Cheryl Hines: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Seasons on show: Five
Emmy pedigree: Two noms
Episodes submitted: “The Bowtie,” “The Korean Bookie”
Season highlight: She showed great range in episodes such as “The End,” when Larry David is pronounced medically dead for a brief moment, or “Kamikaze Bingo,” in which a man tries to kill himself.
Why she may win: The former member of the Groundlings makes improv look easy, and her work this season was challenging in that she had to be funny while dealing with serious and dramatic situations as David explores his roots.
Maybe not: Like him or not, David is such a comedic force it’s hard for supporting cast members to stand out on their own.
Quote: “I was totally shocked to be nominated, but it’s just as exciting as the first nomination a few years ago if not more. I’m going to put my push-up bra on, walk down the red carpet and have the time of my life.”
Megan Mullally: Will & Grace
Seasons on show: Eight
Emmy pedigree: Six noms; one win (“Will & Grace,” 2000)
Episode submitted: “The Finale”
Season highlight: In the final episode when she and Sean Hayes sang “Unforgettable.” Even Mullally felt that it was a perfect way to wrap up their characters, and it felt right emotionally.
Why she may win: Both she and Hayes won Emmys for the first season, and now that the series has wrapped, a win here might be a nice bookend.
Maybe not: Her character, while often very funny, is strictly one note, so if she hasn’t won in a while, there may not be reason to think that voters will suddenly change their minds.
Quote: “I grew up inhibited, so to let it all hang out was a major breakthrough for me, and now I love physical comedy and making a fool of myself.”
Elizabeth Perkins: Weeds
Seasons on show: Two
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Episodes submitted: “You Can’t Miss the Bear,” “The Punishment Light”
Season highlight: When Celia tells her husband that she had sex with a black man while he’s trimming his beard at the bathroom mirror, which leads to cathartic clearing of the air and emotional and sexual reconnection.
Why she may win: Perkins has been at this since the mid-’80s and has built up a lot of respect among her peers. Showtime thesps has done very well in the kudos race of late.
Maybe not: While her co-star, Mary-Louise Parker, won a Golden Globe last year, she was shut out of this year’s Emmys, meaning the show may still be too much under the radar and a bit dicey for most Emmy voters.
Quote: “Celia’s really getting a grip on her life and realizing what her priorities were, moving past the cancer into, I think, a much stronger place.”
Jaime Pressly: My Name Is Earl
Seasons on show: One
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Episodes submitted: “Joy’s Wedding,” “Bounty Hunter”
Season highlight: The tough girl let down her guard and revealed vulnerability during the beauty pageant and the wedding episodes, proving she’s human after all.
Why she may win: Although she is a former Maxim cover girl and has often been singled out more for her looks than acting talent, her comedic gifts take center stage and steal the show.
Maybe not: The fact that voters overlooked the show overall for best comedy isn’t a good sign.
Quote: “It’s nice to be able to play a character, to step into somebody else’s skin and not stand there and be the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl standing with the jock.”
Alfre Woodard: Desperate Housewives
Seasons on show: One
Emmy pedigree: 12 noms; two wins (“Miss Evers’ Boys,” 1997; “The Practice,” 2003)
Episodes submitted: “You’ll Never Get Away From Me,” “I Know Things Now”
Season highlight: When Betty finds out that she’s been accusing and holding the wrong son hostage, prompting her to resolve the situation and move away from Wisteria Lane.
Why she may win: One of the most accomplished actresses over the past 30 years, she raises the bar in whatever project is lucky enough to cast her.
Maybe not: Her storyline never really seemed to gel with the rest of the “Housewives” ladies, and her character often felt like it belonged in a different show.
Quote: “Betty’s a tightrope challenge: darkly comic yet in terrible circumstances. At once she seems so normal, but she’s also so nuts. The fun of doing her is that you must be constantly finding her, on your toes, on the rope. She’s a subtle left-fielder. It’s so cool to think people got her.”