Sunday, June 23, 2013

Emmy Roundtable Discussions 2013

Emmy Roundtable:  Comedy Actresses
(By Stacey Wilson and Lacey Rose, Hollywood Reporter, 19 June 2013)

Betty White has the power to take a supporting role and steal every scene she's in. And she's not alone. The six funny ladies invited to chat on a warm afternoon -- Kristen Bell, 32 (Showtime's House of Lies); Mayim Bialik, 37 (CBS' The Big Bang Theory); Zosia Mamet, 25 (HBO's Girls); Kaitlin Olson, 37 (FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia); Jessica Walter, 72 (Netflix's Arrested Development); and White, 91 (TV Land's Hot in Cleveland) -- represent the best of TV's co-stars. They chatted about their strangest auditions, biggest onscreen crushes and the industry idols who have inspired them along the way. Says Olson, "I've learned to not care what other people think and just make myself laugh."

The Hollywood Reporter: When did you first know that you were funny?

Kaitlin Olson: I started doing plays in summer camp when I was 12. In Alice in Wonderland, there was a crying scene. My parents were in the front row laughing, and I was like, "Oh, you like this?" so I started hamming it up. That was the first time where I was like, "OK, I like everyone looking at me and laughing."

Kristen Bell: I never knew if I was funny at all. I'm not sure I am!

Betty White: When you look like that, you're not expected to be funny. (Laughter.)

Bell: I went to theater school and wanted to be a serious actress. When I came to L.A., the first thing I booked was an episode of The Shield where I was raped and tattooed on the face.

Olson: Hilarious!

White: What a fun show.

Bell: Then I booked Veronica Mars. I didn't realize that what I was doing on the show -- which was snarky -- was considered funny. People told me, "You're kind of a comedic actress." I was like, "I am?"

Zosia Mamet: I had the same experience. When I was younger, I kept getting these [drama] auditions, and people would laugh. I thought, "What's going on here?" Then I started booking comedies and playing silly, witty people. People wanted me to do more of that.

Bell: It's awkward when you think you're doing something sincere and everyone is laughing.

Jessica Walter: I couldn't get a sitcom until I was 40! I had done only dramatic roles in films, TV and plays. And Ellen Travolta, who was on Joanie Loves Chachi, got me on that show. From then on, I got comedies. Now I'm having trouble getting a drama!

White: The tough part about comedy is that you get an instant review. In drama, you can act all over the place. "Wow, look at her acting, isn't it wonderful?" But with comedy, if you don't get the laugh, you bomb.

Mayim Bialik: When I was 10, I went to public school in L.A., and I did shtick for kids at the bus stop. One of my favorites was this spot-on mimicry of this girl in our class. I was not cruel at all, and I was actually very friendly with her. It was then that I realized the subtle line between mimicking someone to the delight of other people because it's so spot-on but without being nasty.

White: Can you still do it?

Bialik: Yeah, but now it might be mean!

THR: What is the best advice you've ever received about comedy?

Walter: I've learned more about acting and life and love from my husband [actor Ron Leibman] than anybody. And we've always looked at comedy from the character's viewpoint. What is the goal? What are the relationships? With Arrested Development, they write in such a character-specific way that it's never "joked." And that's how we approach it.

White: And sex helps. (Laughter.)

Olson: I learned a lot of technical stuff at the Groundlings. But really, what I've learned is to not care what other people think and just make myself laugh.

Bell: My husband [actor-comedian Dax Shepard] has always said the same thing. You have to accept that it's subjective.

Olson: It just turns into a different thing, which is trying too hard, and that isn't funny.

White: But isn't it human nature to feel that the person who doesn't laugh -- the one dozing in the first row -- is the one you most worry about?

Olson: Oh, yeah, I'll take that personally.

White: It's all you can think about!

THR: Zosia mentioned getting strange feedback in auditions. Have others experienced this as well?

Olson: In one pilot season, I auditioned for this comedy series. The woman was like, "No, you need to be really, really sad. Please do it again." And I did it sadder with crying, but thought it didn't make any sense because it's for a comedy. After, she called my manager and said, "She needs to take an acting class. She was not following the direction. I wanted her to just be funnier and bigger." I was like, "What the?"

White: Oh, give me a break!

Mamet: It was backwards day.

Olson: You should never audition on backwards day.

Mamet: Never. It always f---s you.

White: I'm going into my 66th year in this business, and it's been a while since I've auditioned. But the stage fright -- I can still feel it here. [Touches her chest.] Even if I'm just on a game show, I have that same thing. It's almost sadistic. You don't want to not feel it.

Mamet: It keeps you human.

Walter: I had a voice audition -- I do a lot of voiceovers, including Archer -- for Borden milk. I got past the first set and then went upstairs to the ad agency -- this was in the days when they did that -- and they said, "We want the moo of a cow that has been happily married for 10 years." I said, "So not 11, not nine, you want 10? OK." And I mooed. I didn't get the part.

Bialik: As a character actress, which is what it's called when you look like me, you often get auditions where the description of the character is "homely" or "fat." For this one part, they used the word "zaftig," which is Yiddish for plump -- or "healthy," as my parents used to say. I go in wearing this drawstringy dress -- she's supposed to be a frumpy secretary -- and they had me model for the camera before I read my lines; say my height and weight, turn to the side and film me up and down like I was auditioning for a porn film. So I did my five lines and called my manager after and was like, "They asked for my measurements, and I didn't think it would matter." She said, "Oh, you didn't see the rewrites? The character is no longer zaftig."

Walter: Oh my God.

Bialik: And there I was in my frumpy dress!

THR: What bugs you the most about the business today?

Bell: It's the sub-business that has been created around it. I just had a baby, and [it's] the amount of decisions that I have to make on a daily basis when leaving the house. My baby is not a public figure, and I don't know if she wants to be a public figure. I'm certainly not going to make that decision for her. There's just so much maintenance that goes into the privacy.

White: For me, I don't think the business has changed. The audience has changed. When I started, television was in New York, and everything was new and fresh. Today, the audience has heard every joke, knows every storyline and knows where you're going before you even start. So that's a hard audience to surprise.

Mamet: The first scene that we ever shot for Girls was in Tompkins Square Park on a Friday in the middle of the day. People walking by, nobody knew who we were. And then our second season, we shot about a block away from there, on a Friday afternoon, and we were surrounded by paparazzi. It's so incredibly distracting, and there's nothing you can do about it. You know, they shoot through an entire scene and try to figure out what our plotlines would be. And suddenly, you're having to fight this whole other beast on top of everything else.

THR: Mayim, you started acting very young and were a public figure even when you were still a kid. Then you left the business to get an education. What was the biggest adjustment in making a multicam sitcom again?

Bialik: The cameras are smaller now! Chuck Lorre works differently, you know, than anyone I've ever worked with. But there was no Internet when I was on Blossom, there was no publicity. I could look 14 when I was 14, and I could look 16 when I was 16. Now when I see what girls are supposed to wear -- even to publicity things when they're 15 --it's astonishing to me. Not necessarily even just sexualization stuff but what is expected in terms of your presence. No one cared what I looked like when I went out. The standards were so different.

White: Hang in there until you're 91. It gets much easier. (Laughter.)

Bialik: One thing I remember from sitcoms of the '80s and '90s was when the producers and the director would be in a booth and you'd get your notes announced over a loudspeaker in front of the live audience, like the voice of God. "That wasn't funny, Mayim. Try it again." Now, directors whisper notes to you. But, you know, Jim Parsons can't imagine that you had your notes shouted over a loudspeaker during a taping in front of 300 people.

White: "Button the top button on your blouse!"

Bialik: "We can see your underwear!"

Walter: What bugs me about the business is a lack of respect for actors doing their work. Giving someone five pages of dialogue five minutes before they're supposed to shoot the scene? It never was like this! In the old days, you'd get a script two weeks ahead. You just have to adjust.

Bialik: Our stuff changes in front of a live audience.

Walter: Yeah, I think on a multicam, having done several, it's that way. But to me, on a single-camera when they do that, and it's five pages -- no audience, you know, but five pages, here you go. I'm not happy with it. Can you tell?

White: I love multicams because you can just go ahead and do it, they're going to catch you, and the audience goes along with you. On a single-cam, you're there and then you have to go back and do it for the close-up. … We're doing comedy! By that time, you've beaten the poor joke to death.

Walter: That's why I love theater. When all is said and done, the curtain goes up, and from beginning to end, it's yours.

THR: What do you do when you're given a script and your lines aren't funny?

Bialik: Make it funny.

Olson: On my show? Change it. Most of the time it's about, "How can I just tweak it a little bit?" We have the luxury of doing that on my show. So, if I'm not funny, it's my fault.

White: Don't play it for comedy. Play it as honestly as you can. The audience makes up their minds. It's the honesty they respond to rather than the reading.

