Narrowing down the supporting categories to just six names is the most arduous task when making my Emmy ballot year in, year out. There are just SO MANY deserving actors giving phenomenal performances out there, which is why it's disappointing when the TV Academy always manages to pick 1-2 lazy or confounding nominations to the detriment of at least two dozen more-deserving actors. Just for reference, I'm going to put in parentheses below the number of people in my personal longlist for each category so you can see just how many there were.
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.
Supporting Actor, Comedy (43)
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Raúl Castillo, Looking
Reid Scott, Veep
Albert Tsai, Trophy Wife
Jeremy Allen White, Shameless
Parker Young, Enlisted
It's a testament to the strength of new shows that a majority of the names here are from freshman series. Of course, two of those have since been cancelled but that won't stop me from rightly honoring Tsai and Young, who are both adorable AND steal scenes at every opportunity. Tsai in particular has perfect comedic timing for someone so young. White really doesn't belong in the Comedy category, but he was SO affecting this season that I would've nominated him in Best Actress if he submitted himself there. Last year I praised Scott for playing a pompous jerk so well and he took it up a notch this season. Castillo provides such a stabilizing and grounded presence in his show that I dare say he's almost the heart of it. Finally Braugher is Braugher. That's all you need.
Alternates: Noel Fisher and Cameron Monaghan (Shameless), Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Jim Rash (Community), Taran Killam (Saturday Night Live), Adam Driver (Girls), and Tony Hale (Veep)
Supporting Actress, Comedy (51)
Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Danielle Brooks, Orange is the New Black
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Cristin Milioti, How I Met Your Mother
Kate Mulgrew, Orange is the New Black
Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Like the guest actress category, it's tempting to just fill this up with actresses from Orange is the New Black, but it was easy enough to pick last year's breakout Brooks and veteran actress Mulgrew as MVPs. Another impressive duo are Beatriz and Peretti who took potentially one-dimensional characters and gave them depth without compromising how funny they are. Chlumsky as Amy in Veep is uncompromising and is a delight to watch. Finally, like or hate the final season of How I Met Your Mother, everyone agrees that Milioti was the best thing about it.
Alternates: Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins (Trophy Wife), Mayim Bialik (Big Bang Theory), Alison Brie (Community), Zosia Mamet (Girls), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Retta (Parks and Recreation), and Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black)
Supporting Actor, Drama (63)
George Blagden, Vikings
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jordan Gavaris, Orphan Black
Dean Norris, Breaking Bad
Dylan O'Brien, Teen Wolf
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
I can't even with this category. I had 63 people in my longlist so narrowing it down to just these 6 actors (and 8 honorable mentions below) was impossible. That said, you can't really ask for a better list. Norris and Paul contributed to one of TV's best shows on its final episodes with their strong, and often times heartbreaking performances. Dinklage had that momentous speech this season, but he also backed it up with a couple of truly emotional scenes in the finale. Blagden character's willingness to continually question faith gives the show its heart and he went through the hell of being crucified, figuratively and literally. Gavaris is a firecracker and a delight to watch while O'Brien had to channel his darker side last season to impressive returns. Shout out to Josh Charles below who went out with a literal bang.
Alternates: Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Norman Reedus (Walking Dead), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Rupert Friend and Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Allen Leech (Downton Abbey), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), and Noah Emmerich (The Americans)
Supporting Actress, Drama (46)
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Danai Guira, Walking Dead
Lana Parrilla, Once Upon a Time
Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Katheryn Winnick, Vikings
Last year, I vehemently disagreed with people who though Baranski is just coasting. It wasn't true then and it certainly wasn't true this season especially with her essentially having to face so many battles on all fronts, without her best friend. Gunn impressively displayed the five stages of grief in the final season with such humanity that you can't help but empathize. We learned a lot more about Guira's character, which helped, but truly it's her "family" scenes with Rick and Carl that I loved more. Only Parrilla can play the Evil Queen and make her the most sympathetic character in the entire show. Williams and Winnick are truly kick-ass in spite of all the obstacle's their characters go through.
Alternates: Christina Hendricks and Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of SHIELD), Joanne Froggat (Downton Abbey), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), Alison Wright (The Americans), Molly Parker (House of Cards), and Madeleine Stowe (Revenge)
And that was the hardest post to write so the next two, Lead Acting and Programs, should be posted slightly earlier the next couple of days than this was.