'Damages' star must withstand tough competish in drama category

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The six nominees who comprise this category are not only formidable femmes onscreen but off.

Just consider their collective Emmy pedigree of 34 career nominations and five wins. Glenn Close has a track record that the win-at-all-costs Patty Hewes would approve of — back-to-back victories in 2008-09 for the first two seasons of “Damages,” while Mariska Hargitay has triumphed once before for her work as compassionate Det. Olivia Benson on “Law and Order: SVU.”

Kyra Sedgwick — who plays another commanding cop, honey-drawled confession queen Brenda Lee Johnson on “The Closer” — has another shot at making her case for a win after five consecutive nods, though she’ll face stiff competition from some new faces.

In one of this year’s most welcome surprises, Connie Britton was finally recognized for her impeccable work as football wife Tami Taylor on the low-rated but critically adored gem “Friday Night Lights.” With “Mad Men” co-star (and previous lead actress nominee) Elisabeth Moss competing in the supporting race this year, January Jones nabbed a spot on the ballot for her coolly nuanced portrayal of ’60s suburbanite Betty Draper, whose marriage took its last, smoke-choked gasp in the third season of “Mad Men.”

Fallout from a crumbling union also provided “The Good Wife” star Julianna Margulies with a golden opportunity. As Alicia Florrick, a woman struggling to rebuild her personal and professional lives after her politico-hubby’s sex scandal, the former “ER” thesp anchored CBS’ only freshman drama hit of the season and, in the process, earned her first Emmy nomination in a decade. Nurse Carol Hatha-who?

Connie Britton
“Friday Night Lights”
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: A fed-up Tami interrupts a booster meeting to inform the good ol’ boys that, despite mounting pressure from the football-obsessed town, she won’t be bullied into returning one of their star players to the team.
Why she might win: Watching Britton so seamlessly disappear into her wife/mother/high school principal role is as thrilling as any game-winning touchdown.
Maybe not: Her subtle work could be overlooked in a field of showier performances.

Glenn Close
“Damages”
Emmy pedigree: Three wins, plus nine previous noms
Best scene:In a rare loss of self-control, Patty smashes through the wall of her apartment to find out what lies behind it — and the walls she’s built up around herself.
Why she might win: Close’s fearless take on the ruthless Patty Hewes is one of the most iconic TV performances of the last decade.
Maybe not:She’s won two years in a row, and voters may decide it’s time to spread the wealth.

Mariska Hargitay
“Law and Order: SVU”
Emmy pedigree: One win, plus five previous noms
Best scene: After DNA links Benson to a murder, the detective finds herself on the other side of the interrogation table, desperately trying to convince internal affairs of her innocence.
Why she might win: Hargitay brings emotional heft to NBC’s long-running procedural that remains an integral part of the Peacock’s primetime lineup.
Maybe not: She’s already been rewarded for a role that hasn’t changed much since her 2006 win, and the show doesn’t have the buzz of its competitors here.

January Jones
“Mad Men”
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: Under the dim lights of the Draper kitchen, Betty finally confronts Don about his true identity and begins to take control of her own life.
Why she might win: The demise of Betty’s marriage, which finally seemed to hit a breaking point in season three, provided Jones with her meatiest scenes yet.
Maybe not: Some might say “Mad Men” tends to be seen more as Matthew Weiner’s achievement than the actors’.

Julianna Margulies
“The Good Wife”
Emmy pedigree: One win, plus five previous noms
Best scene: Alicia tearfully instructs Peter to put an end to his prostitute calling her at work. With a lesser talent, this would’ve been cheesy melodrama; in Margulies’ hands, Alicia’s a woman whose self-protective shell has finally cracked.
Why she might win: She made TV’s most triumphant dramatic return and helped the CBS series become a hit with critics and viewers alike. With wins at this year’s Golden Globes and SAGs, she’s on a roll.
Maybe not: In a battle of the lawyers, Patty Hewes could eat Alicia Florrick for breakfast.

Kyra Sedgwick
“The Closer”
Emmy pedigree: Four noms
Best scene: As a delirious young gunshot victim lays dying, Brenda comforts him by letting him believe she’s his mother.
Why she might win: Six seasons later, “The Closer” is still one of basic cable’s biggest hits. Previously coming up empty every time on Emmy night, voters could decide it’s finally her time.
Maybe not: The TNT drama had an uneven season, and she’s lost for richer material.

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