Olson: That brings me to my answer to the thing that bothers me the most about this business, which is auditions. It's a bummer because I have the nerves that you're talking about. They don't make me funny. I get self-conscious.

Walter: Also, there are people who are great auditioners, and then they come up to the set and -- nothing. And people who are really uncomfortable auditioning are really brilliant when they get comfy on the set. It's crazy.

White: And don't you always kind of get a little crush on your leading man?

Olson: You're supposed to. I married mine [It's Always Sunny showrunner Rob McElhenney].

Walter: I married mine, too. But I've had other leading men who were to die for. I've had James Garner

White: Not too shabby!

Walter: … Clint Eastwood, Charlton Heston.

Olson: Affairs with all of them?

Walter: No affairs! Just big crushes.

White: You know something else that ticks me off is when young, newer actors complain. And a couple of times I've lost it and said, "Do you have any idea how many people on this planet would give their lives to be doing what we're doing? Get into another line of work. Don't sit here on this set and take someone else's job!"

Bell: If I walk into that hair and makeup trailer or walk onto that set and there are a bunch of Debbie Downers -- you really think we have it that bad? Because we don't! It's very troubling to be around, and it sets my vibe off, and I'm just …

Mamet: We're in the most voluntary profession. For the most part, people actually 100 percent choose to do this job, and it beats working!

Walter: Also, there are actors who come in for five lines, and they don't know them. They mess it up, and some of your stuff is dependent on those five lines. That's really frustrating.

White: That's unforgivable!

THR: A few of you have mentioned stage fright. How do you cope with it?

Bialik: I don't know. I need it! It's like brushing my teeth in the morning. It's what my body does when I get ready to go on.

Walter: It energizes me actually. I don't know what it would be like without it, honestly.

White: That's why flirting with your leading man works. It keeps your attention. (Laughter.)

Bell: Sometimes it can run away with you. And no matter how prepared I am, that lump in the back of my throat will not go away. I've actually started meditating, and it honestly sets my brain at a place -- it's just 20 minutes that I'll meditate before I have a scary day on set or something that I'm anxiety-ridden about. And it takes my brain to a completely calm and creatively cracked open space. And it lasts for like 10 hours. I feel like it's like taking a really, really good … nap.

Bialik: I thought she was going to say drug.

Olson: I do that, too. Meditate, deep breathing, a great song that you love turned up really loudly. Just reminding myself of -- I mean, I can't speak for everyone -- but I would guess that most actors are pretty insecure people, as you can tell. Everyone kind of came to this place from, like, some, whatever. I've got to remember that, you know what, it's not that important. So that wasn't the best British accent you've ever done? No one is talking about it.

Bialik: But they will.

Olson: Who cares?

Bialik: They'll tweet about it.

Olson: Your Irish accent will be perfect, you know? We're supposed to be funny, not perfect.

Mamet: Yeah, and someone might think a joke that you tell is the funniest f---ing thing they have ever heard, and someone else could be like, "Who is this bitch?" And it's the great thing of, like, remembering that no one is dying. We're not heart surgeons!

THR: Who are your comedy idols?

Walter: Hello ... Betty!

Olson: Me too.

Walter: You! [To White.]

White: What?

Walter: I'm bowing down to you.

White: Oh, please!

Walter: By the way, do you remember in about 1962, at the Northland Playhouse in Detroit, we were in Who Was That Lady together?

White: Yes, of course we were!

Walter: I was saving sharing that for this moment.

White: That was fun.

Mamet: And we're here to witness it!

Walter: It was this huge rubber dome of a theater, and everybody said it looked like the world's biggest diaphragm.

Bialik: Betty excluded, I loved Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. But also male actors like John Ritter. Carol really, really appealed to me because I was a character-y kind of kid, and she played different parts. Tracey Ullman, too, had a huge impact on me when I was a teenager.

Mamet: She's an exceptional human.

Olson: Both of those and Gilda Radner. And not because Betty's here, but my husband and I still watch The Golden Girls when we want comfort.

Walter: Yeah, my God.

White: Oh, I tell you … I started out with Mary Tyler Moore, and it was such a privilege to work with those people. Then The Golden Girls, and my lord, it was just unbelievable, and we all adored each other. And now I've got Hot in Cleveland with yet another group of wonderful women. How lucky can you get? Once, maybe, twice maybe, but three times in a career? And now I'm sitting here with all of you. That ain't bad.

Bell: Other than Betty, I still am very obsessed with Catherine O'Hara. The Christopher Guest movies had such an effect on me when I was growing up. I saw This Is Spinal Tap, and my mind was blown. And Waiting for Guffman is still, like, my favorite movie of all time.

THR: What current shows would you love to guest star on?

Olson: Arrested Development.

Walter: Aw, I knew I liked you. For me, House of Cards. I'm so hooked on that show. I said, "You know, let's see what Netflix is doing because Arrested is going to be on it …" then I became a binge-watcher. And I'd love Homeland, too.

Bell: I'm currently doing that with Game of Thrones. I want to wear one of those cloaks, have the dragon baby. You can even go online and see where Winterfell is in relation to Westeros.

Olson: OK, it's gone too far.

Mamet: I wasn't allowed to watch TV growing up, but I recently started watching Nashville and became unhealthily obsessed.

Olson: Connie Britton is amazing!

Mamet: She's the most amazing female human specimen. I want to work with her, and now I want to be a country singer!

Bialik: My adult life is like your childhood. I actually don't watch television. I don't want to say I have shame about it, but it's very awkward to be so much a part of the industry and be so out of touch.

White: By the time I get around to sitting down after catching up with mail and turning the set on, it's news time. So I watch the news, and then I'll maybe watch Jay Leno or, you know, one of the late shows. But I don't watch the television that I should. And it's a sin!

Bell: It's because you work like a firecracker, Betty.

Walter: You've got to stop.

White: Well, thank you very much. But you're trying to get rid of me, and you can't. I ain't going.



Emmy Roundtable: Comedy Actors On Failed Pilots And Mean Fans
(By Stacey Wilson and Lacey Rose, Hollywood Reporter, 13 June 2012)

Perhaps it was the vacation-inspired environs of the Bungalow at the Fairmont hotel in Santa Monica that put the performers in such a carefree state of mind. Or it could be that each of the comedy actors who assembled for a candid conversation about their bizarre livelihoods was so different from the other, their union played out like a well-cast ensemble performance: The Network Veteran: Matthew Perry, 43 (NBC's departed series Go On); The New Guy: Jake Johnson, 35 (Fox's New Girl); The Sketch Guy: Fred Armisen, 46 (IFC's Portlandia, NBC's Saturday Night Live, from which he departed in May); The Lovable Nerd: Jim Parsons, 40 (CBS' The Big Bang Theory); The Straight Man: Adam Scott, 40 (NBC's Parks and Recreation); and The Scene-Stealer: Eric Stonestreet, 41 (ABC's Modern Family). They tackled with spirited candor the parts of the business that bug them, their worst acting gigs and the jobs they might have if they weren't actors (warning: don't use the word "penal" with this group).

The Hollywood Reporter: What is the craziest thing you've ever done for a laugh?

Fred Armisen: I don't think we want to answer that.

Matthew Perry: That we've decided to spend our lives pretending to be other people. That's the craziest thing. As opposed to doing something else. Or something funny. Or some funny answer that I could have thought of.

Eric Stonestreet: Putting on a wig. As a kid, that was the first stupid thing I did to make someone laugh.

THR: How old were you?

Perry: 32.

Stonestreet: There are pictures of me from 5 on wearing a wig. I'm like, "Who in the hell put me in this wig?" "Oh, you always wanted to wear wigs. Always wanted to wear wigs and makeup." Did I? OK, all right.

Armisen: Is that a wig?

Stonestreet: This is a wig.

Armisen: It's a good one.

Stonestreet: Thank you. It's expensive.

Jake Johnson: When I was a kid, I used to do talk shows with my family where I would be the host, my siblings would be the guests, and I would draw on a little bit of chest hair and a mustache.

Adam Scott: I like that the talk-show host had chest hair.

Johnson: Yeah. I knew the kind of guy I wanted to be at, like, 7.

Stonestreet: Who was your inspiration? Which talk-show host that had a lot of chest hair?

Johnson: I can't answer that.

Stonestreet: What public-access shows were you watching?

Johnson: I can't answer that for certain.

Scott: Burt Reynolds did guest-host The Tonight Show all the time.

Johnson: Yeah, that's interesting.

Armisen: Was he just un-shirted?

Johnson: In my 7-year-old's fantasy version, it was open-shirted and mustache. My cousin always played a football player, my brother was a politician, my other cousin, Teresa, was a hooker.

Stonestreet: Curious, what's she up to these days?

Johnson: Just chilling out, she's around, great gal.

Stonestreet: Yeah, I'd love to meet her.

Scott: She's your agent.

Johnson: She's here, actually, somewhere.

Armisen: You know, you could pitch that show now. You've got the power to get it out there.

