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KyleFor all the dark, disturbed drama characters on TV today, it was an optimistic and compassionate one — Eric Taylor of “Friday Night Lights” — that propelled Kyle Chandler to last year’s lead drama actor Emmy.

Glenn Whipp’s lead story for the Variety Road to the Emmys: The Actor section explores the possibility of that recent history repeating itself, even with three-time champ Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” returning to the race after a hiatus.

Elsewhere in the section …

— A look back at how “The Office” and “Two and a Half Men” transitioned after their indelible lead actors left for new pastures.

— Profiles on the Emmy actor contenders from new shows: Will Arnett, Don Cheadle, Kelsey Grammer, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Isaacs, Damian Lewis, Gabriel Macht, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Anson Mount, Kiefer Sutherland and Noah Wyle.

— Capsules on last year’s nominees and other returning contenders.

Quips from actors on the Variety Studio Emmy panels.