Returning Emmy actress contenders

Past winners or nominees remain in the running

Christina Applegate
‘Samantha Who?’
ABC may have canceled her sitcom, but that doesn’t mean voters won’t remember the way Applegate turned her amnesia-driven character into a giddy, comic creation that will live on past the show’s brief run.

Patricia Arquette
The fact that CBS picked up Arquette’s supernatural drama immediately after NBC canceled it speaks to the respect given the series, which just ended its fifth season. Arquette won an Emmy after the show’s first year, and she still mines the interpersonal stories that form the heart of the series.

Glenn Close
Close has been vacuuming up Emmy noms for a quarter century and won last year for her portrayal of this delightfully ruthless attorney unfettered by conscience. The show’s second season took the character to even soapier extremes

Tina Fey
’30 Rock’
Fey took home three Emmys last year as producer, writer and star of the clever ensemble comedy. Thanks to a certain Alaska governor who could see Russia from her home state, Fey catapulted to the top of the pop culture pyramid, ensuring she’ll continue to have more success with voters than Sarah Palin.

Sally Field
‘Brothers and Sisters’
Another Emmy perennial who, one would think, long ago stopped being surprised that voters love her. (They really do.) Twice nominated and already victorious for playing the show’s matriarch, Field conveys familial love in a way that’s genuinely affecting.

Jenna Fischer
‘The Office’
Not even a happy onscreen relationship — often a TV death knell — could keep Jenna Fischer from thriving as Pam Beesly. Whether it was digesting her parents’ separation or going rogue at work, Fischer found all the right laughs, tears and everything in between.

Rachel Griffiths
‘Brothers and Sisters’
Griffiths’ career-ist didn’t have as much high drama during the show’s third season, but the Aussie actress shined in more subtle ways, wringing relatable moments of doubt as a single mother dealing with her daughter’s arriving adolescence.

Mariska Hargitay
‘Law & Order: SVU’
Hargitay has been nominated five years in a row, with a win coming in 2006. Her work has remained just as stellar and a mesmerizing performance in the top-notch season-finale episode may linger with voters as they begin marking their ballots.

Katherine Heigl
‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Heigl has been involved in so much “Grey’s” tumult over the years, it’s easy to forget that she can be a pretty terrific actress too. Izzy’s health issues at the end of the season certainly helped Kleenex stock go up and reminded viewers that the show can still have value if everyone stays focused on the work.

Holly Hunter
‘Saving Grace’
Hunter’s TNT detective series hasn’t caught on quite as well as counterpart Kyra Sedgwick’s, through no fault of the actress, who this season bravely took her character through a soul-wrenching storyline in Death Row’s shadow. No reason why she can’t repeat last year’s nomination.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
‘The New Adventures of Old Christine’
Ten-time nominee and two-time Emmy winner Louis-Dreyfus has demonstrated the fallacy of the “Seinfeld” curse. It wasn’t all the fault of the actors that their subsequent projects paled in comparison with the seminal sitcom’s stellar writing. Now time flies as “Christine” has been renewed for a fifth season, thanks in large part to the actress’s ability to make the title character a relatable single mom despite being afflicted with the requisite bevy of neuroses. Nothing old about it.

Mary-Louise Parker
While TV history is littered with unplanned pregnancies, few have been as memorable as Nancy Botwin’s entanglement with the Mexican drug lord she ratted out. Parker continues to excel in taking the troubled Nancy to reckless extremes and making it believable that people in her circle still remain drawn to her. “Hemptress” indeed.

Jaime Pressly
‘My Name Is Earl’
“Earl” might not be coming back to television, but don’t dismiss Pressly just because the show has seen its last days on NBC. She’s been nominated two of the last three years and never fails to amuse, often delivering the perfect sharp-tongued laugh with biting sarcasm.

Kyra Sedgwick
‘The Closer’
Interest in the TNT crime drama may have peaked, but Sedgwick continued to add new layers to her LAPD crime fighter — namely, could a woman married to her career find it possible to make it to the church on time?

Jean Smart
‘Samantha Who?’
While many thought Applegate had a better chance to take home the Emmy, it was Smart who wound up making an acceptance speech. Voters have recognized her for four different programs (none of them “Designing Women”), making her a clear contender as long as she’s employed.

Holland Taylor
‘Two and a Half Men’
Nominated three times for “Men” but never winning, a category that might be a bit soft could offer Taylor her first chance to make an acceptance speech. She revels in being with the boys and is a vital component of the “Men” machine.

Dianne Wiest
‘In Treatment’
Wiest’s win last year for supporting actress surprised people who weren’t familiar with the HBO show. Yet given that she’s brilliantly playing the sort of seasoned therapist everyone in Hollywood wishes they had, the love for Wiest was a no-brainer.