Johnson: That's right.

Jim Parsons: I liked talk shows, too, but I only just wanted to come out from behind the curtain. I did that a lot when I was very young, like Johnny Carson, but I didn't want to do the rest of the job. Or maybe I just didn't have the energy to organize everybody in the family to do the whole thing.

Johnson: But you'd do the walk out.

Parsons: Oh, yes. That and [wear] Mr. Rogers' sweater -- I wanted to take a sweater out of the closet.

Perry: How often did you do that?

Parsons: I don't know. It stopped around 3 or 4?

Scott: That's also a high-concept idea for a talk show. Just coming out from behind a curtain, roll credits, and it's done.

Stonestreet: You could get advertisers to pay for it.

THR: If you could change one aspect of the TV business, what would it be?

Stonestreet: The way actors get jobs for TV shows. The whole test process is kind of old-fashioned, where you go in front of a room of execs wearing suits, multiple times, to get your job, versus putting a performance on tape and letting an editor edit it for the best performance. In reality, that's what happens on our TV shows.

Johnson: I had to test in front of everybody.

Stonestreet: Yeah, I did too.

Johnson: There's so much anxiety, it's a nightmare!

Stonestreet: It's like hazing in fraternities.

Johnson: It's smarter, especially with a single-cam show, to shoot it, edit it and see how an actor would actually be on the show.

Scott: I wonder about the psychology behind it; do they just want to see how much pressure you can take and still be competent? Ten years ago, I remember going in, and it was an arena full of people watching.

Stonestreet: My standard line would be, "I've done theater for less people than this."

Perry: The whole idea of making 100 pilots, paying for 100 pilots, but knowing you're only going to use seven is just such a crazy, ridiculous waste of money. I don't know how you fix that, but that just has always seemed ridiculous to me. If I were running a network, I think it would be nice to just put on a show that you think would be great. There's nothing wrong with putting on a show that 20 million people will watch, but aiming to put on a show that 20 million people will watch is not the smartest thing.

THR: Well, 20 million people don't watch primetime shows anymore.

Perry: Yeah, don't I know it! (Laughs.)

THR: Do you all pay attention to your ratings?

Scott: Sure.

Stonestreet: Absolutely.

Parsons: It dictates whether you get to keep your job.

Armisen: You get the e-mails -- all the time.

Johnson: We just finished season two. And we hear, "Oh, you guys will come back for sure," but if the ratings start really slipping on anything, they're not going to spend a lot of money if people aren't watching it. I think the actors who don't pay attention to it at all are on huge monster shows.

Scott: If I were running a network, which I will never do …

Stonestreet: I think that's selling yourself short.

Scott: You're right. When I run a network …

Perry: He really turned you around on that.

Johnson: So quickly.

Scott: I have made plans now, it's officially happening.

Stonestreet: I've changed my mind. I'd rather you not run a network.

Scott: OK, forget it, it's not going to happen.

Perry: You actually will make a great network person.

Scott: I'm just agreeing with everything everyone says! No, I would try and pick the right showrunners and then leave them alone. When there's constant network meddling, the shows get watered down.

THR: How involved are you guys with the notes process on your shows? Do they trickle down to you?

Scott: Not at all.

Stonestreet: Zero, zero.

Armisen: A lot. We go through them on Portlandia all the time, so it's about trying to find the balance between seeing if it's an actual valuable note or something to be ignored.

THR: Matthew, what is the biggest difference doing a comedy today versus during the Friends heyday?

Scott: The free Ferrari you get Friday morning?

Perry: Yeah. I mean, it's completely different. When Friends started, there was no cable, no hot food, no mass transit.

Stonestreet: It feels like just the other day.

Perry: No, it's just really a completely different thing. But I always have the same thing -- which is the fear of not getting a laugh -- that I've had from the time I was a kid; obsessing over "This joke doesn't quite work, we've got to get this right." I was always like that whether I was a member of a six-person ensemble or whether I'm the center of a show.

Parsons: The taping process was completely different too, right?

Perry: It was in front of a live audience and a 10-to-4 kind of job. And we only worked a third of the time.

Johnson: (To Stonestreet.) Like you.

Stonestreet: Take it easy.

Perry: Why in the world did we stop? We all decided, "You know what? Let's stop." But I'd love to get in a time machine right now and say, "Please, let's not stop!" (Laughter.)

Scott: Do you miss the live audience?

Perry: I do. Doing single-camera work is a completely different type of acting. It certainly breeds playing to the last row in the audience. It's a slightly bigger performance. I've gotten a kick out of being able to play something a little bit more real, but it really is so different.

Scott: That rush of the live audience, I imagine, would be very tough to give up and say goodbye to.

Perry: Yes … The big difference with single-cam work is that if your character is sad about something, or very angry, instead of just playing it exactly the way somebody would play angry or sad, you're sort of saying, "OK, I'm going to be angry and sad now, so watch this. You're going to enjoy it!"

THR: A lot of your characters are becoming iconic. Do you worry about being typecast?

Parsons: No. It wouldn't be fun to work under that worry. It can't matter, if that makes any sense. Are you supposed to backpedal and do less of a character? I don't know. I'm sure some people have a hard time seeing me in different roles. And that's OK. It's my job to keep doing other things, too; that's the only way around that, you know. Having that hurdle is fine.

Stonestreet: I always see it as reflective of the person. When people tweet me when they've seen me on American Horror Story or on a TV show I did well before Modern Family like, "Cam's in this episode of NCIS!" I can't take it seriously. I think: "You're stupid. You don't understand that's not Cam?" It's hilarious.

Perry: Just get ready. (Laughs.)

Scott: I was kicking around for like 15 years before having any semblance of success, so if I'm typecast, I'm like, great, fine. I'm just psyched to have a job. I feel kind of excited to be in danger of being typecast.

Stonestreet: Yeah, it's true.

Johnson: If you're typecast because you've done such a good job with a character that everybody loves it, you're awesome.

Perry: That's a hilarious way to think about it. Somebody goes, "Yo, Chandler!" and I just go, "[I have my own] Red Bull machine!"

Johnson: That's hilarious. That guy's going to be so confused.

THR: What are some funny or strange fan interactions you've had?

Armisen: I was going to the movies, and this woman came up to me and said, "I work at this bakery, here's a loaf of bread. I couldn't dump it. That would be rude, so I just had to take this bread with me to the movies. And it wasn't teeny, it was long.

Stonestreet: That's really sweet when you think about it.

Armisen: It's great.

Stonestreet: You give me laughs, I give you bread.

Scott: Did you end up eating it?

Armisen: Part of it. I couldn't do the whole thing.

Scott: It's a lot of bread.

Armisen: All carbs.

Parsons: Not what you would normally take into the theater to watch a movie.

Scott: Well, you don't, maybe.

Parsons: I was given a knit cap at a taping. We were in the middle of a scene, or between scenes, and so I was on the stage. I heard someone say, "I made a knit cap!" And I thought, "I'm not hearing this right," and it finally kept making its way down, and I had to kind of walk off the stage, get the knit cap and say thank you.

THR: Did you put it on?

Parsons: No, I was in show hair. I didn't want to cause anybody more work. But I thought that was very funny. I didn't know my character or I were big into knit caps.

Stonestreet: Because of the character I play, I register a tremendous amount of disappointment on people's faces when they meet me. Honestly. They're like, "Do Cam!" As lovely as I think you all think I might be, I'm nowhere near as lovely as people hope.

Scott: Well, that's fun for you.

Stonestreet: It is.

THR: And how do you "do" Cam?

Stonestreet: I don't!

Armisen: (Chanting.) Do it, do it, do it!

Stonestreet: I love it the most when people come up to me -- I can't imagine it happens to any of you guys because you're all extremely traditionally handsome -- but they tell me that I'm much better-looking in person and I'm not as heavy as they thought I would be. I usually tell them to go f--- themselves.

Perry: Do you?

Stonestreet: No, of course not. No, I'm always nice. "Well, thank you very much. That's so sweet."

Johnson: It could go the other way. "You are fatter, uglier and lamer in person."

Stonestreet: OK, Jake, stop it.

Johnson: The first season of the show, it really spooked me because I'd be in a supermarket, and I make eye contact with somebody. I'd register that they just recognized me, but they wouldn't be clear about it. And you're like: "If you're going to kill me, just do it. Whatever you're planning, just do it!"

Stonestreet: As actors, we're aware of people. I think the reason we're probably actors is that we're investigators, we're upward thinkers, we're paying attention to things. My nature is to say, "Hey, I see you circling me."

Johnson: That's right, and then all you're thinking about is, "I was on a nice train of thought."

Stonestreet: I was thinking about bread.

Johnson: And I was in a nice zone.

Stonestreet: But how do you do it?

Perry: Well, one thing is, you don't go to the grocery store anymore.

Stonestreet: Yeah, but I want to go to the grocery store. I like it there!

