Emmys 2015: Lead Actress in a Drama Series — Our 6 Dream Nominees!

What do two badass women from the 1940s (one of ’em stuck in a different era), a hard-on-her-luck single mom (with a seriously damaged son), and an infinitely quotable record exec have in common?

They’re four of the characters who’ve inspired TVLine’s 2015 Dream Emmy Ballot for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series.

Who’s not on our list? The last two women to triumph in the category — Claire Danes and Julianna Margulies, who are both fantastic, but who’ve had a lock on the statuette since 2011. #SharingIsCaring

Check out the gallery below — or click here for direct access — to see our fresh-blood ideas, then tell us if our picks warrant a “Woot!”/”Whaaaat?”/crisp slap of rebuke!

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. robin says:

    The only bad thing about Sam being dead is that we don’t get backstory on how they got together. That seems like one sick relationship even within the false front they put on.

  2. dude says:

    I will never not demand Tatiana Maslany nominated until Orphan Black is done. It truly sucks that the best actress on television (if not the best actress on any medium) has been so completely looked over by the academy. With that said…if Tatiana can’t win it, it’s gotta be Cookie!

    • jdv says:

      I agree! This is a great list but I’d have included Maslany over Atwell..not that date also didn’t give a great performance but with Rachel stuttering and Elena talking to scorpions and Alison dealing drugs and everything else… It’s got to be time for Tatiana.

    • m2b says:

      Totally agree! How can someone playing 5 + characters all with different physical traits and accents NOT be included. It begs the question what is a “best actress” nominee if she doesn’t get a Nod. Clearly its not about being able to portray multiple characters on a given day and act against one-self at such a high level portrayal that you assume she is playing with her twin. That kind of acting is incredibly technical and to bring an emotional real element to every scene is the Best there can be out there today.

    • esteban says:

      The complaining here about Tatiana is pretty unfair to TVline. They always talk her up, pretty sure she was a “Dream” nominee last year, she won critic’s awards etc. I’d be more angry with the sights that never cover her.

  3. Laurie says:

    I 100% agree with your assessment that Caitriona Balfe deserves an Emmy nomination. Her performance as Claire is both strong and tender. She brings such intensity to her scenes. In general Outlander deserves numerous nominations.

    • Pat says:

      Caitriona Balfe’s performance is very one dimensional. She has no range of facial expressions at all: 90% of the time her facial expression is stoic and she is angry, sullen or rude. She is not a good example of a strong woman and tender expressions are few and far between. Her performance is not award worthy and there are other tv stars much more talented than she is who deserve awards.

      • Nan says:

        ITA. She’s as dull as Gina McKee was in The Forsyte Saga. Ice cold and BORING!

      • Mable says:

        If you’re not a fan if her’s I get it but your description is outright wrong. She displays an incredible range of emotion. Claire’s passion and emotional turmoil come through in every scene. Her plight is that she has to think on her feet because if her situation and Cait does this with amazing intelligence and power. She’s great to watch and should be recognized.

        • Pat says:

          Cait’s face has the same stoic expression in every scene and there is no tender passion to be found. I agree with Nan, Cait’s performance is very cold. She plays the part with no feeling at all; as though she’s just reading the words from a script.

          • Are you sure you’re talking about Cait? Sounds more like Kristen Stewart. And if you’re indeed talking about Caitriona, then you and I must have watched different shows.

          • Pat says:

            Yes, “kittykatcleary”, I am talking about Caitriona Balfe; I put her and Kristen Stuart in the same boat, neither of them are very good actors. Except that Cait does smile and is very likable in her public appearances; the same however, cannot be said about her acting. She should just be herself in the series and stop “trying” to act; at least this way, it would look natural instead of wooden and fake. Yes, Cait smiles at lot when she is not on screen, but you don’t see any of that when she is acting. If she could just transfer what she does in real life to her on-screen performance, she would be great.

        • Dennis says:

          One of the BEST comments I have read in a while!!

      • Kathy says:

        where have you been? Outlander is the BEST show on tv.

