It’s Emmy nomination season: Voters in the Television Academy have just finished casting their ballots for who will be in the group of nominees announced on July 14. This year, Daily Arts Writers and Editors wanted to join in the fun, putting together our lists of who we want to be among the nominees. We’re continuing this series with Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
Matthew Barnauskas, Daily TV/New Media Editor:
Aya Cash, “You’re the Worst” — Centering on the realities of living with depression, “You’re the Worst” ’s second season placed a lot on the shoulders of series lead Aya Cash as her character, Gretchen, struggled with the resurgence of her clinical depression. Brutally honest, heartbreaking and, yes, even funny, Cash’s performance unflinchingly took a much-needed look at mental health and the challenges it presents.
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, “Broad City” — I pray that at least one of these two gets a nomination for their work on “Broad City.” The duo work so well together as their TV counterparts it’s hard to separate the two; however, that shouldn’t diminish their work’s individual merits.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” — Louis-Dreyfus has now won four consecutive Emmy’s for her performance as Selina Meyer and with the way “Veep” has been delivering this year, there might not be a reason to change that.
Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — “Unbreakable” may often be a bright, quirky show, but beneath all of that are challenging issues facing its mole-woman heroine. Kemper excels at delivering both the madcap style of comedy that defined writer Tina Fey’s previous series, “30 Rock,” while also capturing the genuine struggles Kimmy has in her life.
Emmy Rossum, “Shameless” — The Gallagher family always hangs by a thread in “Shameless” and without the constant efforts of Fiona, the whole family may very well fall apart. In many ways, Rossum’s own consistency throughout “Shameless” has been one of the show’s strong points for years, a fact that has often been overlooked by award voters.
Alex Intner, Summer Managing Arts Editor:
Rachel Bloom – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Zooey Deschanel – “New Girl”
Ellie Kemper – “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – “Veep”
Wendi McLendon-Covey – “The Goldbergs”
Gina Rodriguez – “Jane the Virgin”
This was an outstanding year for actresses in comedy, but these six women rose to the top of the list, as they showcase so much talent on their respective shows. Bloom’s performance on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is remarkable because of how she showcases the emotional turmoil of mental illness on her character. She also is a fantastic singer and dancer, bringing the show’s musical numbers to life. Deschanel had a more low-key role on “New Girl” this year, partially because she was out for a handful of episodes because of her pregnancy. Still, she remains an integral part of the talented ensemble, making some tough jokes pay off in dividends. Kemper brings so much sunshine and joy to her performance as Kimmy Schmidt. She is a beam of light who has so much charm and charisma onscreen. Louis-Dreyfus had another fantastic season as the sharp-tongued President of the United States. She made Selina’s struggle with a tie election hysterical, and because of this, she’s likely going to win an Emmy for the fifth year in a row. McLendon-Covey shows so much warmth in her performance as America’s favorite smother. She remains one of my favorite parts of ABC’s best family comedy. Lastly, Rodriguez’s work on “Jane the Virgin” is one of my favorite parts of my favorite show. During the telenovela-comedy’s second season, she made me laugh, broke my heart and warmed it a thousand times over. She is such a sweet and genuine presence as Jane as she keeps the show centered amid the crazy stories.
Anay Katyal, Summer Senior Arts Editor:
Maria Bamford – “Lady Dynamite”
Ilana Glazer – “Broad City”
Emmy Rossum – “Shameless”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – “Veep”
Lena Dunham – “Girls”
Carrie Brownstein – “Portlandia”
There’s an abundance of talent and skill among the actresses listed above, all bringing their own unique identities and brands of comedy to the screen. In a surprising, standout performance, Maria Bamford’s work as herself in the show is a courageous and subversive take on mental illness. Ilana Glazer continues her wry and witty ways on “Broad City,” never deviating from her poignantly raunchy yet real comedy. Though urban dramedy “Shameless” has deviated a bit from the ways of the UK original, it’s remained a prominent property of Showtime’s collection largely thanks to consistent performances from the likes of Emmy Rossum. Sarcastic, witty and sassy in her demeanor, Julia-Louis Dreyfus continues to lead the way for critically acclaimed “Veep” in its fifth season. Dunham rarely strays from her pointed portrayal of Hannah Horvath on “Girls,” providing refreshing and raw commentary on millennial life. Coupled with Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein’s quirky, out-of-the-box humor on Portlandia is a welcome change of pace from the more drama-based comedies that have taken network television by storm.
Megan Mitchell, Daily Arts Writer:
Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Lena Dunham, “Girls”
Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”
Mindy Kaling, “The Mindy Project”
Ellie Kemper, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”
“Outstanding Lead Actress” is the appropriate category name for these outstanding leading ladies, without whom these shows may not have been so memorable this year. Rachel Bloom showed off her crazy side in this season of the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” cutting loose and letting that freak flag fly. You go, girl. Speaking of “Girls,” the ever-popular HBO series finished their fifth season strongly, keeping both the deeply personal scenes blended nicely with the messages that matter, something that’s accomplished by the talented Lena Dunham. Throughout the season, she showed us the joys of friendship in a beautiful display of talent as the show readies itself for its sixth and final season. Meanwhile on Netflix, Jane Fonda balances out co-star Lily Tomlin on “Grace and Frankie,” which has matured throughout their second season into a story of interwoven love and woe during middle age. Mindy Kaling continues to shine on “The Mindy Project,” where she’s her own superstar, much like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” ’s Ellie Kemper, or the embodiment of the joys of childhood. Both of these leading ladies march to the beat of their own drums — television wouldn’t be the same without them. The same goes for late night comedian Amy Schumer, whose performances on “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Trainwreck” were rivaled by no other comedian. Amy took us on a comedic roller coaster this season through her normally absurd and out of proportion life struggles that are both relatable and awkwardly hilarious to all who come to watch.
Sam Rosenberg, Daily Arts Writer:
Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin”
Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Aya Cash, “You're The Worst”
Gillian Jacobs, “Love”
Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Michaela Watkins, “Casual”
This past TV season may have included several great performances from male actors, but this season truly belonged to the ladies of comedy. Each of these six nominees made brilliant strides on their programs, shattering expectations by balancing their character's comedic and dramatic traits. Gina Rodriguez continues to pave the way for Best Emotive Acting and Strongest Female Character on Television as the titular protagonist in the CW's “Jane the Virgin.” Like Gina, Rachel Bloom has also proven to be a noteworthy performer and producer, having co-created, written, and starred in the CW's “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Aya Cash gave a bravura performance as the snarky redheaded music publicist Gretchen in the second season of “You're The Worst,” showcasing a new side of the show to hilarious and devastating effect. After the finale of the much-beloved “Community,” Gillian Jacobs continued to improve on her dynamic acting with her role as the troubled Mickey on Netflix's “Love.” Ellie Kemper did a surprisingly great job on the first season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” but she also transformed her role into a fully fleshed character during the show's excellent second season. Lastly, SNL alum Michael Watkins brought on her fantastic deadpan humor as struggling divorceé Valerie in Hulu's “Casual.”