Parsons: I like grocery stores, too.

Perry: Then you guys have a real dilemma. (Laughter.) I go to L.A. Kings games all the time, and people can turn really fast. They're like, "Wow, I can't believe I'm meeting you, can I take a picture?" And I say: "It's nice to meet you. The only problem is, with so many people around, if we take a picture, it's going to start a whole thing." And they go, "Well, you're an asshole."

Armisen: So does that change the way you handle it or do you continue to say, "I can't do a photo right now?"

Perry: Yeah, [I continue to say no] because it's also such a different time. You never know where that picture's going to go.

THR: There were no camera phones during Friends' run.

Scott: And everyone has one on them at all times.

Perry: Everybody!

Stonestreet: That's why I love when people come up and ask for an autograph. That's such a cool, retro thing. It's like, "Yeah!"

Scott: Old school.

Stonestreet: "What's your first name?" It's like a genuine moment in time. A camera just reduces it. I was at a Chiefs-Patriots game, and this guy was walking down the aisle taking pictures of me, and I'm like, "Hey man, I'm just watching the game here." And he started cussing me out, saying that he's never watching the show again.

Perry: You can just say, "Lucky for me, 17 million other people will!"

Scott: My recognition depends on the demographic. I get a lot of love from caterers at events because of [my time on] Party Down. That's a great group to be in with when you're at the party.

Stonestreet: You don't go to acting school to learn how to deal with the things that come along with your dreams coming true. Thankfully, my dreams came true at 38, when I was able to really be grounded and smart with money.

Johnson: People take weird liberties that they wouldn't if I weren't on TV. I've honestly had my arms around some random dude, someone's taking a photo, and he goes, "I don't know who you are, but everybody else is doing it!"

Scott: Oh yeah, all the time.

Johnson: I'm like, "Your arm's on my back, man." I want to be like, "Thanks for not watching New Girl, dude, 'cause I know you don't!"

Stonestreet: I love when people feel the need to come up to you and say, "I don't watch TV."

Perry: I always mess with those situations. I always say, "Well, that's clearly not true."

THR: Is there a job -- acting or otherwise -- that you wish you could remove from your résumé?

Perry: I did a pilot about a guy who was in charge of separating aliens' luggage at the L.A. airport in the year 2194.

Stonestreet: When was that?

Scott: That sounds great.

Johnson: There's a real part of me that's interested.

Perry: I did that the same year, the same pilot season as Friends. It was called LAX 2194.

Scott: Is it on YouTube or anything?

Perry: It must be, I wore a futuristic shirt, and the aliens were little people, little people wearing wigs.

Scott: Such a bummer that didn't get picked up.

Stonestreet: Do you remember who the showrunner was?

Perry: It was a real show. Barry Kemp.

THR: The world would be a different place if that show happened.

Perry: I certainly wouldn't be sitting here.

Johnson: It's really funny to imagine your agents back then. "Matt, you're so good in both! Let's just see what happens."

Parsons: "They're both home runs!"

Armisen: For me, it would have been nice to not have worked in that many restaurants. (Laughter.) I think I have amnesia about it. I've deleted it from my life, but yeah, it would have been nice if it was scaled down. Also, working for a nightclub and having to put fliers up everywhere … and in bathrooms.

Parsons: That does sound terrible.

Armisen: It was awful, all these little packets of fliers to put in bathrooms. This was in Chicago.

Stonestreet: What year were you in Chicago?

Armisen: 1988 through 2000.

Stonestreet: Oh really? I was there 1996 to 1998. Did you ever put fliers up at 4443 North …?

Armisen: Yes!

Stonestreet: It explicitly said "No solicitors."

Armisen: I know, but there was a technicality where it was actually outside of your property, so we were totally allowed to do it.

Stonestreet: That ordinance did not pass. Not true, Fred.

Armisen: It did pass. Do the research, of course it passed!

Perry: There's a time and a place, fellas.

Armisen: Did we all get to go through all our embarrassing jobs?

Scott: For me, no matter how embarrassing at the time, it was probably a big deal to get an acting job. I've seen things pop up on TV, and it's embarrassing. But at the time, I was really excited, so who cares?

Armisen: Yeah, you're starstruck to be on a set. "Wow, I'm actually doing this."

Johnson: You also learn from them. A director once called me, and I told him I didn't like the script, I didn't like anything involved in it. It was a movie. And he's like, "I want to make Bottle Rocket." I was like, OK, Bottle Rocket's cool as hell. So I said yes. I got down there, and I'm like, "Why did I trust that?" You can't just listen to the movies the director wants to make. I want to make that too, but your track record says you're not making that movie!

THR: If you weren't acting right now, what would you be doing for work?

Parsons: Teaching theater. I loved being in school, especially college. I don't actually want to spend more than three days at the university, but I suspect I would actually have a higher tolerance for teaching.

Stonestreet: I was going to school to be a prison administrator. I was studying criminal justice. I wanted to work in the federal penal system. Penal … ha!

Scott: It sounds like "penis."

Stonestreet: Yeah, but it's penal. Not a penis.

Scott: Different meaning.

Perry: He didn't want to work in the penis system.

Stonestreet: No, not then.

Scott: Like a system made entirely …

Perry: Of penises.

Stonestreet: OK, correctional. But then I did a play in college, and people said I was good at it, and I was stupid enough to believe them, moved to Chicago, got solicited by this motherf--er (to Armisen).

Armisen: I was hired to do it!

Stonestreet: There's no doubt I would be doing that job. I was from Leavenworth, Kansas, and Leavenworth is known for its federal facility, its disciplinary barracks for the military -- it's a prison town. My dad knew a lot of people, so I had an in.

Perry: I just realized the first part of "penal" is exactly like "penis."

Scott: The second syllable is where it changes. It turns into a different word.

Stonestreet: You're really dwelling on that. I just should have said "correctional" system.

Scott: Since it starts out sounding like "penis."

Stonestreet: "Correction" sounds like "erection."

Scott: But it's almost more funny just because it ends up being something else entirely.

Perry: Right.

Scott: And you're just thinking about a big penis.

Armisen: The opposite, almost, in a sense.

Perry: I think there's something very unfair happening here. If you've won an Emmy, you should not be allowed here. (To Parsons and Stonestreet) You've both won Emmys. You know, let the people who haven't won anything come, you know?

Parsons: He wants them penalized.

Perry: So until that happens, until somebody rights that wrong, I'm going to talk about penal and penis.

THR: Who or what makes you laugh the most?

Scott: I like it when a word sounds like it's going to be "penis."

THR: We've moved on from that.

Stonestreet: Have we?

Armisen: Wait, so what's "penile"?

THR: That's actually an adjective for …

Perry: Having to do with the penis.

Armisen: Right. So penile implant would be of the penis.

THR: Right.

Scott: What about "penish"?

Armisen: That would be resembling a penis.

Scott: Right.

Johnson: I'll go through phases where there'll be something that makes me laugh the hardest. There's a character John C. Reilly does on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! named Dr. Steve Brule. It's ridiculous. The last two weeks, all I've done is watch Dr. Steve Brule until tears are coming out of my eyes.

Scott: I love Portlandia.

Perry: The hardest I've ever laughed is watching Steve Coogan doing Alan Partridge.

Armisen: So great!

Parsons: for years had a thing called "Monk-e-Mail," where you can type a message and e-mail it to somebody, and this monkey will read it in different voices that you pick. There's the wonderful woman, British voice, and different outfits the monkey will wear. I think it's been about eight years since I've dealt with this. But then a couple years later, somebody sends you one, and you go, "Hot damn, it's back!" Monk-e-Mail is back being funny as of a couple weeks ago.

Stonestreet: I forgot about Monk-e-Mail!

THR: Who are your comedy heroes?

Armisen: Chevy Chase. And Martin Lawrence. He was so great on his show. So much energy.

Stonestreet: Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. And we just lost Jonathan Winters, who, for my type specifically, was a true pioneer. And John Candy too.

Scott: For me, it's Steve Martin, David Letterman and Albert Brooks.

Perry: Michael Keaton.

Johnson: When I was growing up, no one made me laugh like Chris Farley.

Perry: I worked with Chris on his last movie. He was one of the very few people who on a daily basis made me laugh. I generally don't laugh. I'm just one of those guys who says, "Huh. That's really funny."



Emmy Roundtable: Comedy Showrunners

(By Stacey Wilson, Lacey Rose, Hollywood Reporter, 10 June 2013)

Matthew Carnahan, Greg Daniels, Bruce Helford, Liz Meriwether, Steve Molaro and Mike Schur also talk to THR about turning down product placement, their most absurd network notes and whether "Anger Management" is the model of the future.

