter Dinklage. He deserves allll the awards.

  22. thehuntclub says:

    Norman Reedus – from The Walking Dead should be on the list…

  23. sparky says:

    I appreciate the tags so I didn’t have to click through the gallery.

  24. Merideth says:

    My dream picks (though extremely unlikely):
    Bryan Cranston
    Matthew McConaughey
    Woody Harrelson
    Charlie Hunnam
    Andrew Lincoln
    Matthew Rhys

  25. Miranda says:

    If you check out the official Emmy ballot that goes out to voters you’ll see that Hugh Dancy is listed immediately after Bryan Cranston, since it’s listed alphabetically.
    It’s a stretch and I’m getting my hopes up… but still! Hugh can’t be ignored!

    Here are my 6 Dream Nominees:
    Hugh Dancy – Hannibal
    Matthew Rhys – The Americans
    Timothy Olyphant – Justified
    Woody Harrelson – True Detective
    Kevin Spacey – House of Cards
    Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad (he’s won 3 times already and he deserves more)

  26. An Irrelevant says:

    Michael Emerson should be in the mix. But oh yeah, he’s in a network drama with Jim Caviezel so that means that nobody in Hollywood will vote for him.

    • lll says:

      In a dream world, both Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel will be nominated, but they snub Person of Interest a lot in mainstream so in reality you’re correct.

  27. Mari says:

    Peter Dinklage, GOT
    Norman Reedus, Walking Dead
    Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, GOT
    Travis Fimmel, Vikings
    James Spader, THE BLACKLIST
    Mads Mikkelson, HANNIBAL
    GOT is extremely well cast. All the actors are phenomenal. Should receive best ensemble!!!!!

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      I really wish the Emmys did best ensemble so that overshadowed, really great actors on great shows could get Emmys, but I think the closest they come to that is best casting, which is not really the same thing. Also, at least three of the actors you’ve picked are in the supporting category, so you still get three more picks for lead. ;)

  28. Ally Oop says:

    Well, I watch none of these shows. Of the shows I do watch (and there are many) the best acting nominees would be Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Joseph Morgan (The Originals), Chip Esten (Nashville), Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow) and I have no 5th or 6th nominees. I just realized how few of my shows have men in leading rolls. I watch an awful lot of female-lead shows.

    • Maya says:

      I love Joseph Morgan but his acting on The Originals is embarrassing. All he does is yell and cry on that show. Even if his acting was amazing, there are a wealth of even better actors who deserves a nomination than he does. Plus his show is on the CW so it wouldn’t ever be considered.

  29. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I’m so glad you picked Woody Harrelson over Matthew McConaughey. I liked Woody just a bit better in True Detective. His character was so slimy, yet so likeable. I’m also happy you picked Michael Sheen. I know McConaughey is probably going to win this year, but I figure if Jeff Daniels can win for The Newsroom pilot, then Michael Sheen has a very legitimate chance of winning if he submits the Catherine episode. And I want to see that happen. I love it when an actor is so good, he tells you everything you need to know about a character without saying a word, and Sheen embodies that as Dr. Masters. My other five choices would be Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Damian Lewis (because I’m loyal to my shows, d*mmit), Timothy Olyphant, and Andrew Lincoln. I accept your judgment. I do think those who will really be nominated are Michael Sheen, Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Matthew McConaughey, and Woody Harrelson. James Spader is a dark horse in that race. They seem to like him a great deal. I’ve never seen the show though, so I have no feel on whether or not he could really get it. I’m not sure who would get kicked out if Spader did get in though. I guess….Harrelson? I freaking refuse to accept it’s possible Michael Sheen won’t be on that list come July. And I do think it’s more possible they wouldn’t give two actors nominations for the same show in the same category.

  30. kirads09 says:

    Hugh Dancy, HANNIBAL
    Mads Mikkelson, HANNIBAL
    Could they just please be nominated together just both win?

    I also would like to add Robert Taylor LONGMIRE – rocks my world. Incredible performance.

    Certainly Spader as Reddington

  31. JJ says:

    Tony effin’ Goldwyn. Everyone is always talking about how great Kerry Washington, Bellamy Young, and Jeff Perry are and though they all do a wonderful job, Goldwyn is the one who makes them all better. Everyone’s best scenes happen with him. The guy is the most underrated actor on television. His final scene in the S3 finale should alone be Emmy worthy. The guy can convey everything with just a look or a word or two. He’s so underrated it’s ridiculous.

  32. Jax&Juice's Girl says:

    Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy) and Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead) DAMNMIT!

  33. Really good choices, but Michael Sheen is a no. Got to have Bryan Cranston.

  34. Karen says:

    Of the shows I’ve seen, it should be (in preferred order):
    – Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex)
    – Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
    – Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
    – Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead)
    – Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
    – Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)

  35. John says:

    Bryan did an amazing job this year in breaking bad and I think he is one of the best actors