With the Emmy Award nominations being announced July 8, the races are heating up, and while people have their picks for the big categories like Outstanding Drama and Comedy Series, one smaller race is getting a lot of attention: Guest Actor in a Drama Series.

Most of the attention is directed at Friday Night Light‘s star Zach Gilford.  Hollywood stars are lining up to sing his praises and a Facebook page dedicated to getting him an Emmy nomination is already up-and-running.  Anyone who saw his heartbreaking performance in “The Son” where his character, Matt Saracen, copes with the death of his father knows exactly why he has all this support.

Join the Zach Gilford Emmy Campaign Facebook Group>>

However, this race is about more than just Gilford.  While past years saw the category dominated by true guest stars in procedurals (The Practice once went on an unprecedented streak by winning this award five years in a row), this year is all about recurring actors.

In the past, the Guest Acting category was limited to actors who appeared in six or fewer episodes of a show, but with the popularity of recurring stars who appear in more than six, the rule was changed a few years ago.  Now anyone who’s listed as a guest actor can be submitted, even if you think they’re really a supporting actor.

For instance, Gilfrod appeared in eight of Friday Night Lights‘ 13 episodes this season, which would have made him ineligible just a few years ago.

But that’s nothing.  Here are some of the other top picks to watch who would’ve been ineligible a few years ago.

You can see a complete list of the actors submitted for Guest Actor in a Drama Series at Goldderby.

John Lithgow, Dexter: Lithgow played the supremely creepy Trinity Killer and was absolutely brilliant all year.  However, many people may be surprised to learn that he’s competing for a guest Emmy despite being in every episode of the show’s fourth season and winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

Henry Ian Cusick, Lost: His submission could make the least amount of sense since he was credited as a series regular during the final season, though he only appeared in seven episodes.  But since this category is based on a single episode, Cusick’s performance in “Happily Ever After” might be good enough to get him in.

Gregory Itzin, 24: He already has an Emmy nomination for playing Charles Logan, but this year, showing up as the truly evil former president in the last eight hours, he could get nominated for the same role in a different category.

Robert Morse, Mad Men: The old man who puts the Cooper in Sterling-Cooper was in 11 of the season’s  13 episodes, but since he scored a nomination for his nine episodes in season 1, he could do it again.

Alan Cumming, The Good Wife: After seven episodes as the bad-ass campaign manager Eli Gold, Cumming will return as a series regular, but for now he could earn an Emmy nomination for his Rahm Emanuel-esque performance.

Walton Goggins, Justified: The criminal who found God, Goggins was absolutely robbed of an Emmy for his work in the final season of The Shield, so perhaps his nine episodes here could make up for that injustice.

Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins, Sons of Anarchy: As a pair of white supremacists, these two were scary good all season in their 11 episodes and both deserve some serious consideration.

Ted Danson, Len Cariou and Dominic Chianese, Damages: Damages has the best cast on TV, and for proof, the Guest Actor category has three previous Emmy nominees under consideration and all of whom would be deserving.

We’ll find out which of these stars, if any, are able to make the cut when the six nominees are announced July 8.

(Image courtesy of NBC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.