      • Kimmie says:

        I agree. I think they did a terrible job casting her. Claire is not supposed to be rail thin to the point of bony, and this actress has never once made me believe she loves Jamie. Part of the problem is the tv show has not focused on the love story of Jamie and Claire as much as the book did, but while Sam & Tobias & Graham (Dougal) are doing remarkable jobs, Cat is just ok and her acting just is not the same caliber as her male counterparts.

        • Chanelgalme says:

          In Outlander, the casting team did a terrific job in casting Catriona Balfe as Claire. She is not rail thin but in every scene she conveyed a Claire we are so familiar in the books. She truly has a glass face and so good at emoting passion, fear, anger, love, lust that we the viewers of the show got carried away with her in every scene. Great talent and should be recognized in the Emmys and other awards.

  4. Sarah says:

    I have given up hope when it comes to Tatiana’s nom, so as long as Viola and Taraji are nominated (with Viola winning), I will be pleased.

  5. Mr. Tran K says:

    What are the chances Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black gets nominated? My prediction: 51%.

    • The Beach says:

      I truly cannot fathom how she gets passed over year after year while giving a master class in acting. Is it because the Academy hates BBC America??

      • Allee says:

        Meanwhile they keep nominating the played-out Downton Abbey. I always think the Brits must be laughing at us for nominating their version of a telenovela.

        • Annie says:

          Why would they laugh? In the UK, the only shows that have higher ratings than Downton Abbey are soap operas. In the UK the soaps air in primetime, and generate a great deal of buzz.

  6. Tim says:

    Tatiana Maslany and Ruth Wilson need to be added to this list

  7. Chase says:

    If i had it my way Amy Acker would be on this list ( women has always been so underrated by people ) but i guess she is technically the supporting actress.

  8. Saw your Emmys2015 Lead Actress Drama Dream Team list: agree completely with your inclusion of Outlander’s Caitriona Balfe! The show deserves numerous nominations; Cait’s emotive face, 100% commitment to the moment, and sizzling chemistry with co-star Sam Heughan put her in the top 5% of actresses working on television today. #EmmysforBalfe !

  9. Denise Rambo says:

    No love for Tatiana Maslany this year?

  10. Jules says:

    I think it’s a two person race between Viola & Taraji regardless of who the other noms are.

  11. matty says:

    I am SHOCKED you don’t have Keri Russell in your dream list!

    • guest says:

      Thank you I agree…Keri Russell should be nominated this year she was outstanding!

    • Okay Dude says:

      Yeah, a nomination would be two years overdue.
      I’d like Emmy Rossum on the list too, mostly because I’m the biggest shameless fan and she was amazing last season, and partly because her name is Emmy and it would be the coolest thing ever.

    • So agree. She has won so many critics awards for the last two year for her role but it seems the critic of Salon was right, when she wrote, that most viewers have problems watching The Americans. There go more for escapism-shows like Outlander.

    • tvlover44 says:

      agree – keri russell is absolutely superb on ‘the americans’ – definitely deserves a nom!

  12. lori says:

    Catriona Balfe all the way.

  13. Mable says:

    Caitriona Balfe’s Claire in Outlander is so amazing it would be shameful if she were overlooked, same for Sam Heughan!

  14. abz says:

    My Dream List:
    – Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)
    – Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
    – Viola Davis (HTGAWM)
    – Eva Green (Penny Dreadful)
    – Melissa McBride (The Walking Dead)
    – Julianna Margulie (The Good Wife)

  15. JB says:

    The fact that you didnt include Robin Wright from “House of Cards” and Tatiana Maslany from “Orphan Black” on your list is absolutely ludicrous. No offense to these brilliant actresses you mentioned, but those two actresses gave the absolute best performances this past season.

    • JB says:

      My dream list would be as follows:

      1. Robin Wright (House of Cards)
      2. Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
      3. Viola Davis (HTGAWM)
      4. Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
      5. Juliana Marguiles (The Good Wife)
      6. Eva Green (Penny Dreadful)

    • abz says:

      I don’t know about others, but I thought House of Cards was just not good this season really. Definitely inferior to the first two.

