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Road to the Emmys: Drama Actor

MICHAEL CHIKLIS

Show: “The Shield”

Seasons on show: 2

Emmy pedigree: Won in 2002.

Episode submitted: “Dead Soldiers”

2002-03 shining moment: Vic Mackey juggles covering up the torture of a suspect, planning and executing a robbery of an Armenian Mafia “money train,” and the breakup of his marriage … all while under investigation by his own department.

Pro: Due to publicity from last year’s upset Emmy victory, many more people are aware of Chiklis.

Con: Last year’s win was such a surprise, consecutive victories would be a complete shock.

Quotable: “I think there’s little doubt that in certain circumstances, he’s absolutely a hero. But in other circumstances, he’s quite villainous. That’s what makes this character so juicy and complex and delicious to play. We’re trying to walk that line, and I think we’ll continue to do that, but we’ll also try to maintain integrity of the character.”

JAMES GANDOLFINI

Series: “The Sopranos”

Seasons on show: 4

Emmy pedigree: Three previous noms; won in 2000 and 2001.

Episode submitted: “Whitecaps”

2002-03 shining moment: In an animalistic rage, Tony kills Ralphie Cifaretto, then composes himself and deals with his actions.

Pro: His on-screen presence is compelling. No matter who else is in the scene, all eyes gravitate toward him.

Con: Recent negative publicity about his divorce and bitter contract dispute with HBO could sour voters.

Quotable: “If you watch the show, it’s interesting that it isn’t saying in any way that crime pays. Tony Soprano is miserable and so is everyone he works with. We never glorify the violence. We show it and it’s clear that it’s there”

PETER KRAUSE

Series: “Six Feet Under”

Seasons on show: 3

Emmy pedigree: Nominated last year

Episode submitted: “Death Works Overtime”

2002-03 shining moment: After feeling trapped in his loveless marriage all season, Nate reacts to the news that his wife is dead.

Pro: Nate was on an emotional roller coaster this past season, allowing Krause to display his impressive versatility as an actor.

Con: Grim subject matter and his character’s unlikeability at points may turn off voters.

Quotable: “I like a lot of things about my job, but in particular I like that the actors get to come to work and explore behavior, explore people’s life rules. The rules that we set up for ourselves to live by, when do we break them? When do we change them? Those are the things that turn me on about acting.”

MARTIN SHEEN

Series: “The West Wing”

Seasons on show: 4

Emmy pedigree: Six previous noms, three for “The West Wing”; 1994 winner for guest actor in a comedy for “Murphy Brown.”

Episode submitted: “Twenty Five”

2002-03 shining moment: Bartlet, on the phone with a Russian politician, trying to get a downed U.S. spy plane back to the States.

Pro: With his fourth straight nom and no wins to show, sentimentality will be on his side.

Con: Gandolfini is eligible this year.

Quotable: “With series these days, you often have a chance to explore a character and actually let it grow on you. For an actor, that’s very exciting. Acting is not finding what the character is feeling but finding what you, the performer, are feeling. That is the exploration.”

KIEFER SUTHERLAND

Series: “24”

Seasons on show: 2

Emmy pedigree: Nominated last year

Episode submitted: “10-11 p.m.”

2002-03 shining moment: While working as a consultant for CPU, Jack is questioning a suspect when suddenly he pulls out a gun and shoots the suspect. He later takes the man’s head in a box to question another key suspect. At this point you know Jack’s back and he’s got a lot of anger to vent.

Pro: A second consecutive nomination proves Sutherland is a serious contender that will command consideration.

Con: Competition of heavy hitters may be too much to overcome.

Quotable: “It’s always exciting when people are enthusiastic about something. But we’ve all been doing this long enough to know that you have to focus on the work, try to do the best you can with that, and hope people enjoy it.”