Underdog Emmy actor contenders

Breakout seasons put these fellas in contention

Benjamin Bratt
‘The Cleaner’
The show’s marginal reviews may not help his chances, but Bratt’s charisma and well-weathered look of authority — fostered during his lengthy “Law and Order” days — could win over early skeptics.

Kyle Chandler
‘Friday Night Lights’
You can take the firstrun episodes off NBC, but you can’t take anything away from the quiet-man brilliance of Chandler’s perf on “Lights.” He can convey more with a squint than most actors can with an entire monologue.

John Corbett
‘United States of Tara’
Sure, Toni Collette is going to receive the brunt of publicity for “Tara,” but Corbett’s role shouldn’t be overlooked. In his performances he offers amazing restraint — having the patience to put up with Tara’s multiple personalities while playing dad to two teenagers.

Jeffrey Donovan
‘Burn Notice’
As USA continues to be the most-viewed cable net, Donovan’s exposure expands. He also helped himself with a nice turn in Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” last year, and if the lead actor in a drama category weren’t so tough, he might have a much better chance.

Travis Fimmel
‘The Beast’
Little-seen “Beast” merited more props than it received, with much of the acclaim going to Fimmel’s perf as Patrick Swayze newbie partner. With the show not coming back, it’ll be difficult for Fimmel to generate much traction, though it would be deserved.

Laurence Fishburne
‘CSI’
Jumping aboard a hit show is a difficult proposition, and Fishburne has handled the transition with aplomb. Nobody’s forgetting William Petersen, of course, but Fishburne — with a resume full of film roles — is finding his smallscreen groove.

Walton Goggins
‘The Shield’
How wrong would it be if Goggins’ brilliant perf in the last season of “The Shield” were overlooked? Criminal. He’s never been given his kudos for being Vic Mackey’s longtime partner-turned-nemesis, and now’s the last chance for voters to take notice.

Harvey Keitel
‘Life on Mars’
A bona fide film star always brings a certain amount of cachet to TV, and Keitel — often know for his cinematic blue streaks — didn’t have to generate any four-letter fury to make “Mars” a worthwhile endeavor.

Damian Lewis
‘Life’
If Lewis didn’t receive Emmy love for the first season of “Life,” chances for a nod during the series’ second season are much slimmer. Yet the Brit often shined as an L.A. detective wrongly accused of murder.

Ben McKenzie & Michael Cudlitz
“Southland” (NBC)
McKenzie’s introspective cop and bullish partner Cudlitz form the heart of the Peacock’s winning drama. It may be tough for either to gain traction within a deep ensemble, but these two pounding the beat are ones to watch.

Ian McShane
‘Kings’
If only “Kings” could’ve made it through its NBC run with more than a handful of viewers watching, McShane could’ve certainly been in the heat of the race. However, with ratings so anemic and the show pulled from even a lowly Saturday-night timeslot, he’ll have to overcome a ratings disaster.

Tracy Morgan
’30 Rock’
Morgan’s chances to land a nom are made all that more tougher considering Alec Baldwin is such a dominant force here. Still, on occasion, Morgan is a comedic hurricane and has a terrific of timing.

Jason O’Mara
‘Life on Mars’
Redo of the U.K. series had a small but core following, and O’Mara was convincing as a present-day cop befuddled to find himself back in the 1970s. Bizarro ending, however, may leave a bitter taste with voters.

Jim Parsons
‘The Big Bang Theory’
No comedy received more deserved buzz this year than “Big Bang,” and it would be reprehensible for the TV Academy not to acknowledge Parsons’ comedic contributions in turning the show into Monday-night must-see viewing.

Aaron Paul
‘Breaking Bad’
Because Emmy champ Bryan Cranston is so remarkable, Paul may not get the credit he so richly deserves. Their scenes together are always fiery and never lack tension, no matter if they dying, literally, in the desert, or cooking together. Nobody may be more worthy of a supporting nom.

Bill Paxton
‘Big Love’
Twice nominated for a Golden Globe, Paxton has not earned Emmy recognition for his lead performance on “Big Love” despite anchoring the highly regarded series and completely humanizing his complex polygamist character.

Tim Roth
‘Lie to Me’
Launching a new show has never been more difficult, and Roth deserves kudos in making “Lie” one of the season’s few hits. Leads in procedurals can have a hard time gaining traction come Emmy time but Roth may prove the exception.

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