      • JB says:

        Regardless of what some might think of the overall quality of the season, Wright was by far the MVP and had some of her most amazing episodes yet. Her episode in Russia should easily finally win her an Emmy.

        • abz says:

          Yeah she was good. For me though, I think it’s Vera Farmiga who needs to finally win an Emmy. I personally enjoyed her work on Bates Motel much more than Wright’s.

  16. Dawn says:

    Caitriona Balfe nom is spot on, she is amazing in Outlander! But Tatiana Maslany is amazing playing multiple characters in Orphan Black and definetly deserves a nom too!

  17. juno says:

    Agree with Chase on Amy Acker..she is just so good in Person of Interest and yet she is always overlooked..so underrated.. And yes for Eva Green! Phenomenal in Penny Dreadful!

  18. Nancy Mays says:

    Caitriona Balfe is an amazing talent,. Her face speaks volumes. She definitely deserves an Emmy for her work on Outlander.

  19. Celeste DiBenedetto says:

    Hands down, she’s a versatile and commanding actress. You name the emotion and she’ll do it excellently.

  20. Amadeu says:

    Just here for Tatiana Maslany. This award is for her… every year.

  21. xmelaniexthomasx says:

    Tatiana Maslany deserves all the awards. All. Of. Them.

    • Lizett says:

      Tatiana Maslany the absolute winner.

      There are brilliant actresses in other shows but Tatiana delivers so many Master Pieces in every single episode playing so many different characters and all so incredibly believable, it is mind blowing.

      My dream nominees for Lead Actress 2015:

      Tatiana Maslany for Sarah begging for Kira’s life or when Helena left her
      Tatiana Maslany for Helena
      Tatiana Maslany for Allison
      Tatiana Maslany for Cosima
      Tatiana Maslany for Rachel
      Tatiana Maslany for Helena as Alison
      Tatiana Maslany for Cosima as Allison

  22. arial2 says:

    I’m glad you included Hayley Atwell in this group. She had the hardest sell, a female superhero, and she carried it off extremely well. I think it will be Taraji Henson’s year, but Catrione Balfe is extraordinary in Outlander.

  23. Brian says:

    I know Scandal for the most part sucked this season (and last), but I really wish Kerry Washington could get in with the Run episode. As baity as it was, she was really good in that.

  24. dude says:

    Dream Noms: Tatiana Maslany, Taraji P. Henson, Vera Farmiga, Viola Davis, Keri Russell and Kerry Washington

  25. Court says:

    Dream List:
    1. Caitriona Balfe (Outlander)
    2. Keri Russell (The Americans)
    3. Robin Wright (House of Cards)
    4. Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
    5. Ruth Wilson (The Affair)
    6. Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex)

    I would add Elisabeth Moss too because she is always wonderful.

    I don’t want Empire, How to Get Away with Murder, or Penny Dreadful. I don’t really think HTGAWM or Empire is Emmy worthy tv really. Same with Scandal. They are soaps.

    I always enjoy Julianna Marguiles and Claire Danes too, but I’d like to see some fresh talent.

    Cait is my first choice for sure, then Keri. Outstanding talents.

    • Nik says:

      What do those shows being soaps have to do with anything? As if soaps haven’t won Emmys before…

      • Court says:

        I don’t think the writing is as quality as other dramas. It is more about the twists and turns than character development. That is my opinion. Just like I wouldn’t nominate Pretty Little Liars for an Emmy or Gossip Girl. Soaps may have been “good enough” TV in the past to win awards, but now television is on such a higher level. There is amazing, amazing TV out there that should be recognized over soaps…

    • Court says:

      want = watch*** I haven’t seen Empire, HTGAWM or Penny Dreadful I meant.

    • And what would you call Outlander? That is the most chessy, soapy show on tv right now.

      • Court says:

        Why would you call Outlander a soap? Because there is a female lead and it has romance? I don’t think that’s fair. Outlander is a nuanced drama, with wonderful character development and compelling storytelling. And all of the performances of the actors are incredible.

