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Actor in a drama

Road to the Emmys: The Actors

Hank Azaria, “Huff”
Seasons on show: One
Emmy pedigree: Four wins (1998, 2000, ’01, ’03), two noms (1998, 2003)
Episode submitted: “Crazy, Nuts and All Messed Up”
Season highlight: Huff’s reaction when he finds his best friend (played by Oliver Platt) in bed with his mother (Blythe Danner).
Why he may win: The world loves an underdog (if a four-time winner can be considered an underdog). Showtime’s precedent-setting six-figure move to send a season’s worth of episodes of “Huff” to the entire Academy membership paid handsome dividends at nomination time. If enough voters see Azaria’s nuanced perf, an upset might be in the offing.
Maybe not: Some could argue he owes his place in this year’s race to the absence of James Gandolfini, as “The Sopranos” didn’t air original episodes during the eligibility period. It’s an honor to be nominated.
Quote: “Huff is an utterly believable shrink. He’s incredibly insightful and incredibly screwed up at the same time,” says Azaria.

Hugh Laurie, “House”
Seasons on show: One
Emmy pedigree: None
Episode submitted: “Detox”
Season highlight: House is required to lecture a class of med students and, in doing so, reveals to his team the circumstances of how he came to be injured, physically and emotionally. Laurie gives a tour-de-force performance as the wounded genius.
Why he may win: His delightfully twisted doctor brings to mind the complex characterization that earned James Spader his Emmy last year.
Maybe not: Someone has to lose in the battle of the Brits.
Quote: “To me, he’s a hero. He’s not polite. He’s not someone you want to take home to meet your mother, necessarily. This is a guy in search of truth. Incidentally, that truth one day could save your life or the life of someone you love. That’s a heroic thing,” Laurie said to the Orlando Sentinel.

Ian McShane, “Deadwood”
Seasons on show: Two
Emmy pedigree: None
Episode submitted: “The Whores Can Come”
Season highlight: In the season premiere, McShane’s Swearengen and Timothy Olyphant’s Seth Bullock square off in a violent fight in view of the entire Deadwood camp, and McShane’s entire complement of abilities — ferocious rage, humor, swaggering intimidation and, ultimately, vulnerability — is on full display.
Why he may win: He’s overdue and nobody in TV today has his screen presence. The actors’ branch will correct last year’s inexplicable oversight of not even nominating the peerless Brit.
Maybe not: A meteor may hit the accounting office, incinerating the ballots before they can be counted. Or, a segment of voters could be put off by “Deadwood’s” profanity and violence.
Quote: “I would say Swearengen’s one of the great classical villains in the Shakespearean tradition. He has the spirit of primitive man brought into this world with the smarts to go along with change. This is his last stand, in Deadwood. He’s an early forerunner of (“The Godfather’s” Don Vito) Corleone,” said McShane to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

James Spader, “Boston Legal”
Seasons on show: One
Emmy pedigree: One win (2004)
Episode submitted: “Death Be Not Proud”
Season highlight: Alan Shore comes to the legal aid of an ex-lover who once tried to kill him.
Why he may win: He’s the reigning champ in the category for his work as the same character in “The Practice.” Spader can do it all onscreen, and here he brings to life a tormented and complex character wrestling with his demons, the likes of which viewers haven’t seen since, well, Spader’s work in “sex, lies, and videotape.”
Maybe not: Out of sight, out of mind? “Boston Legal” fell victim to the unexpected success of frosh drama “Grey’s Anatomy” and has been missing-in-action onscreen since March. That, coupled with a possible desire by voters to spread the wealth, might deny Spader a return to the winner’s circle.
Quote: “He seems like someone who’s led many different lives and done a lot and seen an awful lot. But by the same token, he’s like a child. He’s visceral in a way and will say things he feels. And he’s perfectly comfortable being very true to what his feelings are. He’s honest to a fault in terms of who he is,” Spader said to Newsday.

Kiefer Sutherland, “24”
Seasons on show: Four
Emmy pedigree: Three noms (2002, ’03, ’04)
Episode submitted: “2 a.m -3 a.m.”
Season highlight: Jack has to choose between the life of his girlfriend’s estranged husband and that of a potential witness whose help might save the country from nuclear annihilation. His grueling choice — to sacrifice the life of the man who saved his own — is made even more wrenching by Sutherland’s unbridled intensity and conviction.
Why he may win: He’s even more overdue than McShane, having been nominated every year “24” has been on the air. Sutherland’s high-octane performance boosted the show to a return to creative form last season.
Maybe not: If he hasn’t won by now, it might not be in the cards.
Quote: “This character has never been perfect. This is a character that has the best intentions, is highly qualified, incredibly well trained, and then human. And we’ve never forgotten that fourth aspect of his humanity. There are going to be times when as a human, he will make a call and it will be an error,” Sutherland said on
“Charlie Rose.”

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