ERIN DANIELS, “THE L WORD”
Why: She avoided cliched sentimentality in her work as a strong woman cut down in her prime by terminal illness.
JENNA FISCHER, “THE OFFICE”
Why: Fischer’s long-suffering wistfulness in the role of Pam Beesley embodies the emotional realism that lifts “The Office” above the generic sitcom.
KATHERINE HEIGL, “GREY’S ANATOMY”
Why: Sandra Oh received last year’s Emmy nom and Ellen Pompeo is the de facto star, but Heigl’s season-ending Emmy-bait episodes will attract voters.
MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, “LOST”
Why: The island’s resident badass, Rodriguez’s Ana Lucia did things the way she saw fit — whether anyone else agreed with her or not.
CATHY CAHLIN RYAN, “THE SHIELD”
Why: As Mackey’s long-suffering wife who often plays dumb to her husband’s indiscretions, Ryan popped this year.