        I don’t think just because something is a bit more “feminine” that it is a soap. It’s about the writing. Ron Moore, in particular from BSG, is a fantastic, fantastic writer and showrunner.

        • I am talking about the writing, which most of the time didnt make sense. Full of spectacle, silly dialogues, monoton voice-overs…. There are tons of shows out there with great female leads and romantic elements.

    • Jac says:

      There are only 2 actresses in this award whom I feel should really deserve the award nom. One is CAITRIONA Balfe and Tatiana Maslany….but my pick is CAITRIONA Balfe. She completely drew me into her story and her facial expressions to her inner feelings are the best I have seen in an actor.
      Yes Catriona Balfe should get the Emmy and at least a nom.

    • chanelgalme says:

      I so agreed with you on the other shows. I watched them in the beginning and like you found them to be more and more boring except for HOUSE OD CARDS and Orphan Black.
      CAITRIONA Balfe is my choice for a nom for her amazing portrait of Claire Fraser. She made me feel every moment with her.

  26. Karen says:

    C’mon! No mention of Elisabeth Moss!?
    Personally hoping Moss, Viola Davis and Lizzie Caplan get noms

  27. Liz Henderson says:

    Vera Farmiga!

  28. Angie says:

    I would keep your list… just trade the actress from Empire with Robin Wright! And of course in my perfect world Vera Farmiga aka GOD! would win!

  29. Angela says:

    Viola and Vera. Yes. Put those two on the list, Emmy people, and I will be a happy woman. Course, choosing from there would be tough, but still… Any chance for a tie, Emmys :p?

  30. craig says:


  31. Michael says:

    This list is missing both Tatiana Maslany and Keri Russell. I don’t care who they replace.

  32. Jimmy says:

    If Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis aren’t both nominated the outrage machine will go into overdrive (and rightly so). I think Keri Russell also deserves a nomination. This is one of her best seasons since season 1.

  33. DW says:

    Acting awards should be for “acting”. Not for political correctness. Not for righting imagined previous wrongs. Not excluding someone because they have won before. Another “interesting” list from Team TVLine whose batting average drops with every category.

    • Angela says:

      Not for political correctness. Not for righting imagined previous wrongs.
      ??? Curious as to what you mean by this?

      • DW says:

        Pretty self-explanatory…but, the performance, and only the performance should be the basis for any vote. No other considerations of any kind.

        • Angela says:

          Ah, okay. I didn’t know if there was a weird situation with a specific show you were referring to or something :p.

    • Annie says:

      Most critics have praised Viola and Taraji’s work, so what is “politically correct” about honoring these two great actresses? Based on your comment, it would seem that you are inclined to dismiss the recognition of any actor or actress who is not white. That seems like a very bigoted point of view.

  34. Matt C. says:

    Totally agree with Viola, Taraji, and Vera. I think Robin Wright should be on that list, too. I despised season 3 of House of Cards, but she was phenomenal, and I’ll be watching season 4 solely for Claire. Also, though season 4 of Scandal was all over the place, I thought it was Kerry Washington’s best season yet.

  35. guest says:

    I see it being:

    1) Taraji P. Henson – Empire
    2) Robin Wright – House of Cards
    3) Viola Davis – How to Get Away With Murder
    4) Eva Green – Penny Dreadful (here’s hoping!!)
    5) Claire Danes – Homeland

    ok… not so sure about Claire but if you actually watched this past season, it was better than ever! I can see her getting nominated if not then Ruth Wilson for The Affair. not sure that Keri Russell will get her due. Taraji will win for sure but I am hoping if something crazy happens and she doesn’t that Eva Green will win. because she is incredibleeee in Penny Dreadful as Vanessa Ives, and definitely at least deserves a nomination.

  36. Deb says:

    Caitriona Balfe as Outlander’s Claire deserves all the accolades the industry has to offer. Her intelligence and passion for the role put her a cut above the rest. Her ability to so fully embody a much loved book character, so much that long time book fans KNOW she is Claire, speaks to the depth of her talent.

