While it felt like pulling teeth narrowing down my picks for guest and supporting performances, it was much more straightforward coming up with my ballots for the lead categories since there aren't that many people to consider in the first place.
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
Gael Garcia Bernal, Mozart in the Jungle
Jonathan Groff, Looking
Chris Messina, The Mindy Project
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Groff, Messina, and Scott were part of my shortlist last year and I couldn't just leave them out this year. For one, Groff's character became even more awkward this year and it was a joy to see whereas Messina and Scott were even funnier in their usually straight-man roles especially in conjunction with their fantastic leading ladies. But speaking of awkward, no one encapsulates this more than Middleditch whose uncomfortableness, so palpable on screen, is pitch perfect for his character and show. Then there's Bernal who plays obnoxious boy genius a little too well. But it's all about Tambor breathtaking performance as a man coming out as transgender to his family and to the world.
Alternates: Anthony Anderson (black-ish), Chris Geere (You're the Worst), Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), William H. Macy (Shameless), and Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory)
Lead Actress, Comedy
Ilana Glazer, Broad City
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin
Contance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat
This was a tough category to narrow down evident by the alternate names below which could've easily been promoted up. Louis-Dreyfus especially is just so good in her award-winning role, but I feel the ladies I did end up picking deserve it just a bit more. Definitely Glazer (and how could I nominate her and not Jacobson as well... so tough) is one of the most refreshing comedic voices out there right now. Kemper is an absolute delight as the titular Kimmy Schmidt while Wu is a scene-stealer through and through on her new show. Poehler I'm honoring for her final season and because KNOPE WE CAN. But this category is all about the 1-2 punch of Rodriguez and Kudrow. One is a breakthrough newcomer in one of the best shows on network TV while the other is a brilliant veteran in one of the most underrated shows ever. If there ever was a year for the Emmys to declare a tie, I would give it to those two.
Alternates: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Abbi Jacobson (Broad City), Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish), Emmy Rossum (Shameless), Aya Cash (You're the Worst), and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project)
Lead Actor, Drama
Charlie Cox, Daredevil
Jamie Dornan, The Fall
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
I just realized that half the men I nominated are shows I've watched on Netflix. There's Cox in Daredevil who seem to really relish his time as a masked vigilante superhero. There's Murphy who is magnificently cold and calculating as the patriarch of a family of gangsters. And finally, there's Dornan who is just so deliciously creepy as a serial killer that he's almost making me want to check out Fifty Shades of Grey. Rhys took it up a notch this season if that was even possible as did Hamm who keeps delivering award-worthy dramatic work despite the lack of awards. And then there's Odenkirk who magically transformed this previously one-dimensional supporting character into a strong and unquestionable leading one on his own show.
Alternates: Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), David Tennant (Broadchurch), Justin Theroux (The Leftovers), Travis Fimmell (Vikings), Ben McKenzie (Gotham), and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary)
Lead Actress, Drama
Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Keri Russell, The Americans
Again, looking at the strong names I've relegated to my alternate list shows just how strong this category is, but I had to make the tough decisions! For me I needed to honor the buzz-worthy work that both Davis and Henson delivered on two of the most popular freshman shows this year. Even if their show couldn't keep up, they were both at a super high level. Maslany knows all about this as her show has really fell through a heap of convoluted plots, but her multi-performance master act is probably even better this year. There's of course Moss who didn't get much to do, but she was excellent in what she was given including her cheesy and WONDERFUL final scenes. Russell has perfected her tough-mom/spy role and speaking of spies, Atwell bringing her big screen Agent Carter to the small screens is a blessing to us all.
Alternates: Gillian Anderson (The Fall), Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Ruth Wilson (The Affair), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), and Robin Wright (House of Cards)
And there are my acting ballot picks! Tomorrow my picks for comedy and drama shows. And then the day after that, we'll see how AWFUL the TV Academy's picks are.