N.B. These ballots are based on the official submissions and follow the Emmy rules for nominations (i.e. 10 for Programs, 6 for Actors and 5 for Casting). All ballots are in ranked order, with winners in bold.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
As always, there was no shortage of compelling actors in this category. Unfortunately, many of them will be leaving us, as they're shows had their final seasons. But it's not all sad news, as we'll definitely be seeing more of my top pick in the future...
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards (for "Chapter 32")
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (for "Pimento")
Joel Kinnaman, The Killing (for "The Good Soldier")
Timothy Olyphant, Justified (for "Collateral")
Jon Hamm, Mad Men (for "Person to Person")
Sam Heughan, Outlander (for "To Ransom a Man's Soul")
I would love to wax eloquent about the subtlety and nuance of Kevin Spacey's performance as Frank Underwood on "House of Cards", but we all know what really draws us to this character. Frank Underwood is no doubt a ham, albeit of the astute, "prestige" variety. This is a performance purposefully engineered for audience satisfication, (especially with the constant breaking of the fourth wall) and what made it especially compelling this season was that he had more interesting adversaries (including his own wife in "Chapter 32") to eviscerate. Frank Underwood loves the fight and when he's ready to speechify, it's pure entertainment. You can tell that Spacey relishes the role too, and that enthusiasm translates to the viewing experience. When "House of Cards" is over, we'll still remember this character for years to come.
2013: Damian Lewis, Homeland
2014: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
And now we come to the Emmy category that I'm most excited and nervous about. The number of quality performances in contention is staggering and each one is so unique. Even within my own limited lineup (I didn't watch "How to Get Away with Murder" or "Empire"), it was like a "Sophie's Choice" to narrow it down only 6. I don't envy the Emmy voters at all. Here's who I'm rooting for...
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black (for "Thirsty Bird")
Claire Danes, Homeland (for "Krieg Nicht Lieb")
Robin Wright, House of Cards (for "Chapter 32")
Kerry Washington, Scandal (for "Run")
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (for "Message Discipline")
Mireille Enos, The Killing (for "Blood in the Water")
There's hardly a role on TV as difficult or unforgiving as Taylor Schilling's on "Orange is the New Black". When we're first introduced to her, she's an entitled rich girl in a sea of more approachable characters. The role is not written to be a fan fave, but with her awesome performance in Season 2, she is making strides in that "likability" factor. From the striking opening episode "Thirsty Bird", she was able to gracefully dismount her high horse and became just as empathetic as the other Litchfield inmates. Her performance this season was filled with so many beautiful moments of character insight and subtext, all revealed through Schilling's tremendous, complex acting.
2013: Claire Danes, Homeland
2014: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife