Emmy history: Six noms and one win in this category, plus one win each for comedy guest actress, comedy series writing and variety series writing with multiple noms in those categories.
The case: Fictional showrunner Liz Lemon got the marriage and kids she wanted, but Fey never made it a fairy tale. The series finale, in which she pulls together one last show with smarts and heart, was classic Fey, with Liz finally saying a platonic “I love you” to boss Jack (Alec Baldwin).
Trivia: Huge “Star Wars” fan who dressed as Princess Leia in two “30 Rock” eps — for jury duty and her wedding.
Emmy history: First nom in this category, plus five others for movie/miniseries lead actress, movie/miniseries guest actress, comedy guest actress and drama guest actress.
The case: As TV’s first enviro-crusader anti-heroine, Dern had to invent a completely new contemporary icon for the smallscreen — an emotional and somewhat naive woman fighting not to be crushed by an indifferent world. Her idealistic Amy Jellicoe caught fire in season two (the show’s last) in her affair with an investigative reporter and her triumphant confrontation with a corporate exec.
Trivia: Dern’s real-life mom, Diane Ladd, played her mother in the series. The two have played mother/daughter in several other projects.
Emmy history: A first-time nominee last year, has scored a total of four noms including this category.
The case: As Hannah Horvath, Dunham went to some dark places in season two with the onset of previously dormant OCD brought on by a stressful book project. Hannah’s “everything is fine” act for previously close friend Marnie (Alison Williams) was heartbreaking and put a spotlight on the fracturing post-college friendships that played a big part in the season.
Trivia: Like Hannah, has worked as a secretary and restaurant hostess. Friends with co-star Jemima Kirke since childhood. Show shoots in her native New York City.
“Nurse Jackie” (Showtime)
Emmy history: Four wins for lead actress – one in comedy and three in drama. Three more noms in each of those categories.
The case: In Jackie’s first season sober, Falco conveys her character’s struggle to cope with her emotions after years of dulling them with drugs. Confronting husband Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) about the wrenching custody battle over their two young daughters was Falco’s mother lion Jackie at her willful, smart and loving best.
Trivia: Swept the 2003 Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG awards for top TV drama actress.
“Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Emmy history: Four noms in this category, with five additional noms in other categories.
The case: Poehler has taken Leslie Knope from earnest bureaucrat to wise city councilwoman without losing the optimistic, frenetic energy that makes her so fun to watch against the backdrop of a mostly laid-back ensemble. Surprisingly moving moments this season were Leslie’s reaction to the marriage proposal from Ben (Adam Scott) and their impromptu city hall wedding.
Trivia: Has leadership in her blood — played Hilary Clinton on “SNL” and has directed episodes of “Parks & Recreation.”
Emmy history: Two wins and seven noms in this category. One win out of seven noms in comedy supporting actress.
The case: As power-hungry, insecure, narcissistic vice president Selina Meyer, Louis-Dreyfus balances public smiles with private snark — sometimes only split-seconds apart. A season highlight: Selena getting loopy on meds and temporarily softening towards her beleaguered staff.
Trivia: The only actress to receive Emmys for three different sitcoms, “Seinfeld,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Veep.”