One of the country's most famous actresses led the way for the British pack hoping to win gongs at the Emmy Awards.

Dame Maggie Smith picked up an award for her portrayal of the grand Dowager Countess of Grantham in TV hit Downton Abbey.

The veteran star saw off competition from her co-star Joanna Froggatt, who plays domestic servant Anna, to win the prize for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series.

Meanwhile, British actor Damian Lewis hailed a "golden age" of television as he scooped an award for his portrayal of an American soldier in hit show Homeland.

Lewis won the outstanding actor in a drama series gong for his role as a US soldier who is saved from a hostage situation in the Middle East, but sparks the suspicions of the FBI who think he may have been "turned" and could present a terrorist threat on home soil.

In his acceptance speech, the former Band Of Brothers star said: "What an extraordinary honour to be in a category with these golden actors setting a gold standard in acting in a golden age of TV."

Homeland also won the Emmy for best drama, breaking the stranglehold in the category held by Mad Men.

Mad Men was seeking its record fifth straight Emmy, but was beaten by Homeland starring Claire Danes as a CIA agent and Lewis as her investigation target. Danes also took the outstanding actress in a drama series Emmy for her portrayal of mentally disturbed Carrie Mathison.

Elsewhere, Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen claimed supporting actor awards in the comedy category.

And Two and a Half Men's Jon Cryer proved the show is thriving despite the departure of Charlie Sheen by winning the best comedy actor Emmy, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus was honoured as best actress in a comedy for Veep.