After the very long longlists for guest and supporting categories, it was definitely much easier to narrow down the lead categories since there aren't that many people to consider in the first place. Onwards!
Disclaimer: Only performances I have seen are qualified and I'm going to honor the category the actors have chosen to submit themselves in, even when I don't agree.
Lead Actor, Comedy
Jonathan Groff, Looking
William H. Macy, Shameless
Chris Messina, The Mindy Project
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation
Bradley Whitford, Trophy Wife
This category always has the fewest people to pick from for me so it's always been a challenge to fill my ballot. So I'm thankful for some new blood this season in the form of Groff, Samberg, and Whitford. I actually haven't seen much of Groff before this (Glee was the last thing) so it was refreshing to see him play such an awkward character. Samberg was the big surprise for me as I wasn't a big fan of his schtick on Saturday Night Live, but he shines in Brooklyn Nine-Nine especially his chemistry with Braugher and the rest of the ensemble. Speaking on ensembles, Whitford is supported by a kick ass one as well. Scott is a mainstay for me and I do hope he gets nominated finally while Messina and Macy really stepped it up this season. The latter especially finally found a way not to annoy me all season!
Alternates: Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory), Joel McHale (Community), Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), Michael J. Fox (Michael J. Fox Show), and Robin Williams (The Crazy Ones)
Malin Akerman, Trophy Wife
Mindy Kaling, Mindy Project
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black
I expected it to be more difficult than it actually ended up being narrowing down this list. With Fey gone, Louis-Dreyfus and Poehler hold the torch as the queens of comedy doing expectantly great jobs on their respective shows yet again. Rossum's show made the switch this year to Comedy from Drama and as silly as that is with their darkest season to date, her performance isn't any less a revelation. Kaling finally seems have gotten a handle on her character (and her show) to welcome results while TV newcomers Akerman and Schilling really surprised expectations even when they aren't the best things about their shows.
Alternates: Lena Dunham (Girls), Anna Faris (Mom), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Courtney Cox (Cougar Town), and Jane Levy (Suburgatory)
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Hugh Dancy, Hannibal
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
No, I haven't seen True Detective. Don't ask me. Anyways, Cranston is back on my ballot for the last time for his iconic portrayal of Walter White. His last eight episodes were nothing short of brilliant. He probably doesn't need another Emmy, but it surely would be deserved. With that said, how insane is it that Hamm doesn't have an individual acting award yet for playing Don Draper? That's absolutely criminal. Of course, there's the beautifully twisted duo of Dancy and Mikkelsen whose cat and mouse games this season elevated EVERYTHING on that show. Rhys continues to prove me so very wrong with every episode when I initially thought he could've been miscast for this role while Spacey continues to effectively chew scenery in a role tailored made for him and him alone.
Alternates: Jamie Bell (Turn), Andrew Lincoln (Walking Dead), Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow), Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex), Travil Fimmel (Vikings), and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary)
Nicole Beharie, Sleepy Hollow
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Keri Russell, The Americans
Not to beat the drums louder, but Maslany is doing just ridiculous things on her show. I don't even see HER playing different characters any more since I just see the characters as distinct and nuanced by themselves. Moss and Margulies continue to do amazing work on their shows, the latter especially with opportunities for some great moments in adjusting to the big changes in her character's life. Russell, like Rhys, is just phenomenal. Finally, Beharie and Caplan are new doing very different things to their shows but equally as effective. Shout out to Wright below as her Claire really went through the ringer and it doesn't seem right at all I would nominate Spacey without also highlighting her.
Alternates: Robin Wright (House of Cards), Claire Danes (Homeland), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Lucy Liu (Elementary), and Emily VanCamp (Revenge)
Glad to be done with the actors! Tomorrow will be my picks for Best Comedy and Drama series and a summary of nominations (which show got the most, etc.).