"Scandal's" Kerry Washington could make Emmy history, becoming the first black actress to win the lead actress drama prize.
"Scandal's" Kerry Washington could make Emmy history, becoming the first black actress to win the lead actress drama prize. (Eric McCandless / ABC)

Bryan Cranston has three. So does Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And Claire Danes and Jim Parsons are close behind, with two Emmys each.

Will these voters favorites return to the podium Sunday? Or will a new group -- Kerry Washington and Louis C.K. among them -- win their first acting Emmys? After looking at the supporting races here, let's lay some odds on the lead acting categories.



Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"

Odds: 2-1. "Say My Name"? Emmy voters have been happy to oblige in the past and, after going with "Homeland's" Damian Lewis last year, could decide to partner with Heisenberg again.

Damian Lewis, "Homeland"

Odds: 3-1. Then again, defending champ Lewis owns the Emmy submission that showcases the most range. In "Q&A," we see Lewis' Brody go from defiance to despair, finally caving and revealing to Claire Danes' Carrie the depth of his involvement with terrorist Abu Nazir. Voters who like to be left in puddles -- and there are a lot of them -- will find much to appreciate here.

Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"

Odds: 7-1. Much has been made about Emmy balloters' infatuation with movie stars, and Spacey could well be the latest beneficiary. But some voters might be turned off by the show's fourth-wall-breaking conceit, not to mention the tangy Southern accent.

Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"

Odds: 10-1. If Lewis' Emmy submission showed the most range, Hamm's (the "Mad Men" season finale "In Care Of") may be the most affecting. His mortifying Hershey's presentation was jarring in the way it laid bare Don Draper's self-loathing and despair. The show's sixth season had been slow to build, but the payoff was unforgettable.

Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"

Odds: 20-1. Daniels' Emmy episode, "Newsroom's" pilot, is remembered most for his four-minute rant about why America can no longer be considered the greatest country. Daniels masterfully delivers the monologue, but that alone probably won't win him the Emmy.

Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey"

Odds: 50-1. Robert blames himself for Sybil's death. And he's right! Sure, Bonneville makes us feel something for the man, but still ... you should have listened to the family doctor!



Kerry Washington, "Scandal"

Odds: 2-1. Washington is something of a trendy pick, which isn't stopping us from following the crowd. Dan Bucatinsky's guest actor Emmy win last Sunday further confirms our suspicion that academy members love the show's soapy theatrics. Added incentive: Washington would become the first black actress to win the category. Voters love making history with their ballot choices.

Claire Danes, "Homeland"

Odds: 3-1. Like Lewis, Danes submitted "Q&A," and she's every bit as good as her costar. The episode's intense interrogation could result in repeat wins for both actors.

Vera Farmiga, "Bates Motel"

Odds: 5-1. Farmiga is the category's dark horse, not to be taken lightly for the way she put her own stamp on an iconic character.

Robin Wright, "House of Cards"

Odds: 15-1. Wright's Emmy submission is the show's 10th episode, when finally we see what lies beneath Claire's ice queen persona. It was a long time coming, and Wright clearly relishes every moment, particularly the priceless confrontation with Kate Mara's Zoe.

Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"

Odds: 20-1. She has a better case -- and chance -- with her lead actress movie/miniseries nomination for "Top of the Lake."

Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"

Odds: 50-1. Emmys for "Downton" reserved exclusively for dames.

Connie Britton, "Nashville"

Odds: 100-1. Her show could well be cancelled next season.


Louis C.K., "Louie"

Odds: 5-2. C.K.'s Emmy submission, "Daddy's Girlfriend, Part 1," doesn't redefine the boundaries of television comedy, as do many of the other episodes from the series' brilliant third season. This is safe(r) "Louie," with the comedian fumbling his way through asking Parker Posey out on a date. It's beautiful and charming and could well bring C.K. his first acting Emmy.

Jim Parsons, "Big Bang Theory"

Odds: 3-1. Parsons has won twice and doesn't miss a beat in his flawless Emmy episode, "The Habitation Configuration," in which he tries to broker a peace between girlfriend Amy and mancrush Wil Wheaton.

Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"

Odds: 6-1. Baldwin has also won twice but is unlikely to repeat unless sentiment is on his side for "30 Rock's" parting season. In his favor: His episode, in which Jack appoints Kenneth as his successor, was, like the rest of the show's swan song, very, very funny.

Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"

Odds: 20-1. Like Spacey, Cheadle breaks the fourth wall often on his show, but in (arguably) ways that better serve the series. His Emmy submission, "Hostile Takeover," serves as a master class of the form.

Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development"

Odds: 50-1. He remains a peerless straight man, but that type of acting doesn't usually win Emmys.

Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"

Odds: 50-1. He's good. But if anyone is going to win for playing an exaggerated version of themselves, it will be C.K.


Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"

Odds: 3-2. Louis-Dreyfus won for the show's debut year, and "Veep" really found its stride in its second season. The guy in the banana costume may have beaten her in that TV race, but she's unlikely to lose to anyone else.

Tina Fey, "30 Rock"

Odds: 3-1. An Emmy would be a great send-off.


Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"

Odds: 4-1. We've picked Poehler before and come away disappointed. She's definitely deserving and her Emmy episode, a two-parter that includes Leslie's wedding to Adam Scott's Ben, brims with the sweetness and warmth that this show does better than any other program on television.

Laura Dern, "Enlightened"

Odds: 15-1. "Enlightened" had its fans, but they weren't that passionate. (OK, a few of them were.) Dern's nomination for a cancelled show was a victory in and of itself.

Lena Dunham, "Girls"

Odds: 20-1. Voters love it when actors go to a chemically altered place, so it's not that surprising that Dunham submitted "Bad Friend," where Hannah tries cocaine as part of a writing assignment. It's a wonderful showcase for her underrated acting, but balloters will still likely lean toward the category's veterans.

Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"

Odds: 50-1. Falco's win in 2010 feels like a long time ago.