Pro: Not only is AMC’s zombie thriller a monster hit, but Season 2 put Callies’ heroine through a wringer that would have killed a lesser actress.
Con: A lot of people dislike her character. Even worse, some of them are probably Emmy voters who would already be disinclined to spotlight a genre show.
Glenn Close, Damages
Pro: She’s won twice before for her work as Patty Hewes, the last time in 2009.
Con: That didn’t seem to matter last year, when she was left off the ballot altogether. (Now would be a good time to reuse that “I’m not going to be ignored!” line from Fatal Attraction.)
Claire Danes, Homeland
Pro: Her performance as terrorist hunter Carrie Mathison was one of the most celebrated of the year – in ANY medium. Her Golden Globe win in January only further cemented her frontrunner status.
Con: Voters might resent the perception that she’s a lock and throw their support behind Mad Men‘s long-overdue Elisabeth Moss.
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Pro: One of the six best actress slots will undoubtedly go to a leading “Lady” from PBS’ exclamation-pointed period piece. And none of them are more deserving than the ingenue who makes Mary such a memorable study in corseted sadomasochism.
Con: However deserving Dockery may be, the nod is still likelier to go to the show’s matriarch, Elizabeth McGovern.
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Pro: Since she received her first nomination last year, the up-and-comer’s career has gained considerable momentum (she’s bagged roles in World War Z opposite Brad Pitt and Devil’s Knot opposite Reese Witherspoon).
Con: If Emmy voters are half as frustrated with the drawn-out Rosie Larsen murder mystery as regular viewers are, she’s in trouble.
Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon a Time
Pro: Playing both the prim and proper (and sometimes improper) Mary Margaret and the headstrong Snow White, Goodwin is the beating heart of Once Upon a Time that no Evil Queen can crush. That could earn her big love from voters..
Con: The freshman drama’s fairytale foundation could very well keep Academy traditionalists from giving either the show or its actors their happily ever after.
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Pro: She’s been nominated eight years in a row for her role as Det. Benson, which makes the odds of a ninth pretty good.
Con: Voters may be of the opinion that eight is enough.
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Pro: Last year’s winner used Season 3 to remind us why she won.
Con: None. She’s a lock for a nod.
Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey
Pro: The veteran actress was nominated for an Emmy for this role last year, albeit in the miniseries category.
Con: Since Downton daughter Michelle Dockery decided to enter the lead race as well, vote-splitting could leave them both as out of luck as poor Lady Edith at a singles mixer.
Debra Messing, Smash
Pro: She’s a six-time nominee and a 2003 winner for Will & Grace.
Con: Some argue that, in spite of her star status, she belongs in the supporting actress category. Others argue about which of her character’s subplots was worse (the adoption storyline, the teen son drama, the adulterous affair?).
Jennifer Morrison, Once Upon a Time
Pro: While her cast mates have the fun and fantastical elements of the fairytale fare to brighten and lighten their load, Morrison has in a way shouldered the heavier lifting, playing Emma Swan, a skeptical outsider struggling to make sense of Storybrooke’s possibly magical origins.
Con: The comparative gravity of Emma’s storyline — plus her existence in only one of the show’s dual narratives — could give co-star Ginnifer Goodwin (Mary Margaret/Snow White) the edge in netting a nod here, if Once is to make any grab at unspun gold.
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Pro: Blessed with a very eventful season for her Peggy, Moss has delivered time and time again. And again. And again. Seriously, she doesn’t miss a beat.
Con: Co-star Jessica Pare is also entering the lead actress race, meaning she could siphon some votes away. That is, if voters are blind, deaf and dumb. Moss should be unbeatable, “Zou Bisou Bisou” be damned.
Anna Paquin, True Blood
Pro: The Southern-fried vampire saga remains HBO’s biggest hit; its Oscar-winning star, as enchanting as ever.
Con: As much as Emmy hates soap operas, it hates horror/sci fi/fantasy type shows more.
Ellen Pompeo, Grey’s Anatomy
Pro: The death of her on-screen sis in the season finale afforded her a banner opportunity to redefine the term “good grief.”
Con: During the hospital sudser’s eight-year run, its leading lady has been honored with a nod exactly zero times.
Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Pro: Her omission from the lead actress race last year was met with rioting in the streets. Surely, at least a few Emmy voters bore witness to it.
Con: That rioting that went on in the streets… may actually have gone on mainly in my head.
Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy
Pro: Creatively speaking, FX’s biker drama popped a wheelie this season, which bodes well for the actress that many consider to be its “gateway nominee.”
Con: Emmy doesn’t seem to like motorcycles.
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Pro: Aside from the obvious — she rocks — she’s won before. PLUS, the show is entering its final season.
Con: The competition is even stiffer this year than it was back in 2010, when she was last nominated.
Madeleine Stowe, Revenge
Pro: The Golden Globes warmed to the ice queen from ABC’s Hamptons-set hoot.
Con: But Emmy has always been chilly toward serials. And, given how crowded this category is… Well, hate to say it, but she doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance.
Callie Thorne, Necessary Roughness
Pro: Thanks to a surprise Golden Globe nom, this long shot got a little shorter.
Con: But only a little. USA still has a ways to go convincing Emmy voters that its jock-doc drama is an award-caliber.
Anna Torv, Fringe
Pro: Emmy voters were wrong to snub her last year, and they know it.
Con: Unfortunately, they also know that she was more deserving of a nod last year.
Emily VanCamp, Revenge
Pro: ABC’s breakout primetime soap established its ass-kicking heroine as the TV superstar that Everwood fans already considered her to be.
Con: It also established that her more seasoned castmate, Madeleine Stowe, could pack an even bigger wallop without so much as making a fist.
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Pro: Her ABC drama was the surprise watercooler hit of midseason; her gutsy performance, much discussed.
Con: Emmy voters will probably have to discuss the aforementioned gutsy performance for another season before she’s invited to the party.