Emmy history: Two previous noms in this category, plus one for movie-mini lead actress.
The case: Known as a risk-taking actress, Britton has been nominated three years in a row for three different projects (“Friday Night Lights” and “American Horror Story” previously). As country star Rayna Jaymes, she not only shows off her character’s survival skills but also some impressive pipes.
Trivia: Britton majored in Asian studies and was at one point fluent in Chinese.
Emmy history: Third nom in this category, with one past win (2012), plus one nom and win outside this category for “Temple Grandin.”
The case: Danes expertly toes the line between erratic and brilliant as the manic-depressive and troubled former CIA agent. Plus, she has for the last year been on an awards roll, sweeping all competitions.
Trivia: Danes was offered the role of Rose in “Titanic” with “Romeo+Juliet” co-star Leonardo DiCaprio but turned it down because they had already made one romantic epic together.
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Emmy history: Second consecutive nom in this category.
The case: Dockery has brought a softness to the seemingly unemotional aristocrat, who after a tumultuous journey finally appeared to find happiness with Matthew Crawley (albeit short-lived), only to struggle with infertility in the 1920s.
Trivia: Dockery is an accomplished jazz singer, who frequently performs at famous London jazz clubs and festivals.
“Bates Motel” (A&E)
Emmy history: This is the first Emmy nomination for the Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee.
The case: Farmiga took an iconic pop culture icon and made Norman Bates’ mother a fully-formed single parent looking for stability while raising a troubled son. And of course she’s made Norma just creepy enough to satisfy fans.
Trivia: Farmiga, one of seven children to Ukrainian-born parents, did not speak English until the age of 6.
“Mad Men” (AMC)
Emmy history: Fourth nom, plus two outside this category, including one this year as lead movie-mini actress for “Top of the Lake.”
The case: Though Moss plays a secretary-turned-copywriter in the ’60s, her portrayal of Peggy finally coming into her own and finding her power is relatable and inspiring to women of any era.
Trivia: Moss graduated high school two years early.
Emmy history: First nom
The case: By day she is a high-powered Washington, D.C., fixer who demands nothing but respect, but privately Olivia Pope is a vulnerable, relatable mess of a woman. If the POTUS can’t help but be transfixed by her, how does anyone else stand a chance?
Trivia: Washington is the fifth African-American thesp to be nominated in this category.
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
Emmy history: First nom
The case: Despite frequent comparisons between her character and Lady Macbeth, Wright played up the cracks underneath the ruthless politician’s wife, making us feel sympathy as much as fear for Claire Underwood.
Trivia: Wright earned three Daytime Emmy nominations as Kelly Capwell on “Santa Barbara.”