Actors previously recognized stay competitive

Who’s to say kudos lightning can’t strike twice? Having won or been nominated in recent years, these thesps remain in the Emmy running for statuettes.

GALLERY: Returning Actors

Alec Baldwin
“30 Rock”
In this year of sitcom resurgence, voters might be ready to end Baldwin’s Emmy winning streak at two, but don’t blame the actor. He brought his usual aplomb to “30 Rock” this season, especially while juggling romance between paramours played by Julianne Moore and Elizabeth Banks.

Steve Carell
“The Office”
Chatter that next season could mark his farewell from “The Office” adds intrigue to Carell, four times a nominee but never a winner. The scene where Carell’s Michael Scott licked Amy Pietz’s palm reminded viewers just how unique Carell’s performance is.

Bryan Cranston
“Breaking Bad”
The two-time defending lead actor winner shows no signs of stepping back, while continuing to evolve in the remarkable third season of “Breaking Bad.” Each week, he makes audiences feel the expanding burden of his uncertain marriage and ill-gotten livelihood.

Jon Cryer
“Two and a Half Men”
While co-star Charlie Sheen grabs the headlines, Cryer just goes about doing solid work, finally getting acknowledged last year with his first win. Seven seasons in, he remains a consummate pro on TV’s most-watched sitcom and is as responsible as any for the show’s success.

Michael Emerson
“Lost”
It’s impossible to think of “Lost” would’ve have looked like if Darlton had not seen Emerson play a baddie on “The Practice.” But whether he was Henry Gale or a friend of Jacob, Emerson heightened the dramatic elements of the island saga to soaring heights.

Michael C. Hall
“Dexter”
Who would’ve thought that Hall’s perf on “Dexter” would arguably overshadow his stellar work on “Six Feet Under”? He continues to balance a loving side that he allows his close friends to see, while hiding a murderous side that only comes out when he gets insanely mad.

Jon Hamm
“Mad Men”
AMC’s other morally ambiguous hero offered Hamm another tour de force opportunity in season three, with Don Draper weathering abrupt changes in his professional and personal circumstances while finally being forced to come clean about his secret past.

Neil Patrick Harris
“How I Met Your Mother”
It’s a bit hard to believe that just five years ago, Harris was nowhere to be found on the smallscreen, which he now veritably owns after adding Tony and Emmy hosting gigs to his role as Barney Stinson on “Mother.” Harris remains the primary reason to watch the CBS sitcom.

Hugh Laurie
“House”
There’s little argument that Laurie has been one of TV’s finest since he wowed U.S. auds when “House” premiered in 2004. Yet, his four noms haven’t translated to wins, and some are calling this past season his best yet. Has the time arrived to allow Laurie to make his victory speech?

Jim Parsons
“The Big Bang Theory”
No longer an Emmy secret after his nomination last year, the effervescent Parsons wore the spotlight well in the past season of “The Big Bang Theory,” while also reminding folks he’s the kind of team player that nicely sets up his castmates for laughs as well.

Aaron Paul
“Breaking Bad”
For all the worthy attention Bryan Cranston receives, it might be Paul who gives the most searing performance on “Breaking Bad.” Originally designed as a throwaway character, he became a must-see component on what might be television’s top drama.

Tony Shalhoub
“Monk”
Ignore Shalhoub at your own risk. Nominated seven years running — and winning three of those times — the actor has turned the obsessive-compulsive detective into a TV legend, and in the show’s final season, it’s entirely possible voters might want to send him out on a smudge-free road to glory.

John Slattery
“Mad Men”
Slattery brings much of the comic relief to “Mad Men” — his reaction to the Lawn Mower Incident was priceless — but showrunner Matt Weiner also handed him some great moments of frustration to play, including a diminished role at Sterling Cooper and an unhappy reunion with an old flame.

Rainn Wilson
“The Office”
Wilson has been nommed the past three years and has provided something of a rudder amid a year of rapid plot twists on “The Office.” He also delivered unforgettable moments at Pam and Jim’s wedding and during the birth of their child.

GALLERY: Returning Actors

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