Emmys 2013: Who Should Be Nominated in the Drama Categories? And Who Actually Will Be?

Hopefully by now you know that we're smack-dab in the middle of the voting period for the 2013 Emmy nominations. Voting ends this Friday, June 28, and before it does, we're breaking down everything you need to know before the last crusty Academy member turns in his penciled-in Scantron ballot. We've already talked about the eccentricities of the nominations ballots themselves and posted some predictions for the major comedy categories. Today, we're giving the drama categories the same treatment: Who's in the running for a nomination? Who deserves one? And who will likely end up getting one?

The drama races are even more intriguing than comedy ones, if only because there's no Modern Family-like reign of terror to put up with. Will the love for Homeland continue, even after what many folks consider to be a disappointing second season? Will Mad Men take back its Outstanding Series crown? Can Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones make any noise outside of the acting categories? And will any of the high-profile new shows (House of Cards, The Americans, The Newsroom, Hannibal) break into already-jam-packed categories?

Also: Just a friendly reminder that this discussion is all based on the categories and submissions listed on the publicly available ballots. So if you're weirded out that your favorite actress is in the wrong category, kindly bother her agent, not me.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The recent trend: There hasn't been much consistency in this category, but it's still regularly one of the toughest and most compelling races of the entire Emmys event. Aaron Paul has been nominated the last three years that he's been eligible (2009, 2010, and 2012) and walked away with trophies in 2010 and 2012. Peter Dinklage won in 2011 when Paul wasn't in the race, and was also nominated last year. Other than that, this one varies year-to-year. John Slattery garnered three straight noms for Mad Men from 2009 to 2011 before giving up his spot to Jared Harris last year. Three years in a row, at least one show has grabbed two spots in the category: Lost in 2010 (Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn), The Good Wife in 2011 (Josh Charles and Alan Cumming) and Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad in 2012 (Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle; Paul and Giancarlo Esposito).

The probable repeats: Paul, Dinklage, Carter, and Esposito are the four actors still eligible this year, but the first two are the only ones in real contention. The Downton Abbey cast is always a threat, but Carter was a surprise nominee last year and he's facing tougher competition from his co-workers this year (Dan Stevens, one of the show's leads, submitted here). Esposito is eligible for his work on Revolution and he's the best part of that show, but come on.

The most deserving candidates: Corey Stoll (House of Cards), Noah Emmerich (The Americans), Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad), Michael Cudlitz (Southland), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Walton Goggins (Justified), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), Matt Czuchry (The Good Wife), Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy), Justin Chambers (Grey's Anatomy), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), Guillermo Diaz (Scandal), Charles Esten (Nashville), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Shawn Hatosy (Southland), Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), John Noble (Fringe), Kevin Rahm (Mad Men), Ryan Hurst (Sons of Anarchy), Nick Wechsler (Revenge), Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), and David Morse (Treme).

The possible breakthroughs: As usual, this is super show dependent. There are, minimum, five shows that could make big noise this year: The Americans, House of Cards, The Newsroom, Hannibal, and Scandal. And even if the shows don't garner a slew of awards, individual performers like Corey Stoll, Noah Emmerich, Sam Waterston, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tony Goldwyn could very, very easily jump into this race. Mandy Patinkin will probably push his way into the top six after weirdly not getting nominated last year, and Jonathan Banks seems primed to join co-star Paul on the list. Several former nominees (Walton Goggins, John Slattery, Alan Cumming, Josh Charles) are still hanging around. There's also buzz for folks like Michael Cudlitz and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and we can't forget that Larry Hagman of Dallas could easily score a posthumous nomination. In short, there's a lot going on here.

The likely final picks: Paul, Dinklage, Patinkin, Stoll, Emmerich and Waterston. This was the toughest six to pick. I'm betting that voter love for Aaron Sorkin and Waterston gets Waterston that last spot over more deserving folks.


Check all that apply.

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

The recent trend: Again, not a whole lot of consistency. Christina Hendricks, Christine Baranski, and Archie Panjabi have all been nominated for three straight years (with Panjabi winning in 2010); that's about it. Margo Martindale won for her amazing work on Justified in 2011, and Maggie Smith won for Downton Abbey last year.

The probable repeats: This is another stuffed category, but it's possible that all six of last year's nominees could return: Smith, Hendricks, Baranski, Panjabi, Anna Gunn, and Joanne Froggatt. It's difficult to bet against Emmy voter complacency, especially when the performances are good enough to more or less deserve the nomination. If any of those six is going to drop out, I'd pick Panjabi (but she's also a former winner) or Froggatt (but Downton Abbey).

The most deserving candidates: Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Monica Potter (Parenthood), Morena Baccarin (Homeland), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Lauren Graham (Parenthood), Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood), Joelle Carter (Justified), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Megan Hilty (Smash), Regina King (Southland), Melissa Leo (Treme), Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey), Susan Miser (The Americans), Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire), Mae Whitman (Parenthood), Bellamy Young (Scandal), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy), Lana Parrilla (Once Upon a Time), Morgan Saylor (Homeland), Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) and J. Smith-Cameron (Rectify).

The possible breakthroughs: With all six of last year's nominees likely to be in play, I'm struggling to figure out exactly who could make a push into the top six. Monica Potter and Morena Baccarin are the two names you'll probably hear the most, plus Kelly Macdonald is a former nominee for Boardwalk Empire. Potter, Jennifer Carpenter, Regina King, Lena Headey and Hayden Panettiere are all very worthy in my mind, but again, the reality is that maybe one of them has a shot.

The likely final picks: Smith, Gunn, Baranski, Hendricks, Potter and Panjabi. It's a toss-up between Potter, Panjabi, and Froggatt for that final spot.


