WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: Kemper was handed an enormously difficult challenge: making her character a naive optimist without ever becoming insufferable. Fortunately, the Office vet proved up to the task, and the result was 13 episodes full of Kimmy’s endearing spunk and adorable glass-half-full demeanor. Even when Kimmy was at her most clueless (“Are you alone? Or are you some kind of tiny businessman, sir?” she asked a young boy wandering around New York City), Kemper had us rooting for her fearless character until our binge-watch was over.
LISA KUDROW, THE COMEBACK
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: Kudrow’s portrait of washed-up actress Valerie Cherish — who found unexpected critical success at the expense of her marriage in Season 2 of HBO’s cult comedy — was a masterwork, meticulous in detail and unflinching in its honesty. The picture wasn’t always a pretty one — a decade between seasons didn’t make Valerie any less vain, self-absorbed or fame-obsessed — but with added layers of vulnerability and warmth, Kudrow never let her character become a mere object of mockery, either.
GINA RODRIGUEZ, JANE THE VIRGIN
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: It’s hard to think of a show whose tricky concept depends on the performance of its lead more than Jane the Virgin. Luckily, the CW series — about a recent college grad whose professional and romantic aspirations are turned upside down after being accidentally artificially inseminated — struck gold with Rodriguez, who anchors Jane with a charmingly hilarious, effervescently joyous and, at times, utterly devastating star turn.
KRISTEN SCHAAL, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD:Last Man on Earth was understandably marketed as a starring vehicle for Will Forte, but, for our money, Fox’s rookie comedy is all about Schaal’s lovably earnest and principled Carol. In one short season, the 30 Rock alum has created one of TV’s most complex, root-worthy misfits. Man would be lost without her, and so would we.
AMY SCHUMER, INSIDE AMY SCHUMER
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: There’s no doubt in our minds that Schumer deserves a writing nomination for Season 3 of her eponymous sketch series — particularly for this season’s incredibly clever, culturally relevant 12 Angry Men parody. But Schumer also shone in front of the camera, masterfully mimicking such TV staples as Friday Night Lights‘ Tami Taylor and the cast of Toddlers and Tiaras. Through her spot-on spoofs, Schumer (who submitted as Lead for 2015, as opposed to Supporting last year) brought to light all the modern-day trends that deserve to be mocked — and she wasn’t afraid to make fun of herself in the process.
CONSTANCE WU, FRESH OFF THE BOAT
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: Although Fresh Off the Boat is told from the perspective of young Eddie Huang, Wu easily became the comedy’s breakout star in Season 1 with her portrayal of Eddie’s no-nonsense mom, Jessica. The perfect complement to Randall Park’s naive Louis, Jessica served as the ambitious, hard-working role model her kids needed. And, thanks to Wu’s deadpan line-readings (and one unforgettable karaoke performance), Jessica simultaneously became one of the funniest and most relatable characters in contemporary comedy.