The Leading Ladies of the Emmys

It seems to me that television gets better every year. We live in an age where people are patient enough to stay with a story or a set of characters over a period of time–to put in the effort it takes to devour a television series in the same way they would read a novel. HBO, AMC, and Showtime all dedicated themselves to quality television, and networks (and Netflix) are starting to follow. The Emmy nominees this year are just fantastic, and I wanted to pay the women in particular their dues on this site. Take it away, ladies.

In a Drama

norma bates1. Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bates Motel

You may know Farmiga from her Oscar-nominated performance in the 2009 film Up in the Air, but her Emmy nods comes from her most recent role as the mother to future killer Norman Bates (from Hitchcock’s Psycho).

“Just judging from my experience, I’ve had to work harder in fully dimensionalizing female roles in film. Not in independent film but certainly in mainstream Hollywood pictures. It’s always a roll-up-your-sleeves job in studio films” (New York Times).

lady mary2. Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey

Dockery rose to international fame as Downton Abbey became an obsession of British and American audiences alike, and this is her second Emmy nomination for playing Lady Mary.

“I love playing Mary; she’s absolutely fascinating. She seems cynical and calculating, but in truth she’s indecisive and troubled, which makes her complicated and human and, as a result, hugely rewarding to play” (The Mirror).

carrie3. Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland

Everyone remembers Danes from her portrayal of Angela Chase in My So Called Life in the 1990s, but she’s redefining our times through television again with Homeland.

“You have to pick your battles on set. You have to come to work from a place of love. You have to stay hydrated when you have crying scenes. You have to go to college. And you have to ask for money because there’s always more money and they won’t give it to you because you’re a girl!” (Vogue).

claire4. Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards

She gained her first Golden Globe nomination for her role as Jenny in Forrest Gump in 1994, but nearly 20 years later, Wright is still stunning audiences with her ability to immerse herself in a role. Her work in House of Cards is changing the television game too, as the Netflix show is the first television series that aired on the Internet to ever be nominated.

“She’s a marble bust, you don’t know anything about her, she’s an enigma – she, the woman, is going to start to crack through this marble, she’s going to emerge, and that fascinated me. I thought that this was going to be a fun arc to play for 13 hours” (Digital Spy).

a_610x4085. Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men

From 1999 to 2006, Moss played Zoey Bartlet, daughter of the president on The West Wing. But on Mad Men, she has brought to life a character who pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable for women in the 1960s.

“As women, we tend to put a lot of stock in what a man thinks and how they are and what they think of us and how we should be, but I like this idea of Peggy’s journey getting to a place — and I hope to see it in season seven — I hope to see her get to a place where she is her own person with her own style, not copying a man” (Vulture).

rayna6. Connie Britton as Rayna James in Nashville

Britton has received her fourth Emmy nomination in as many years, being recognized for her work on Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story in 2012, 2011, and 2010.

“There’s something that feels familiar to audiences, because we’re used to seeing big, famous singers and these iconic artists. But then, the audience gets to know her intimately and as a real human being. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to play this role.  As an actor, that’s what I love to do – dig deep” (Los Angeles Times).

olivia7. Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal

In the past year, Washington has starred in the second season of the deliciously watchable Scandal and also had a supporting role in the highest-earning Quentin Tarantino film of all time, Django Unchained.

“One of the most profound things for me about the show is the number of white women of all ages who come up to me and say, ‘I want to be Olivia Pope.’ […] The fact that white women can see this woman of color as an aspirational character is revolutionary, I think, in the medium of television. I don’t think white women would feel that way about Olivia if her identity as a woman, period, wasn’t first in their mind” (Vanity Fair).

In a Comedy

liz lemon

1. Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in 30 Rock

Whether you know Fey from her work on Saturday Night Live, for writing and acting in the film Mean Girls, from her memoir Bossypants, or as the lovable and immensely quotable Liz Lemon, she’s been a funny girl forever and we could not be sadder about the ending of 30 Rock.

“Make statements also applies to us women: Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, ‘I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?’ Make statements, with your actions and your voice” (Bossypants).

Enlightened_Laura_Dern_HBO_940x5082. Laura Dern as Amy in Enlightened

You may know Dern from her film roles in Jurassic ParkOctober Sky, and I Am Sam, but she has starred in Enlightened for the past three years and even took home an Emmy for the role in 2011.

“I want to share Amy with everybody we can find – she’s an important character. She’s determined to use her voice in the world at all costs; she’s completely unafraid. It’s important to remember when people are so afraid to speak out about injustice.”

hannah3. Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in Girls

Dunham was just 25 years old when her dark comedy premiered on HBO and shoved her into the spotlight. She wrote, starred in, and directed many of the episodes in both season one and season two of her show. She is nominated as both an actor and a director in 2013.

“These are the women who have made comedy what it is today. They’re also brilliant actresses who can convey so much subtle stuff; they set such a crazy-high bar. You can kind of only speak in platitudes about it, but even to be mentioned in the same breath as them is like freaking wild” (Los Angeles Times).

jackie4. Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie

Falco has been a part of quality television for many years now. She played Carmela Soprano on the acclaimed HBO drama The Sopranos and has already been nominated once before for her work on Nurse Jackie.

Playing Jackie “is actually fun, because it’s so far from who I really am. Jackie’s kind of a hard-ass. She believes that, and the people around her believe it. She talks to people in a way that I would never talk to people. She conducts her life in a way that I never would. She doesn’t care how she’s perceived. She’s not interested in being liked, and that’s very freeing for someone who is not like that” (Slate).

leslie5. Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation

Poehler started out in comedy at Chicago’s own Second City with Tina Fey before becoming a cast member on Saturday Night Live. She has been nominated for her role as the politician with a heart of gold, Leslie Knope, four times in four years.

Leslie is “one of those people who believe that one person can make a difference; that no matter how small your job is, you still matter. And that it’s important to take care of the place where you come from. The show’s not afraid of a little bit of heart. I’m kind of a sucker for pathos, and I was looking forward to turning down the volume a little bit and trying to play someone who—even though she’s kind of grade-A bananas—could maybe exist in the world” (Glamour).

veep6. Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in Veep

Arguably the modern godmother of women in comedy, Louis-Dreyfus demanded not to be taken seriously as Elaine on the critically-acclaimed show Seinfeld. Last year, she took home the Emmy after a triumphant return to comedy with the HBO series Veep.

“The idea of playing Selina and showing the woman behind the political mask was what spoke to me. I feel it’s a comedy gold mine… because it is a minefield. There are all these missteps to be taken. I love the idea of playing someone in a seemingly powerful position who is also powerless” (HBO).

Who do you think deserves the Emmy? 

This article was originally posted on Shy Town Girls, where I blog about things Chicagoan and feminine.


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