Check all that apply.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

The recent trend: Finally, some consistency! Michael C. Hall and Jon Hamm have each been nominated for five straight years, while Bryan Cranston has been nominated in all four years that he's been eligible (2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012). Steve Buscemi has a smaller—but still relevant—streak of two straight nominations. It's also important to note that Cranston won three years in a row (2008-2010), but was unseated by Homeland's Damian Lewis last year (Kyle Chandler won in 2011, when Cranston wasn't eligible).

The probable repeats: In a more certain world, all of them. Cranston, Hamm, and Lewis are shoe-ins, and it seems odd that Hall wouldn't make it in a year where he actually has great material to submit. I'm less confident about Buscemi (voters aren't that charmed by Boardwalk) or Downton's Hugh Bonneville returning (ugh, Downton), but it's not like they have ZERO shot of making it back in the top six.

The most deserving candidates: Aden Young (Rectify), Andre Braugher (Last Resort), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Timothy Olyphant (Justified), Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), Michael Emerson (Person of Interest), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary), and Wendell Pierce (Treme).

The possible breakthroughs: There are two biggies: Jeff Daniels and Kevin Spacey. If this weren't such a competitive category, I'd call them 100 percent locks to gain a nomination. Emmy voters love it when movie stars come to TV. If The Following weren't so terrible, Kevin Bacon would have a shot as well. The swell of support for The Americans would, in theory, give Matthew Rhys some chance, but it sure feels like the conversation is more about Noah Emmerich and Keri Russell. Timothy Olyphant is sort of screwed because Justified is airing alongside all these other, buzzier shows, but it's not like he's undeserving. In a fair world, Aden Young and Hugh Dancy would be threats too.

The likely final picks: Lewis, Cranston, Hamm, Spacey, Daniels, and Hall. Buscemi, Bonneville, and Olyphant are in the ring with Hall for that last spot, but the real fight doesn't begin until the nominations are out.


Check all that apply.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The recent trend: There isn't one! This category is altogether hodgepodge: It was something of a static race in the late aughts, with the likes of Glenn Close, Sally Field, Kyra Sedgwick, and Mariska Hargitay making regular appearances, but in the last few years, the nominees have been less consistent. Sedgwick finally won in 2010, then wasn't nominated in the following two years, and Hargitay wasn't nominated last year for the first time in eight. Connie Britton and Kathy Bates each made a pair of well-deserved appearances, in 2010 and 2011 and 2011 and 2012, respectively. The one constant in the last three years has been Julianna Margulies, who was expected to win in 2010 but lost to Sedgwick, won in 2011, and then got buzzsawed by Claire Danes last year.

The probable repeats: Five of last year's nominees are eligible (Danes, Margulies, Close, Michelle Dockery, and Elisabeth Moss) and it's silly to assume that they all don't have the inside track to return. Danes and Margulies are absolutely in, and while there's extremely stiff competition, the other three probably are too. (Though doesn't it seem like Damages ended, like, three years ago?)

The most deserving candidates: Keri Russell (The Americans), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Khandi Alexander (Treme), Connie Britton (Nashville), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Robin Wright (House of Cards), Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Lucy Liu (Elementary), Emmy Rossum (Shameless), Maggie Q (Nikita), Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy), and Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy).

The possible breakthroughs: Man, this category is kind of unbelievable. The holdovers are mostly qualified, but I could imagine a second group with Russell, Washington, Maslany, Farmiga, Rossum, and Wright. The buzz is obviously behind Maslany, but I'm still weary that she could actually earn the attention of Emmy voters. A&E is doing its best to get Farmiga up there, and Netflix and FX are bound to do the same for Wright and Russell. But if anyone in that group can break through it has to be Washington, right? She's the lead of the most talked-about drama on broadcast TV, and she's also tremendous on it. If she can't make it in now, when can she? History suggests that Hargitay, Britton, and Sedgwick are all contenders as well.

The likely final picks: Danes, Margulies, Moss, Washington, Russell, and Farmiga. I'm going out on more of a limb here than I have anywhere else; there are just too many fascinating subplots in this category. Close and Dockery could easily return, and Britton and Wright could easily join. I'm only confident about the top three.


Check all that apply.

Outstanding Drama Series

The recent trend: Before last year, it was all Mad Men, all the time. The series won the award four years in a row from 2008 to 2011, but was unseated by Homeland in 2012. The other nominees have been somewhat consistent. Breaking Bad has been here the last three years it was eligible (2009, 2010, and 2012), and both Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones have garnered back-to-back nominations. And if you count its nod in the Miniseries/TV movie category for its first season in 2011, so has Downton Abbey.

The probable repeats: All six of last year's nominees are eligible again. Homeland, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Downton Abbey will certainly be back, and Game of Thrones probably is too. Though it feels like we're past the time where Boardwalk Empire is involved in these discussions.

The most deserving candidates: The Americans, Hannibal, The Good Wife, Justified, House of Cards, Dexter, Scandal, Parenthood, Rectify and Southland.

The possible breakthroughs: Those shows you've already heard a lot about—The Americans, House of Cards, The Newsroom, and Scandal—are all in play. House of Cards and The Americans feel like the safest bets to nab a spot, and maybe some residual love for broadcast will give Scandal a chance. The Good Wife been nominated before and Justified is always kicking around, but the race is probably just too packed for them to make it this year.

The likely final picks: Homeland, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, and Game of Thrones. I'd love to swap in The Americans to replace either Downton Abbey or House of Cards, or push the field to seven, but both scenarios are probably unlikely.


Check all that apply.