When you get some of the top comedy showunners in a room together, it's only fitting that discussion would devolve rather quickly into a candid dissertation about F-bombs, condoms, what censors won't let you say in a scene inside a gynecologist's office and why NBC's 1980s sitcom Empty Nest might just be one of the medium's great underrated classics. Such was the case on an April afternoon in Hollywood when six Emmy contenders -- Matthew Carnahan, 52 (Showtime's House of Lies); Greg Daniels, 49 (NBC's The Office); Bruce Helford, 61 (FX's Anger Management); Liz Meriwether, 31 (Fox's New Girl); Steve Molaro, 45 (CBS' The Big Bang Theory); and Mike Schur, 37 (NBC's Parks and Recreation) -- gathered to talk about their craft. Although their series vary wildly in format and ratio of laughs per episode, the writer-producers agreed on plenty, including the urgent need to repair a broken ratings system and why it's more than OK to make a show not everyone will love.

The Hollywood Reporter: The Big Bang Theory notwithstanding, it's been a very tough year for network comedies. Why do you think this is the case?

Liz Meriwether: Oh my God.

Mike Schur: Well …

Greg Daniels: Steve, you answer so it feels real combative and judgmental about the rest of us.

Steve Molaro: I'm not saying anything. I'm doing as I'm told!

Schur: He should just take a nap on the table as we're talking about this. My wife [J.J. Philbin] writes for New Girl, the show Liz created and runs, and every week there's a story: "New Girl got like a 2.7 this week." What does that mean? And then three weeks later, "Well, when you factor in the people who watch it on DVRs, it gets a 41.6 or something." So, people are not watching less television; they're watching more television. They're just not watching it at the exact time that counts for that stupid number that comes out at 8 a.m. And until the entire town agrees, which we need to do, to ignore that number, it's going to seem like people are suddenly walking outside and enjoying the fresh air. This is America. They're inside watching television!

Matthew Carnahan: There's a binge factor, too, that's changed the way people consume television. This is a relatively new thing, but you have to factor it in. The old system of counting is broken.

Schur: Binging also gives people the option of waiting to see if shows stick around, right? You don't want to invest time in something if it is going to disappear, so you wait until season three or four and then watch 80 episodes of a show in a week.

Bruce Helford: But why would they have a fourth season when everybody waited till season four to watch? (Laughter.)

THR: Do the broadcast networks have the patience to wait and see today? Big Bang Theory didn't come out of the gate superstrong. Parks also needed time to grow, and you got it.

Schur: Yes, we did. They've been incredibly patient with us, which is great. But I don't think they have a choice. I don't think anyone has a choice. You can't force people to watch TV at exactly the moment that you want them to, and so the question isn't whether they should be patient. It's whether we can figure out how to make the current reality of the landscape work.

Helford Anger Management isn't on Netflix, so you catch it in reruns, and FX will re-air it, but a lot of cable shows you can catch later on. I go to my kid's college campus, and there's no TV set to be found. It's all laptops. It's all going to Netflix, it's all going to iTunes. When I get our overnights, I know they're absolutely meaningless. Anyone who's actually reporting the next day is doing a disservice to the shows, and to themselves. You see jumps on average I was told was something like a 20 [via DVR]. I know New Girl gets a huge jump. We ended up like an 80 percent or 90 percent jump in DVR-plus-7. No one can really gauge anything until those numbers are in. But the broadcast guys seem to still function on, "Who's watching live?" But you don't get all the advertising dollars when you had the DVR numbers. People who watch the DVR and watch the commercials is a surprisingly high number.

Meriwether: That blew my mind. I found out that they don't count DVR if you [don't watch the commercials]. It's like, who's actually doing that?

Helford: A shocking number of people actually are sitting there watching commercials. They don't have to. I don't know if they know they don't have to.

Daniels: Don't tell them. (Laughter.)

Meriwether: I know, I know. I heard that in some parts of the country, Nielsen ratings are still pencil and paper, people are still having to write down what [they're watching]. It feels so foreign to the actual reality of how people watch television. And we're totally kicking ass on DVR. I just want to make that clear, we're doing, like, Dallas numbers.

Daniels: But Hulu, you have to watch the commercials, right?

Meriwether: Yeah, and Hulu isn't counted, or iTunes.

Daniels: Right, but I assume that at some point, you'll be getting your NBC in a way that's similar to how people get Hulu, and you won't be able to zip through the commercials. At least I would hope that they will do that eventually.

Schur: I think you could make an argument that scanning through commercials is a more effective way to advertise. In the old system, when you were watching a show live, and a commercial came on, you would just get up and get a sandwich, and listen for the show to come back on. If I were Coca-Cola, I would make a 30-second ad that just said "Coca-Cola," and add a can. So even if you're scanning through it, you get like, eight seconds of a can.

Meriwether: We had to do product placement this year, and that was like a whole, I mean …

Schur: That's a whole other thing.

Meriwether: Kind of painful.

Molaro: We actually haven't had too much of it, at least that I'm aware of.

Daniels: Nice to have you with us, Steve!

Carnahan: I was just going to say that we haven't had to do that much of it.

Helford: We will whore ourselves out to anyone who wants to, I mean, we've got everybody. What's really going on is everybody's just putting their product in the thing. Somebody walks in a room with a bucket of KFC chicken or whatever, it's paid for, it's acknowledged, it's nothing under the table. When I was doing George Lopez, we were really insulted that they only wanted to put in Taco Bell, stuff like that.

Carnahan: We've rejected some, and we made some big deals to get a decent, sizable amount of money to show a phone through the whole course of the season. But yeah, we turned down some cheesy [products]. Our show in particular is about upscale people, and so there were certain …

Meriwether: Del Taco?

Carnahan: Del Taco we didn't reject. I'd be willing to talk to Del Taco! No, there were some products that would have been cheesy.

Meriwether: Well, we just made a mistake because we were like, "You know, if we're going to do product placement, we're really going to lean into it and put it front and center," which is not the way to do it. The way to do it is like, have somebody walk in with a bucket of KFC, and we were like, "No, we're going to, like, have her say Ford." We wanted to do it in a cool way, like 30 Rock sort of did it, but that's not our show, and so we tried and then everybody was just mad at us.

Helford: At least you can control it. For a while there, there was a digitally inserted thing, so you'd watch your show and all of a sudden there was a huge, huge box of Ritz Crackers double the size of a normal box sitting right in the middle of the table.

THR: On the creative side, Liz, how did you know it was the right time for your lead characters, Nick and Jess, to start a sexual relationship?

Meriwether: We got a product placement deal for condoms, so we were just building up to that big product placement. (Laughs.) No, it felt like holding it off any longer was going to feel like we were playing with the audience. I don't really believe in, "If they kiss, then the spark of the show is gone." I think that when people come together, it actually creates so many more opportunities for story, conflict, things to go wrong. We found that it really helped our show, kind of gave it focus. They were really good at kissing, too; it's fun to watch them make out.

Daniels: I really liked what you guys did this season.

Meriwether: He will not stop tweeting me about it! He's like, "Oh my God, LOL!"

Daniels: I think that you have a window, and you can miss your window, and then people get too invested in the characters who aren't supposed to be the ones whom they end up with. I've seen shows where in the beginning of the show, you're like, "Well, these two have some sparks," and then they're so worried about bringing them together that they give each of them another partner, and then after a little while the audience kind of gets more invested in the new partner, and they never get back to it. So I think you're totally right to be doing it when you're doing it.

Meriwether: Thank God.

THR: Steve, Big Bang fans are very engaged in social media. How much attention do you pay to what they want your characters to do and not do?

Molaro: I am affected by social media, but I try not to read too much of that. I think if we acted on a large number of tweets that were sent to me, Sheldon and Penny would have sex every week.

Schur: Which could be a good show.

Carnahan: Spinoff!

THR: What's been the most difficult or surprising part of taking over all the showrunner duties from Bill Prady this year?

Molaro: It's really easy -- Bill was just skating! Actually, Bill and I co-ran it for the last three years, so it really wasn't that much of a shock when he stepped back. The writing staff has just really stepped up, and I'm proud of the season that we did, and people seem to be happy with it so far. But writing jokes is hard. So I get to delegate that now!

Schur: I think I've delegated everything that I can without being fired for incompetence.

THR: What about notes? What's the funniest or most absurd one you've gotten in the past year?

Meriwether: We have a special relationship with our standards and practices department. We were doing a scene inside a gynecologist's office, and the e-mails back and forth were really outstanding. I have a couple framed in my office.

Helford: We started an arc where Charlie and his therapist-slash-girlfriend are doing a sex study a la Kinsey or Masters and Johnson, and so they have a room where they observe, through a two-way mirror, people having sex who are hooked to electrodes. And the note was, "Can you not have the sexual people being studied move up and down?" So I thought if they move horizontally, it's not considered a sexual act.

Meriwether: Like if the bed's going to move, it can't be rhythmic.

