Since premiering last January, Scandal has taken the world by storm. What started off as a jam-packed, dramatic, 6-episode run on ABC launched a cult phenomenon with a huge social media following, and with the Season 2 cliffhanger, we can’t imagine what’s ahead in Season 3 of the Shonda Rhimes drama.

With awards season just around the corner, we wanted to take a moment to single out three of Scandal’s top performers. Though the entire cast is stellar, this trio stands out as the most likely and worthy for Emmy nominations. Read on to see our picks, and then hit the comments with your suggestions. If you haven’t watched yet, there are spoilers ahead, so bookmark this page and hop on Netflix before you read.

Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope)

Scandal’s leading lady has the show handled. Kerry delivers each of Olivia Pope’s fast-paced, sharp-tongued lines effortlessly, reeling us in to every case and dramatic moment. Though her team of Gladiators is fantastic, they wouldn’t be anything without their leader, and boy, does she lead. She may have a tough exterior, but seeing Olivia at her most vulnerable — from helping Huck cope with traumatic memories to dealing with genuine fear after Fitz was shot — made for some of the most memorable (and Emmy-worthy) scenes in Scandal history. Sometimes we’re unsure whether to be scared of or scared for Liv, but at the end of the day, this “fixer” can handle anything — especially Fitz, the very married President of the United States who she’s in love with. “You want me? Earn me!” will also remain the intense equivalent of Grey’s Anatomy’s “Pick me, choose me, love me” for all time.

Guillermo Diaz (Huck)

As we’ve seen on shows like Dexter, serial killers can be empathized with — but only if they deliver a stellar performance. While Huck isn’t as charming as Dexter Morgan, portrayer Guillermo Diaz impresses us week after week with incredible, heartbreaking, and shocking scenes. For him, it’s not just whip-smart dialogue, but portraying emotion without being emotional. There have been plenty of standout moments for him, but instead of going through multiple episodes, we will just highlight “Seven Fifty-Two,” in which we saw Huck’s backstory for the first time. Not only did he once have a family, but he was forced to abandon them, lest they be killed, and he was starved and tortured for so long that he forgot about them until the memories came flooding back one day. What did the episode title mean? It was the time that homeless, completely unrecognizable Huck sat and waited to see a glimpse of his family at the train station, even though he could never interact with them again. We cry just thinking about it, and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Guillermo’s intense and incredible performances.

Katie Lowes (Quinn Perkins)

Though you never could have predicted what Quinn Perkins would become when we first met her in Season 1, her character and storylines blossomed throughout the two seasons, completely transforming her. While most people pegged her as a slightly mousy, confused, and sometimes annoying character, you would never describe her that way now. Mostly in Season 2, we saw her start to work closely with Huck, and in turn, she ended the season by torturing intel out of someone by drilling into his thigh. Portrayer Katie Lowes explained to Wetpaint Entertainment at ATX Television Festival that she had an “absolute blast shooting that scene” and would be “totally game if it continued in that way,” which means there’s potential for more intense moments with blood splattered across Quinn’s face — on purpose. Though we’re a bit terrified, we love this side of Quinn (especially considering that most of her storyline was uncovering that she’s really Lindsey Dwyer) and would love to see her tackle even crazier and dramatic storylines come Season 3.

Credit: Celebified Photo: Scandal's Katie Lowes and Dan Bucatinsky Talk Season 3 and That Infamous Drill Scene — Exclusive
Alyse Whitney is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @AlyseWhitney.