Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, Kerry Washington, Scandal

Netflix/ABC/Richard Cartwright

The 2013 Emmy nominations are out and the drama acting categories feature a mix of old-timers like Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston along with newcomers like Kerry Washington and Robin Wright.

But if there's one thing several of these terrific performers have in common, it's that politics figure heavily in their shows.

Among those who can best attest to that is Kevin Spacey, who was nominated for Lead Actor in a Drama for his role as ruthless congressman Frank Underwood in Netflix's House of Cards.

The Oscar winner's penchant for breaking the fourth wall to discuss his Machiavellian manipulations has garnered wide critical praise on its way to helping the streaming service score an impressive 14 nominations. It also marks the first year the Emmys feature nominees whose programs were delivered to TV viewers exclusively online.

Spacey was previously nominated for 2008's HBO film Recount and 2006's made-for-TV movie Bernard and Doris. His run for Emmy will be contested by Jeff Daniels, who's crashing the acting party for the first time after snagging a nomination for playing hardheaded cable news anchor Will McAvoy on The Newsroom.

The pair will battle it out with Cranston, who's already won three trophies for his seminal role as chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White on Breaking Bad; Homeland's Damian Lewis and Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville, who both just secured their second noms; and Jon Hamm, who's Emmy's perennial loser, having gone home empty-handed six straight times for Mad Men.

House of Cards


As for Wright, who plays Spacey's wife on the David Fincher-produced series, this is her first primetime bid in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series category (she previously earned three Daytime noms in the mid-'80s for her work on the soap Santa Barbara).

She'll go up against Washington—whose role as a crisis management guru on Shonda Rhimes' D.C. thriller Scandal has garnered her acclaim over three seasons—and another newbie, Vera Farmiga, who snagged a nod for her performance in A&E's Bates Motel.

Both will have plenty of tough competition in two-time Emmy winner Claire Danes (Homeland), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Connie Britton (Nashville) and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men).

Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

On the supporting-acting side, Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul—who's already won twice and announced today's nominations with surprise guest Neil Patrick Harris—picked up another nod. His rivals will include fellow castmember Jonathan Banks, Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire) and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), who earned his first Emmy for playing Tyrion Lannister in 2011 but lost last year.

The Supporting Actress in a Drama Series field is equally tough this year with Dame Maggie Smith a favorite to take home her first trophy for Downton. Standing in her way is a talented crop including Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men). Rounding out the category is Morena Baccarin, the Brazilian-born thesp who played one of the lead lizards in V a couple of years back and had an impressive turn on The Good Wife and whose Emmy breakthrough has finally come with her recent stint on Homeland.

Behind The Candelabra, Liberace, Michael Douglas, Matt Damon

Claudette Barius/HBO

Some major Hollywood muscle also made a big mark on the small screen and is being recognized this year for outstanding performance in the Lead Actor and Actress categories for miniseries or movies.

For the men, notable standouts include Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for their respective portrayal of Liberace and his lover in HBO's Behind the Candelabra and Al Pacino for his titular turn as legendary music producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector in the cable net's Phil Spector.

Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

David Giesbrecht/USA Network

As for the women, Pacino's costar and four-time winner Dame Helen Mirren was nominated for her part as Spector's defense attorney; Sigourney Weaver nabbed a nod for USA's miniseries Political Animals; two-time winner Jessica Lange pocketed one for American Horror Story: Asylum; and Laura Linney got a nom for The Big C: Hereafter.

In the guest actor categories, Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane both scored for their walk-on roles on The Good Wife, as did Harry Hamlin for Mad Men. Linda Cardellini earned the same for playing Don Draper's new mistress on the AMC hit series while Jane Fonda made Emmy headlines with a nomination for her guest shot on The Newsroom.

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