Molaro: I think last year, Amy [Mayim Bialik's character] was doing a nicotine addiction study, and we had a monkey that was smoking, and there was a joke -- Sheldon asked, "What have you learned so far in the study?" And [she said] "So far, the monkey looks so much cooler than all the other monkeys," and we were told, "You can't say that smoking makes you look cooler," even though it was about a monkey. So Chuck Lorre told the network that he will personally respond to all the letters from monkeys that get addicted to smoking because of our show. I think that joke stayed in and then was followed up with a monkey masturbating joke on top of it. It was like, "Do you have any other notes that you'd like us to reject?"

Helford: Sometimes you just pile in extra stuff [to distract them]. You give them a few you didn't want anyway.

Schur: That was the Saturday Night Live move. If you wanted to say a certain word that was borderline, you would just load up the rest of the sketch with the stuff that was absolutely not OK.

Helford: I can remember trading. "We're trading three 'damns' and an 'ass' for …"

Carnahan: We did that a lot when I had a show at FX.

Schur: It's like, "Look, we took 11 F-bombs out of that sketch, what do you want us to do?" They're like, "All right, fine, just …" At a certain point, you just wear them down.

Daniels: You know what's funny is that you said F-bomb instead of …

Schur: 'Cause I don't know if we're allowed to curse here!

Daniels: Right. I mean, we all know what he's saying, right? But the networks would have a problem with the character saying the word "F-bomb."

Schur: Yeah.

Daniels: Or bleeping. We would bleep things, and then they'd go, "Come on, guys, stop bleeping." But the bleeping's good, right? You're supposed to like the bleeping because it means that they didn't swear.

Schur: We found a creative way around that. We have the character whom we wanted to say, "What the F is going on here?" And they had a problem with that. So the line that we gave her was like, "What the mother-effing C-ing S-ing K-ing G-ing L-ing F is going on here?" And then our response is like she's insane. Those aren't swear words, she's just a crazy person. And they let us do it.

Meriwether: That's smart!

THR: Matthew, your show is more of a dramedy. In fact, most comedies today have a lot of dramatic elements, including New Girl, which had a very serious episode this year about Nick's father's death. Is this where the genre is heading?

Meriwether: Maybe that's why our ratings are going down. I'm joking, they're not!

Carnahan: I don't know. I think the last dramedy to win an Emmy was Ally McBeal, and that was a while ago, and it was an hour format. But that's not so much my concern. I see what my son watches. He's 15, and he likes funny, he likes jokes. I don't know if there's a trend toward dramedy. What do you guys think?

Helford: Some of it is just a perception of the visual look of something. Roseanne was a dramedy, and it was a multicam. I think when people see a single camera, they think it's going to be more dramatic, more like a film.

Daniels: You don't hear anybody laughing.

Helford: They're just seeing now the single-camera comedies, which God knows so many of us were trying to get started years ago and no one wanted to even think about doing it until the multicams went down for a while.

Molaro: I don't think my dad knows the difference!

Schur: I think it's all vestiges, too. When TV started, there was I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, and shows that looked like I Love Lucy were comedies, and shows that looked like Gunsmoke were dramas. Today it's gone from four channels to 1,000, and there are 300 million people. Emmy classification is problematic. What do you do? Do you start adding more categories? What's Nurse Jackie? What's Californication? They're half-hour shows, which makes people think about I Love Lucy; but they don't have laugh tracks, and that makes people think about Gunsmoke. It's really about, what do people like? Its gets a little dicey when you start trying to classify any show.

Meriwether: Don't you think there is more emphasis on the emotional side of all comedies that are on the air right now? There's more emotional stuff [on TV] than I remember when I was growing up.

Helford: There was a really superficial period of sitcoms after Roseanne went down and some of the other shows that had a lot more substantive stuff.

Daniels: But Seinfeld was so dominant, and it was so unemotional.

Meriwether: Right.

Helford: Very true.

Carnahan: I will say that in terms of a trend, comedies are much "voicier" than they used to be. I feel like there is much more a sense of the voice of the person at the helm of the show, which I like. I like to turn on your show and hear your voice.

Schur: They feel more specific or something.

Carnahan: They feel specific to the voice of the person who thought them up, or who is running them.

Meriwether: And the networks actually want that.

Carnahan: I think so.

Meriwether: Which is surprising.

THR: Bruce, before Anger Management launched, you said if the 10/90 model was successful, it could fundamentally change the way TV gets made. Do you feel now, well over 40 episodes in, you're there? And do the rest of you look at what he's doing and think that sounds appealing or terrifying?

Helford: It already is changing the business. George Lopez, Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence are all doing them now because it's simple economics: The show costs half the money, and if you lay it out properly, you're strong in your organizational skills and you have a good writing staff, you can do the same quality of show for half the money and in half the time. It took me five years to get to 100 Drew Careys; it will take me two years to get to 100 Anger Managements. That's also good for the actors because they don't have to spend as long getting typecast in the role, they get to re-create themselves sooner and not be on the air for six to nine years. For the creators, you get to move to a new project after that, it moves to syndication faster, and the truth is, the process is actually, in many ways, easier, except for the writing staff. So it will change. But because we're shooting so many in advance -- we have probably 20 shows that haven't aired yet -- I have to anticipate when the audience will want certain things, or when we feel right to change the dynamic of the characters. We've had conversations with FX about: When will the writers get bored and decide to change things? Can the audience go longer with the same dynamic and love it and not want it to change? It's tricky to have to decide way in advance.

THR: Lionsgate keeps turning to veteran showrunners to run these 10/90 projects, but each time they seem to be people who haven't done a lot of recent TV work. Why do you think that is?

Helford: It's organizational skills or their kids are now in college and they want to come back. In my case, my kid was off to college, and I was like, "OK, let's try a challenge, I know this will be a challenge." At one point, I did 100 episodes in one season when I had four shows going.

Daniels: You're 300 years old.

Helford: Yeah, I'm approaching 800 episodes of television, half-hour television.

Meriwether: Oh my God.

Helford: [Writer-director] Sam Simon recently pointed out to me, "You're shooting 25 pages a day, and you're writing about seven. You need to pick it up." So we broke into two writing rooms, and did all the things that you wouldn't have to normally do when you have a full week to do one episode.

Meriwether: So you shoot 25 pages a day of one episode?

Helford: We shoot two shows a week. We're on the air for 90 weeks in a row, so I have to deliver the episodes consistently. We're only off for holidays, so it's the opposite of the cable model.

THR: So, any takers for a 10/90 deal here?

Meriwether: As you were talking, my entire body was tensing up!

Carnahan: I was loosening my bowels.

Daniels: Do you have arcs on the show or is it more episodic?

Helford: For syndication, they always say they want it as episodic as possible. But you can't get a show to go 100 episodes without good, strong arcs, and you can't get the audience involved [without arcs]. So we have arcs where two characters may be having a relationship, they'll break up for a bit then they'll get back together. We plan arcs for all the different characters like we used to, but I did that every show because it made life easier when you had some string to follow, and you got a skeleton you could put the flesh on as you went.

THR: Greg and Mike, one of the things that came up this year among NBC execs was this desire to broaden its comedy brand. Was this a mandate that each of you received, and what did you think of it?

Schur: I think that quote got a lot of play because it sounded very sinister. It was Bob Greenblatt who said it at TCA, and I very strongly believe that what he meant was, "We would like more people to watch our network." And the word "broad" means something in the comedy world that it doesn't mean in the [real] world, and so it was like, "Oh, you want people slipping on banana peels." That's not what he meant. Also it should be noted that at no point has anything like that been communicated to me at all about the way we do our show. They give us notes and are mostly hands-off. At no point do they ever say, "You need more banana peels."

Daniels: No. And I think as of [March] The Office and Parks were the No. 1 and 2 show on the network.

Helford: I think the conundrum now is shows having individual voices. I go back to Family Ties, and there was a time when the shows were more cookie-cutter, but the point was that everyone took the idea of being a broadcaster and that you would reach a larger audience more seriously. That's why the shows felt somewhat homogenous -- there were so many family shows, but that's universal, and so almost everyone in America could watch that and understand immediately what that meant. It started changing with Seinfeld, which took four years to grab the audience. Now you hear the voice of the author more in shows; there's more of an audience that's specific to that niche or that view that that author has.

Daniels: Do you think if you were to recreate a show with the tone and sense of humor of those broadcasting tent shows from the '80s or '70s today, it would mean that the ratings would flock to it, or people would stop watching all the cable channels?

Helford: If it was contemporary. Modern Family did a great job of kind of getting a bigger tent going. But there's really not much now for the average audience. When I'm sitting on a train looking at all these houses in the Midwest, I'm thinking, "Are they really watching all these shows that I love?" There really isn't much being written to them. Nobody really kind of has their finger on the American pulse, and maybe the American pulse just changed that much.

Schur: When I was a kid, I watched Empty Nest. I was an 11-year-old in Connecticut, and I watched Empty Nest every week.

Daniels: You're always talking about Empty Nest.

Meriwether: What is that?

Schur: Empty Nest was a show about a retired doctor in Florida who lived next door to The Golden Girls.

