2016 Emmy Contenders: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama

Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy
Courtesy of AMC/ABC/Showtime

Last year, Viola Davis made history as the first African-American woman to win the lead actress prize, and she could well repeat this year for her searing work on “How to Get Away With Murder.” With the exception of Elisabeth Moss, whose “Mad Men” ended its on-air run last year, Davis’ competition is likely to be the same: Claire Danes (“Homeland”), Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) and Robin Wright (“House of Cards”).

Or, voters could choose to recognize Julianna Margulies, who has already won twice for “The Good Wife” — most recently in 2014 ­­— yet wasn’t even nominated last year. With the series finale still fresh in voter’s minds, they would be wise to reward Margulies for her seven seasons of remarkable work. Along those lines, Michelle Dockery, nominated in 2012, 2013 and 2014 for “Downton Abbey,” could slip back in now that the show has ended.

Or perhaps voters will finally recognize the outstanding work of Keri Russell on “The Americans” or Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson for “The Affair.” Taylor Schilling has scored a previous nom for her work on “Orange Is the New Black,” but that was when it was submitted in comedy. Could the third season’s more dramatic tone help her break through in this category?


Claire Danes (HOMELAND)


Michelle Dockery (DOWNTON ABBEY)

Taraji P. Henson (EMPIRE)

Julianna Margulies (THE GOOD WIFE)

Tatiana Maslany (ORPHAN BLACK)

Keri Russell (THE AMERICANS)

Taylor Schilling (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK)

Ruth Wilson (THE AFFAIR)

Robin Wright (HOUSE OF CARDS)


Joan Allen (THE FAMILY)

Gillian Anderson (THE X-FILES)

Shiri Appleby (UNREAL)

Caitriona Balfe (OUTLANDER)

Lizzy Caplan (MASTERS OF SEX)


Vera Farmiga (BATES MOTEL)


Jennifer Lopez (SHADES OF BLUE)

Michelle Monaghan (THE PATH)


Kerry Washington (SCANDAL)


Jaimie Alexander (BLINDSPOT)

Melissa Benoist (SUPERGIRL)

Connie Britton (NASHVILLE)

Sarah Wayne Callies (COLONY)

Laura Carmichael (DOWNTON ABBEY)

Priyanka Chopra (QUANTICO)




Mireille Enos (THE CATCH)

Mariska Hargitay (LAW & ORDER: SVU)

Hannah James (MERCY STREET)

Ellen Pompeo (GREY’S ANATOMY)

Jurnee Smollett-Bell (UNDERGROUND)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (MERCY STREET)

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  1. Laura Carmichael and Michelle Dockery both belong into the middle. I think they have equal chances this year…

  2. sandierusso says:

    Caitriona Balfe from Outlander is by far the best and most talented actress in a drama on television! I hope she is recognized for her stellar work as Claire Randall Fraser.

  3. Bee says:

    No Eva Green?! You guys must be joking.

  4. thosmoody says:

    Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) should be in the “Front-runners” list – plain and simple! Her performance on Penny Dreadful is on par – and in most cases exceeds most on the front runners list. Every season of PD she has given audiences a show of acting excellence. She deserves a front runner status for her performance in this season’s ep “A Blade of Grass” alone (although that ep may not be able to be considered if it falls out of the twelve month period being looked at for the award. If excluded, go back to Season’s 2’s “The Nightcomers.”). Add to those eps her overall performance on the show’s three season’s (and hopefully counting) and its impossible to see how she is EXCLUDED from the cream of the crop. Have the Emmy nominators even watched her performances on Penny Dreadful? I doubt many have! Instead we get the same old names thrown out there year after year after year – Robin Wright, Michelle Dockery, Julianna Margulies, etc. The recycling of the same names over and over is stale and denies the opportunity for other superb acting performances to be brought to light. Shine that light on Eva Green,

    Kudos for the recognition of the great work of Tatiana Maslany (ORPHAN BLACK) and Keri Russell (THE AMERICANS). Eva Green is as riveting as those two actresses and deserves a front runner nod as well.

  5. M2B says:

    Any Best Actress List that doesn’t include Tatiana Maslany is a misrepresentation of what BEST ACTING is about.

  6. Rach says:

    Claire Danes, Taraji Henson, Julianna Margulies? Nahhh. Caitriona Balfe and Eva Green should win without a doubt.

  7. nikita says:

    Keri Russell is just amazing in The Americans. I’ve not been addicted to any show like this since Holly Hunter in Saving Grace.

  8. Rachel Nichols, Continuum should be THE frontrunner. Eva Green? Victory of great PR and hype than actual acting skills, sorry.

    • thosmoody says:

      Dismissing Eva Green illustrates a lack of recognizing superb acting. Eva Green gives finely nuanced performances which expand great ranges of emotions while keeping her character in Penny Dreadful tightly secure and woven together.

    • Rach says:

      Eva Green deserves to be in the top 3 list. I’m sorry, but you obviously haven’t seen her acting. She’s better than most common actresses that are considered before her.

    • Tim says:

      You obviously don’t watch Penny Dreadful

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