The actress categories are always the most difficult. The roles for women in television are beyond compelling. And the women who lead them, even more so. It’s anyone’s guess on who is most deserving.
But they still suffer from that same ol’ predictability. Is anyone guessing that this category will go to anyone other than Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Listen, there’s a reason she has been nominated and has won so many times. But we would love to see a few other ladies on the television landscape rack up some deserved nods.
Here’s who we have in mind:
Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin
Miraculous. Breakout star. Accolades beyond accolades when the first season of Jane the Virgin began. Those are some tough quotes to follow, but Gina Rodriguez did so deftly. Rodriguez would probably be the first person to tell anyone to not be put off by the title and the premise—just give the show a chance. All of those who watched cannot be more glad that they did.
Rodriguez’s skilled performance in Jane the Virgin is a large part of the reason the show just works: the outlandish premise grounded with these real motivations and real emotions. In almost every scene, Rodriguez gets to stretch her comedic and dramatic muscle within the same breath, and she does so with ease.
Sometimes buzz is fleeting, or even just plain wrong. But critics et all got it right with Rodriguez. She’s a natural. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And Gina Rodriguez is incandescent. There hasn’t been a more dynamic performance in a comedy this season. And though it’s a long-shot for an Emmy nomination, let’s hope the buzz and the Golden Globes win can get her there.
Lena Dunham, Girls
Lena Dunham has always been an auteur. But she truly came into her own with her performance on her comedy series Girls‘ fourth season. A season that saw Hannah Horvath realize she probably doesn’t have the talent to pursue her passion, make decisions to better herself even if it didn’t seem that way from the outside, and learn from past mistakes and move forward could have been too demanding for any actress—but Dunham carried this season, its pendulum-swinging emotions too, wonderfully.
Anna Faris, Mom
Mom is a difficult show. I don’t mean it’s difficult to watch—far from it. But it’s a multicam sitcom about substance abuse. The broad humor blended with such a specific type of situation could have been disastrous. But not so. A lot of it is due to the material, and a lot of it is also due to the performances—Anna Faris’ chief among them. She carries the manic theatrics of the role with the niche of the humor like a pro. Well, because she is one. I truly think this is the most underrated role and performance on television at the moment.
Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project
It’s time someone said it: Mindy Kaling is a damn fine actress. Her whirlwind, joke-machine comedy The Mindy Project might seem like it wouldn’t allow for substantive performances, but that is far from the truth. Kaling’s role often subverts her own rapid-fire comedy with gut-punching performances—whether from laughter or sympathetic crying, delightfully so. Her ability to switch gears from laughter to dramatic is something to be seen. But more so, the way she injects vulnerability into a character like Mindy Lahiri deserves accolades on its own. Her character’s pop-culture obsessed girlishness coalesced with her over-confidence is a vision and a joy to watch.
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Being inside the mind of Kimmy Schmidt must be an over-stimulating experience. But no one could do it better than Ellie Kemper. Kemper gets inside the mind of her lead character’s arrested development and absolutely thrives. I can’t imagine a more fun role to take and chew through than Kimmy Schmidt, and I can’t imagine a more capable actress than Kemper in the role.
Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
Wow. I mean, first of all: what a season of The Comeback. It brought the brand of cringe-comedy that it created from way back when into full force during this season. And Lisa Kudrow’s captivating performance as Valerie Cherish came back with it. Valerie Cherish is an easy role to be annoyed by, but Kudrow takes it and owns it. At any given moment, you want to wince, console, scream at, and protect Valerie Cherish. It would be a shame if Kudrow’s performance was not recognized by the Emmys this year.
Honorable Mentions: Besides Ellie Kemper, I don’t think there was a role with more energy and charisma than Christela Alonzo‘s on Cristela. Alonzo reminded me, and many, what makes multi-cam sitcoms work so well: it’s all in good fun. Plus, she was just dang funny. Which always helps. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
Predictions: Julia Louis-Drefus will 100 percent be recognized for her fantastic work in Veep. Beyond that, it’s looking like another one for the vets, with Lily Tomlin for her hilarious, hippie role on Grace and Frankie. I expect mainstay Edie Falco of Nurse Jackie to make another appearance in the category, and I also don’t think the Emmys is done recognizing Lena Dunham for Girls. The last slot is a wildcard, with many thinking Jane Fonda will be recognized for Grace and Frankie, too. But I think there’s no chance Gina Rodriguez won’t be nominated for Jane the Virgin. The buzz is strong, and it’s deserved.
Now it’s your turn. Which lead actress in a comedy series do you want to see be nominated for an Emmy this year?
This is one in a series of Emmys posts this awards season. Check out the Emmys tag for more dream nominees and features.