before emmy nominees Before they were Emmy nominees: Past gems from Sofia Vergara, Alec Baldwin and moreSome people are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them, and some achieve greatness after dying an ignominious death on “Knots Landing.”

Such is the case for pretty much all of acting nominees at the 2011 Primetime Emmys. They’re at the top of the TV heap now, but it wasn’t always that way. Like most actors, their current success comes after time spent toiling away in thankless bit parts, regrettable paycheck roles and others that are just plain forgotten.

Or would have been forgotten, but for the magic of the Internet. We’ve compiled a gallery featuring all 88 of the acting nominees this year and some of their more, uh, vintage work, but we wanted to highlight a few of them here as well.

We’ll start with the aforementioned “Knots Landing” death, suffered by Alec Baldwin, who’s now an 11-time Emmy nominee and two-time winner for “30 Rock.” He spent two seasons on the CBS soap in 1984-85; it was his first big prime-time role, and it ended rather badly for his character, Joshua Rush. How badly? Take a look:

Sofia Vergara earned her second nomination for “Modern Family” this year. She hasn’t had as long a career as a lot of her fellow nominees (her work in the U.S. stretches back only a decade or so), but she’s had the usual ups and downs of her chosen profession. One of the downs, at least in terms of ratings, was ABC’s short-lived 2007 comedy “The Knights of Prosperity.” We liked it, but not many others did. Here, she joins the crew headed by Donal Logue that’s plotting to rob Mick Jagger’s house:

Like Baldwin, Laurence Fishburne has multiple Emmy nominations and two wins to his credit; he’s up for best lead actor in a miniseries or movie this year for the HBO film “Thurgood.” He was also Cowboy Curtis on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”:

Mariska Hargitay is an Emmy perennial for “Law & Order: SVU” — her nomination this year is her eighth consecutive one, and she won the award for best actress in a drama in 2006. That was 18 years after she had a run on “Falcon Crest” as Carly Fixx:

The Emmys air Sunday, Sept. 18 on FOX.

Posted by:Rick Porter