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The 2014 Emmy nominations ballots were due on Friday, which means it's time to decide whose names we'd like to hear called on Thursday, July 10 when the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announces the shows and actors who're officially in the running for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.

I asked some of my fellow staffers to join me in choosing our dream nominees, and after hours of internal debates and monologues that would make even Scrubs' JD tell us to shut up already, we've boldly narrowed down our picks—and as you'll see at the bottom of this page, we're prepared to defend them, too!

We started out with the comedy categories, revealing our selections for Supporting Actress, Supporting ActorLead ActressLead Actor, and Comedy Series, and now we're working our way through the drama categories; we've already highlighted our picks for Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, and Lead Actress, and today we're setting our sights on TV's leading men.

Editors' Note: You may notice that some of our nominees don't match up with the official Emmy ballots. That's not a mistake; we've taken a few liberties because we're only "dreaming" about the 10 "major" categories, and we didn't want to leave out deserving performers based simply on their submission strategies and our coverage plans. In some cases you may see folks from the miniseries and guest-star races in our lead and supporting wish lists.


WHY MADS MIKKELSEN: It's difficult to choose one particular aspect of Mikklesen's performance as Hannibal Lecter to sum up why he's so good, good enough to have largely displaced Anthony Hopkins' ownership of the role. It could be his ability to deliver huge lies and half-truths as psychoanalysis in a way that ensorcells viewers as much it would Will Graham. It could be his stillness, or the micro-expressions that betray a monster who's worried about ripping his person suit. It could be his ability to infuse that monster with a warped sense of compassion and tenderness, even if the compassion and tenderness feel like the traits of a well-behaved predator. Or it could be, as Season 2 amply demonstrated, that Mikklesen is a skilled comedian, underplaying certain campy lines so that they're not even campy until you stop to think about them ("You can slice the ginger.") and finding utter delight in Hannibal's machinations ("Eat your nose."). Or maybe it's just all of the above. — Noel Kirkpatrick

WHY MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: While Mr. Alright Alright Alright's Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyer's Club was the epitome of a Hollywood Movie Star performance—body transformation and all—his work on HBO's engrossing murder mystery True Detective was, in many ways, more of a challenge, and ultimately more impressive. Amid all the memes, the Yellow Kings, and the flat circles, McConaughey managed to portray a very weird (and sometimes underwritten and sometimes severely overwritten) character across multiple years spanning just eight episodes without ever losing the thread of Rust Cohle's troubled essence. From the dirty old hippie cutting up Lone Star cans to the Sons of Anarchy cast-off undercover biker on all the cocaine, Rust certainly took True Detective viewers by the throat, and a large amount of the credit for that belongs to McConaughey, who legitimately acted his butt off in the role. — Cory Barker

Who would YOU nominate for Lead Actor in a Drama?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/25/2014

Season 66 : Episode 1

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