  37. webly3 says:

    Why is Tatiana Maslany not on this list? And honestly no Taylor Schilling? After Thirsty Bird?

  38. Spence says:

    Get rid of Atwell (nothing against her I just don’t feel she deserves it) and put Tatiana Maslany on here!!!! Every other nominee is perfect, but I need Maslany to get some recognition!!

  39. The Bott says:

    If I had it my way….Ellen Pompeo from Grey’s Anatomy would be nominated. She has rocked this season, and the last few episodes in general…killed it I think! Plus, she has never been nominated for an Emmy and definitely deserves to be recognized!

    • tvfan says:

      I agree! It will never happen but she was incredible in the last 4 episodes, since how to save a life. It won’t happen because she’s been on that show for 11 seasons and won’t get recognised but I honestly think that she is incredible to still be able to convey so much into Meredith after so long, not many could do that after 11 seasons! Greys is not what it was back in its heyday but it’s changed and it’s reinventing itself, especially in the last bit of s11. Catorina and Sarah also had moments when they killed it too this season! The Emmys shouldn’t write of a show/the actors just because it’s been on tv for more than 10 years :)

  40. Chris says:

    My Dream Nominees would be:

    1. Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
    2.Lizzy Caplan (Masters Of Sex)
    3. Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder)
    4. Haley Atwell (Agent Carter)
    5. Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
    6. Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)

  41. Guy says:

    Leaving off Keri Russell is an egregious error. She’s the best actress on TV right now. If the Emmys ignore her in favor of a caricature like Cookie, something is seriously wrong.

  42. Lisa says:

    Vera Farmiga should not only be nominated but should win. She is fantastic and her acting is so effortless and real!

  43. Susan says:

    Tatiana…times how many? Each character she plays is unique and worthy. Come on!

  44. kate says:

    Technically, it should only be Tatiana here, Tatiana for her portrayal of Sara, Tatiana for her portrayal of Helena, Tatiana for her portrayal of Cosima, Tatiana for her portrayal of Alison, Tatiana for her portrayal of Rachel.

    I am not kidding!

  45. Where is Keri Russel? Or Gillan Anderson? Lizzy Chaplan? But Caitriona Balfe and Hayley Atwell??? I love Hayley Atwell to bits and her performence is amazing, but she didnt have the tough material that Russel, Anderson or Chaplan had. And Ruth Wilson? Why isnt she on the list? I totally gave up on anyone to include Tatiana Maslany on any emmy list (through the Hollywood Reporter thankfully tried). It seems the most deserving actresses allways dont get in.

  46. dman6015 says:

    You pick Eva Green from the dreadful Penny Dreadful over Tatiana Maslany? Maslany is the hardest working woman in show business, playing 3, 4 or 5 characters, expertly, per episode.

    • Nicole says:

      Look, nobody is insulting the others tv show, so please, be respectful. I love Orphan Black and of course Tatiana deserves everything. But then there’s Viola and Vera who are flawless for start. And Eva Green is amazing. All of them are perfect in their role. Yes, Tatiana deserves to be nominated. But don’t be rude towards others.

  47. Sasha says:

    Don’t you guys know how TV critics and TV writers work? They only care about buzz. There are new flavors of the month so of course they’re gonna pimp them out. Tatiana is old news. Yes, she still gives the best performance on TV bar none but there are new hot ladies in town.

  48. Sonny and Brenda says:

    Caitriona Balfe is a gifted actress with amazing range! She absolutely deserves to be nominated and deserves to win!

  49. Tina Laws says:

    Catriona deserves the Emmy

  50. Kathy says:

    OUTLANDER is one of the best shows ever to grace our television screens. Caitriona Balfe is absolutely believeable as Claire and is deserving of any and all awards including an EMMY! Her chemistry with co-star Sam Heughan is the best I’ve seen in years. It would be ridiculous for her not to win tons of awards for her great work. Can hardly wait for the next season!