Meriwether: Oh.

Schur: It starred Richard Mulligan, who was excellent. He had two grown daughters living with him, stuff that was the opposite of an 11-year-old suburban Connecticut kid's [interests]. But I watched it every week. If I were 11 now, I wouldn't know that Empty Nest existed because every baseball game is available to me on my TV. There are 45 cartoons on my computer, on-demand, any moment I want. There are certain shows, like Big Bang and Modern Family, that were presented as these perfect whole, immensely appealing entities and that massive numbers of people watch them religiously every week.

Daniels: Great shows, but what's the rating for Modern Family? 4.7?

Schur: On the night, yeah, probably. I remember when the Lost finale aired, everyone I knew was captivated -- talking about what we liked, what we didn't like. Then I saw the rating for the finale of Lost, and it was like the 83rd-highest-rated finale. And No. 82 was Mr. Belvedere. Lost had dominated the conversation in American TV for the last seven years and Mr. Belvedere got more people!

Helford: Your parents were also controlling the TV when you were young. You didn't have the option of going to all these other places.

Daniels: I think we shouldn't feel bad about ourselves. There are still very talented people -- maybe not as talented as the staff of Mr. Belvedere! -- but a lot of good people in the industry now, and I don't think we should feel bad about the fact that our shows are not getting those huge numbers.

Schur: This fall you can see my pilot, Full Nest, which is a continuation of the character.

Carnahan: Is it a prequel?

Schur: It's a post-quel, and I did not get the rights to the original, which I don't think will be a problem.

Helford: The quality of the writing is every bit as good as it was. The broader audience just isn't there right now.

Daniels: You're making us feel bad again.

Meriwether: I'm from the Midwest, and I don't know if people in the Midwest are watching my show. I don't know what that would be to, like, to set out to try to reach a broader audience.

Helford: It'd be something blander. I always hold Roseanne up as a great example because it was taking a look at blue-collar people as a point of nobility as opposed to making fun of them, which is the current trend. You still never see people on TV paying their bills. I think that it was a little bit more of a job for a lot of the writers in those days, and it was like, "OK, what's your job? My job is to turn out a show that everybody will love. And so I'm not going to be offensive here, and I'm going to make sure this character does this right." It was all pretty politically correct. Except for Norman Lear's stuff.

Carnahan: I was just going to say …

Helford: He was able to break through with All in the Family -- again, so relatable, everybody knew those people. You just don't see as much of that now.

Schur: But the question that I would have is: Is anyone complaining in America about television? Yes, it's bad if you're on the business side of things, and that shows don't capture giant audiences the way they used to. But no matter where you live, there are 1,000 shows that are great for you.

THR: That seems to be the problem. There's actually too much to watch.

Schur: There's too much. I was complaining about this recently to my wife. I'd read a review of Bates Motel that said, "This show is amazing." And Carlton Cuse from Lost is running it? I'm going to die from starvation because I have too much TV to watch! Wherever you are in the world, and whatever kind of person you are, there's 50 shows that are great for you. No one's complaining because …

Meriwether: They don't have time.

Schur: They don't have time, and Bates Motel is backing up on the DVR.

THR: In your opinion, why is there so much showrunner turnover now? Is it pressures that are on the network executives? A lack of patience? Audience fragmentation?

Helford: When the power shifted to the networks, away from the creators, when numbers went down, you couldn't break people out. If somebody's getting a great number, you can't break those people out, and everybody's doing relatively well.

Daniels: Yeah, except with Roseanne, right? Weren't there wholesale changes of the writing staff every year?

Helford: But that wasn't the networks changing showrunners -- that was her. I don't think anybody spent over a year there, but that was, yeah, that was a different thing. Showrunners have been changing forever. It's just easier now for the networks to do it is because the power, right now, is still in the hands of the networks and not in the hands of the creators.

Daniels: I don't remember when the power was in the hands of the creators.

Helford: Gary David Goldberg and Norman Lear -- you could not have moved them out. They had failures at the same time, but no one ever would say boo to them.

Schur: Is it really happening more or is it that there are 7,000 websites reporting on every single thing that happens in show business? My mom, who works in Boston, will send me a text: "So Glenn Mazzara is out at Walking Dead, what do you think?" And I'm like, "Why do you even care about him?" And everyone in the world knows that, like, Oblivion made $37 million at the box office. Why does everyone know this? And the question I would have, and it could be that it's happening more now, but it also could be that people just pounce on every little piece of information. And obviously when it's a show like Walking Dead, which is like the highest-rated show in the world, it's a story, but other times, it's like, well, that's just show business. It happens, people leave their jobs, they get fired, they get other jobs, and it's just that every tiny scrap of information is reported on by, quite literally, 20 websites. So I don't know that it's happening at a higher rate right now.

Helford: I would say it was less often the creators and more often that they would just grab an executive producer on the show and throw him off, and that's how they would say, "Well, that was the guy, that was the problem, we're changing it now, we'll take care of that," and the creators wouldn't leave.

Schur: And look at Big Bang. It's the most popular show on TV (to Molaro) and you're the third showrunner?

Molaro: Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady created it. … They were writing it, and …

Daniels: What happened to them?

Molaro: Chuck's a little busy!

Schur: Chuck's a miserable failure. No one knows where he is.

Molaro: And then Bill took a step back. He's there part-time.

Schur: Right, and so it's this perfect, like, peaceful, democratic transfer of power that has led to nothing but great and greater success.

Molaro: And your mom did not e-mail you that week?

Schur: No. You guys have to be a little crazier, and my mom will be all over it.

THR: If you could serve as an executive producer or write for any other show on television, what would it be? Comedy or drama.

Molaro: I want to say Louie, but he's so good at doing it, I would just ruin it.

Schur: You would screw it up, yeah.

Molaro: I would be honored to be offered a position at Louie, and then I would respectfully pass.

Schur: Game of Thrones, in a walk. I have read enough of the books, and I'm a big enough nerd, I feel like I could step in there and screw that one up instead.

THR: So when those showrunners get kicked off, you're right there.

Schur: Yeah. They won't, but if they do, call me!

Carnahan: I would like to go to Louie. Through a magical lightning-touching-the-metal-table-at-the-same-time type thing -- I would become Louis C.K. and run the show.

Schur: Oh, you'd actually become Louis C.K.?

Carnahan: I would like to, just for a season. He's got a van with all his gear in it. It sounds like fun.

Schur: Can I say that if you did do like an old-timey body-switch thing, it would be really funny to watch Louis C.K. run [House of Lies] for a year.

Meriwether: I think I would want to live inside the Justified world. I don't want to run it. I just want to put [Raylan's] hat on and date that character. That wasn't the question, but that's how I chose to answer it. I feel like he's a really good guy. He's really going to take care of me.

Carnahan: Good choice!

Helford: I love working with Charlie Sheen, so I would not switch with anything, but maybe write for Workaholics? I would love to work with that cast.

THR: Finally, Greg, you've just wrapped The Office for good after nine seasons. Do you have any advice or lessons you learned in saying goodbye that you can share with your peers here?

Daniels: I didn't know if I was going to like that we had an end date, but I would recommend it. I have a very happy feeling about how the final season went, wrapping up everything, having the crew know that this was the last time. So I recommend, if you can do it, calling your own ending. It keeps feeling like some kind of euthanasia; the terms always feel like an "end of life" discussion. But yeah, I think death with dignity.



T.H.R. Emmy Roundtable: 6 Drama Actresses On Death Threats, Post-Baby Auditions

(By Stacey Wilson, Matthew Belloni, Hollywood Reporter, 29 May 2013)


Monica Potter, Kerry Washington, Kate Mara, Connie Britton, Anna Gunn and Elisabeth Moss reveal the toilet-cleaning jobs they'd like to forget in an uncensored chat about making it in the competitive world of series TV and how to respond when fans say, "You look so much bigger on camera!"

The only thing lacking in The Hollywood Reporter's kickoff Emmy Roundtable event held April 6 in Hollywood was, well, drama. The six women who gathered to talk on a sunny Saturday afternoon -- Connie Britton, 46 (ABC's Nashville), Anna Gunn, 44 (AMC's Breaking Bad), Kate Mara, 30 (Netflix's House of Cards), Elisabeth Moss, 30 (AMC's Mad Men, Sundance's Top of the Lake), Monica Potter, 41 (NBC's Parenthood), and Kerry Washington, 36 (ABC's Scandal) -- chatted with such relaxed candor about their lives and work, it was easy to forget they headline some of the most dramatic series on television. Between trading war stories about terrible jobs, wearing Spanx to auditions, their confusion over social media and one's utter love for Cheez Whiz, these ladies launched THR's Emmy Roundtable Series 2013.

The Hollywood Reporter: What was the worst job you had while trying to become an actress?

Monica Potter: I worked at a restaurant called Chi-Chi's -- for one day.

Kerry Washington: Did you get fired or did you leave?

