Actresses in Emmy contention

Newcomers, established thesps we want to give love to

Newcomers and vets alike remain in the kudos conversation in a field brimming with Emmy-worthy performances

Courteney Cox
“Cougar Town”
The former “Friends” thesp has settled in nicely at the Alphabet as “Cougar Town” just finished its second season. If some believed with the show’s early episodes in season one were a bit rough, many agree the skein has upped its game and now is a pleasant half-hour in a sea of equally impressive comedies.

Alison Brie
Morphing from the largely self-involved Trudy of “Mad Men” into the sweet and lovely moral center of “Community,” Brie has rising star written all over her. Just when you think you have her pegged, she shows off another layer.

Kaley Cuoco
“The Big Bang Theory”
Cuoco served up her best work in this past fourth season of the CBS sitcom, not only expertly playing off the series’ female cast additions, but also conveying the personal struggle of someone who isn’t sure if she let Mr. Right get away. Even as she stands on her own two feet, Cuoco’s Penny makes you root for her to find someone she can lean on.

Dana Delany
“Body of Proof”
Few ladies working today have as much smallscreen experience as Delany, whose turn as a crime-solving medical examiner received strong reviews and helped propel the show to a second season. The actress’ stellar series “China Beach” was the first of many skeins that benefited from her talents.

Kim Dickens
It’s no coicidence that Dickens has appeared in some of TV’s best shows — “Deadwood,” “Lost,” “Friday Night Lights” — over the past few years. Her turn in David Simon’s New Orleans saga as a chef who leaves her hometown and heads to Gotham is as tasty as the dishes she cooks over a hot grill..

Brooke Elliott
“Drop Dead Diva”
Many women can relate to the body issues encountered by Elliott, whose character has received a new figure following a horrific car accident. The series remains one of Lifetime’s biggest assets, and Elliott is clearly a compelling heroine.

Lauren Graham
Graham was forced to deal with an ex-husband (John Corbett) returning to form a bond — albeit a temporary one — with their two kids, as well as trying to figure out if she has a career as a playwright.

Lena Headey
“Game of Thrones”
The scheming queen is looking to consolidate her family’s power, all the while making sure her son is next to become king. As the highest-profile femme of HBO’s fantasy series, Headey might be receiving more recognition now than any other time in her lengthy career.

Patricia Heaton
“The Middle”
After a long run on “Everyone Loves Raymond,” Heaton could be enjoying another extended stay in “The Middle.” Series gently pokes fun at middle America values in a good-natured way that both East and West coasters can enjoy. If there’s been a mom viewers can relate to, Heaton would be near the top of the list.

Regina King
King showcases the LAPD’s compassionate side in TNT’s stellar cop drama. Not only can she wield a shotgun with as much ferocity as the guys, but she also balances that toughness with a conscience that doesn’t allow suspects to be wrongly accused if she believes they’re getting a raw deal. No matter how much paperwork it takes.

Anna Paquin
“True Blood”
Oy, it wasn’t an easy season for Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse with her vampire boyfriend Bill being kidnapped by the vampire king of Mississippi. Fan-favorite Eric and her new werewolf friend Alcide help with her search, which only confuses her more on whom she should really be saving.

Piper Perabo
“Covert Affairs”
USA Network is basic cable’s No. 1 entertainment network for a reason: Lead characters that have a strong connection with viewers. Perabo, as a multilingual CIA agent who can kick butt when needed but whose gentleness is readily apparent with her family, is a perfect case in point.

Sarah Ramos
Ramos’ romance with “Friday Night Lights” thesp Michael B. Jordan felt as genuine as any fling last season. And as diplomatically adamant as she was about dating a guy much older, it didn’t take much of a stretch to understand her parents’ difficulty in seeing their daughter grow up.

Katey Sagal
“Sons of Anarchy”
Sagal’s Gemma is as rough as they come and she’ll tangle with anyone at a moment’s notice, yet no one is as loving as this motorcycle mama. Happy to flip the authority the bird in order to do right by her husband, child and grandson, Gemma is someone you want on your side.

Kiernan Shipka
“Mad Men”
It would be easy to overlook the work of an 11-year-old when she is playing a scene with thesps as talented as Jon Hamm and January Jones, but that would be a mistake. Shipka’s genuinely affecting portrayal of a daughter caught between stubborn parents raises the stakes in why we care so much what happens to the Drapers.

Jeanne Tripplehorn
“Big Love”
Tripplehorn’s Barb Henrickson had a spiritual journey in the last year of HBO’s polygamist drama that made her question many of her previous beliefs. As difficult as the balancing act of moving forward was for her, it was even harder for her two sister wives and husband, who had a hard time understanding why things change as they grow older.

Minority actresses still face issues | Procedurals favor the femmes | Actresses ready to do it again | Actresses in contention
Lead Actress
Laura Linney | Martha Plimpton | Kathy Bates | Mireille Enos | Alexander & Harmon | Emmy Rossum | Sarah Shahi | Melissa McCarthy