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Emmys 2012: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

July 18, 2012

Ahh, the Emmys. Every year, I hope that the NATAS gets it right. Every year they prove that there isn’t a “right.” I guess I should just let it be. We know the same people get nominated year after year (whether it’s deserved or not). We know that some of the best performances will be overlooked (because that’s just the way it is). And we know that people who write about television will always make lists. Here’s mine.

Here’s how we’ll play it this year: I am working from the Emmy ballots that were sent out to NATAS members. That means, if Debra Messing is really considered a lead actress by the fine folks on the Smash set, I won’t complain. I won’t get it, but I won’t complain. Too much. It is what it is. The voting has ended, and now we’re just waiting to see who makes it into the magic six. The nominees will be announced on July 19.

Now we’re up to Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Interestingly enough, I never hesitated. My six top choices were locked in from the beginning. Here we go…

ActressGlenn Close


Pros: When a lady with six Oscar nominations does TV, you pay attention. Add in the thirteen Emmy nominations (and three wins, including two for this very role). The result? Another nomination.

Cons: The only thing I can think of is that the show was on hiatus last year and missed the voting process and is now on DirectTV instead of a real channel, which might cause some voters to forget about her.

Bottom Line: I don’t think you can forget Glenn Close. Or Patty Hewes.

ActressClaire Danes


Pros: The single best performance by an actor in any medium this year.

Cons: ——————

Bottom Line: The single best performance by an actor in any medium this year.

ActressMariska Hargitay

ShowLaw & Order: SVU

Pros: She’s been nominated 8,759 times.

Cons: She’s over-stayed her welcome.

Bottom Line: Please don’t.

ActressJulianna Margulies

ShowThe Good Wife

Pros: Last year’s winner also has a Golden Globe under her belt for her portrayal of Alicia Florrick, as well as nominations for each year the show has been on the air. Widely considered one of the best performances by an actress currently on TV.

Cons: Zero.

Bottom Line: Margulies is in.

ActressMary McCormack

ShowIn Plain Sight

Pros: A well-received police procedural in its final season, with a feisty blonde in the lead role… sound familiar? While making my list, I realized the similarities between In Plain Sight and The Closer. Sight is better than its USA Network placement would suggest. And McCormack did a great job of embodying one of the most interesting characters in police procedural history. An Emmy nomination for final season would be great way to acknowledge that.

Cons: That whole USA Network certainly doesn’t count in McCormack’s favor.

Bottom Line: She won’t be nominated, but you see that I’m rooting for her.

ActressDebra Messing


Pros: Messing is the big “name” for this show, despite the fact that Anjelica Huston is in the cast. That says a lot. Oh, and two extra points for Smash recognizing that just because they are a musical that they aren’t a comedy. Thanks for correct placement.

Cons: I’m trying really hard to see where she falls in as lead, but don’t. That being said, and adhering to my own rules, I have no issues other than the clinker of storyline they gave her – and that insufferable actor who plays her son. Get rid of his crybaby ass.

Bottom Line: Messing and the Emmys go back like babies and pacifiers (thanks ODB), so… don’t be surprised to hear her name called.

ActressEllen Pompeo

ShowGrey’s Anatomy

Pros: I’ve been telling you for months what a great job Pompeo did in season 8 and after that heart-breaking season finale, I can only say, “I told you so.” Someone needs to add her to the Emmy nominee list.

Cons: The show is long in the tooth for a first-time nomination and Grey’s fell off the NATAS radar a couple of years ago.

Bottom Line: I don’t see her garnering a nomination, but I think she should get one.

ActressElisabeth Moss

ShowMad Men

Pros: People love Mad Men. I don’t. I added her name because NATAS will.

Cons: I don’t know, but I’m telling you, she will be nominated.

Bottom Line: You already know how I feel.

ActressAnna Torv


Pros: There’s only a small handful of actors who portray two characters during one season. Torv plays about 300. I’m exaggerating, but her performance isn’t. Torv has a way of infusing each character with specific nuances that separate them from their döpplegangers. The result is that viewers can literally forget that she’s playing these various characters.

Cons: That whole science fiction void at the Emmys.

Bottom Line: Unfortunately, she won’t be nominated.

ActressAnna Paquin

ShowTrue Blood

Pros: It’s a mishmash of craziness and wackadoo fun, but you can never count out an Oscar winner

Cons: Except in this case. Blood is too much fun for Emmy voters.

Bottom Line: No nomination for Sookie.

ActressEmmy Rossum


Pros: The return of the Gallagher clan’s bipolar mother blew everything Fiona had been working for to hell. Rossum plays the head of the household better than anyone else on TV.

Cons: Lack of support.

Bottom Line:  Had Shameless been as good in the first season as in the second, the precedent would be set and she would be a nominee this year without question.

ActressKatey Sagal

ShowSons of Anarchy

Pros: A couple of years ago, when she didn’t get an Emmy nomination, fans went ballistic.

Cons: That was two years ago. She still hasn’t gotten a nomination.

Bottom Line: She won the Golden Globe though… I’m still saying she will once again not be on the list.

ActressKyra Sedgwick

ShowThe Closer

Pros: A beloved show is making its swan dive. A beloved actress is going out on top. Sedgwick has multiple Emmy nominations, as well as a win for playing Brenda Leigh Johnson.

Cons: She’s already won once… will she be back at the table?

Bottom Line: Hmmm… I’m going to say yes.

ActressKerry Washington


Pros: Washington’s Olivia Pope is prone to scene-stealing monologues that get across her point very clearly. And she delivers them very well.

Cons: The Emmys have never bestowed the Outstanding Lead Actress in Drama Series award to a black woman.

Bottom Line: A long shot, but I think she should get a nomination.


Which six (6) actresses would you nominate for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series?


Want more? Check out these:

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series


Not following me on Twitter yet? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland

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