Potter: I quit. That was in Cleveland, back in the day, but go ahead, I didn't mean to interrupt! Welcome to The Real Housewives.  And no, I'm not Camille Grammer. Don't say it!

Elisabeth Moss: You're so not Camille!

Connie Britton: I worked at The Gap and discovered I am not a good folder. That was when I was really pounding the pavement in New York for acting work. I also did murder mystery dinner theater in the Poconos.

Potter: Now we're talking!

Anna Gunn: Oh, that's good.

Potter: I did a Mexican game show. It was called Nubeluz. I had to sing and dance. It was like You Can't Do That on Television, except the FCC wouldn't let us into Mexico because we were holding kids' heads underwater. So it was filmed in Lima, Peru.

Britton: Wow, how exotic!

Moss: I worked at the silent movie theater here in L.A., but that actually was kind of cool. Though, I didn't like cleaning the bathrooms as much. People are really messy in movie theaters. You'd expect it to be a respectful experience, not popcorn all over the floor, and Coke, and … sticky.

Kate Mara: That's not what's sticky. (Laughter.)

Washington: It wasn't one of my worst jobs, but I used to be a substitute teacher for New York City schools. It was great and hard, and I even did it after I started working in films. But I had to stop after I did Save the Last Dance because the students were like, "Chenille is substituting!"

Potter: So you're like really smart in real life, huh?

Washington: No, no.

Potter: You probably went to college too.

Washington: I did.

Potter: I'm going to college! My oldest is in college now, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to go to school with him?"

Washington: Yeah, he's not having that.

Gunn: My worst job was in Chicago during the summer. I was a terrible waitress, a terrible temp, so the only job I could get that would let me off to audition was for a cleaning service called Merry Maids. We were doing cleanouts for apartments after leases were up in huge towers downtown. Humid, 110-degree weather, and the A/C was off. I thought, "I have to make this acting thing work or I'm going to be scrubbing toilets."

THR: What's the most surprising thing about being a working actress?

Mara: Maybe I'm just lucky, but I feel like people are generally nice and generous and not that dramatic.

Moss: Yeah, especially actresses. I think people expect us to be clawing at each other.

Potter: It's a sisterhood. But it's not all roses and daisies. Uh oh, I think I just quoted a Real Housewife. (Laughter.)

Gunn (To Britton): I remember seeing you at auditions years ago, and we struck up a friendship just from seeing each other in those rooms. It was nice to meet somebody that you could talk to and there wasn't the vibe of, "Oh, I can't talk to you because we're going in for the same job."

THR: Last year, January Jones told THR a story about her audition for Coyote Ugly during which Jerry Bruckheimer told her she was a terrible dancer. What's your worst audition?

Potter: I'd like to see him dance. Jerry, put on the tap shoes, brother!

Moss: Well, sometimes, you think something went badly, and then you get it! Or …

Britton: "We just didn't get you."

Gunn: "We just didn't respond to you."

Potter: OK, I have a good one. I'd just had my last kid, Molly. She's 7 now. And my agents were like, "OK, let's get out there again!" And it takes me a couple years to lose the baby chub. It just does. I gain about 60 or 70 pounds while pregnant. I'm not one of these girls hitting the yoga mat. I like to eat Cheetos, I'm not going to lie. And after I have the kid, I like to have some drinks.

Mara: Were you drunk when you [auditioned]?

Potter: I wasn't, I should have been. I was pushing like 180 pounds at the time. I'm like, "You guys, I just don't feel physically fit yet." I had my Spanx on and looked like a damn sausage, but I went in and thought I did a really good job. I got home and get the call from my agents. I'm like, "I did good, right?" And they say, "You did great. The problem is you're just …" "I'm too fat." "Yeah, we're just going to wait a little bit." I said, "I already told you this!" The weight thing is a crappy thing in this town, you know? So I just ate some Cheez Whiz.

Britton: Cheez Whiz is so awesome.

Moss: On the first season of Mad Men, I had to wear a fat suit and prosthetic makeup to make me look bigger. You spend your whole career thinking that you have to be one way. Then I got this amazing job and had to pretend to gain 50 pounds? We all have this perception of what we're supposed to look like. But that's what's so great about all these women here today: We're all completely different-looking, you know? We're all beautiful, but real women.

Britton: I agree. I've never had somebody say to me that I needed to look a certain way for a role, but I've always lived in dread of what that would be like. It's our responsibility to play these full-fledged women, and to play women who look like people we actually see in life. It's more interesting, and I think audiences appreciate it, too.

Washington: It's a little bit different for me because I'll audition for something and they'll just decide that they're not going "ethnic" with a character, which I hear a lot.

THR: Casting directors still use the word "ethnic"?

Washington: If not "black," then yeah. People have artistic license … that's what casting is: fitting the right look to the right character. Whereas you could maybe lose some weight, there's not really anything I can do, nor would I want to, about being black.

THR: What is the craziest thing you've ever done to get a role?

Mara (To Washington): Oh, you have one, you're already laughing!

Washington: I've written a lot of letters to directors.

Mara: Yeah, I've done that too.

Moss: I don't know if it works.

Washington: It has and it hasn't.

Britton: Maybe you need to write a different letter? (Laughs.)

Moss: If you paste it together with letters from newspapers. Wait, is that weird?

Britton: You put little, tiny pictures of yourself in your different moods!

Washington: It has only worked one time.

Potter: Do you send it to their house?

Washington: The production office, or whatever.

Moss: You could take it to their house, show real passion.

Washington: Boom box over my head!

Britton: The ones I fight for really hard, I don't get.

Washington: But when you look back, don't you feel like there is a logic to how things have fallen into place? Like, if only I could have known then what I know now, I would have cried a lot less! Those heartbreak moments. Before Scandal, the only other two pilots I'd ever done were shows that got picked up, but I got fired. They recast my character on both shows.

Mara: Oh, that's horrible.

Washington: But if I had gotten picked up on one of them, I wouldn't have been able to do Ray. You know what I mean? It seems at the time like a my-career-is-over moment, but it makes perfect sense in the end.

THR: How involved are you in the writing of your characters? Matt Weiner has said the actors aren't too involved on Mad Men.

Mara: (To Moss) Really?

Moss: Yeah. But why would I be involved? What am I going to come up with that's better? I'm not a writer, so I wouldn't dare to try to come up with a better idea.

THR: Monica, did the Parenthood writers talk with you in advance about your character's cancer storyline?

Potter: Around this time last year, I went in for a mammogram. They said, "We found a little something, we need you to come back in a few weeks." I went home, panicked and thought, "This is BS. Nobody in my family has breast cancer!" And I e-mailed Jason [Katims, Parenthood creator] and said, "You know, I'm really scared about something … can we maybe explore this storyline for Kristina?" I knew his wife, Kathy, had gone through it. He e-mailed back and said, "Oh my God, I have the chills. I'm in the writers room, we just broke this same story for Kristina."

Washington: Wow.

Potter: So it was just kismet. I went back to the doctor, and I'm fine now, obviously. But so it was one of those things where he said, "I really want you to be a part of this collaboration." Though, I'm always asking the writers to write less for me! I get nervous in the big family scenes where everyone's talking. So, I just eat in those scenes. It makes it much easier. I'm just going to eat a piece of ham or some chicken.

Britton: Or Cheez Whiz. (Laughs.)

Moss: Did you know your character was going to survive?

Potter: I kind of knew because Kathy had made it. A lot of what's written mirrors what's going on in Jason's life, including his son being on the autism spectrum.

Gunn: [Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan] knew my character's story very intimately, and in a very detailed way, from the beginning. But we did some talking at the beginning because she wasn't particularly clear to me. She was a tough character to play; very shrouded, keeps everything pretty close to the vest. I needed to know more so that I could play her.

Washington: Right.

Gunn: One of the things that was bothersome to me was in the pilot, Walt was working two jobs and Skyler was at home. I asked, "What is she doing at home all day? He's taking the kid to school and everything else. And what is she doing?" And Vince said, "She's pregnant." And I said, "Yeah? And?" (Laughter.)

Washington: I love that!

Gunn: And he said, "Well, she's just taking it easy." And I said, "Well, you know, people still do things when they're pregnant." So we came up with something for her to do at home, which ultimately fell by the wayside, but that made it more understandable for me. It was important for me, and Vince respected that.

Mara: As House of Cards went on, I felt as if Zoe was doing things that I do. Really, really subtle things. Not sexually! (Laughs.) But as simple as she's sitting at home eating raw carrots for dinner. That's one of those things I do, too. Also, Beau [Willimon, showrunner] got to know me really well, and we would joke about how my notes on scripts were always, "I think I should say less. Like, let's cross out these lines. Less is more!"

THR: Kerry, you've been pretty active politically. Have you experienced any career blowback or any negative reaction to that kind of stuff?

Washington: I come from a family where people really participate in the democratic process. I don't think that being an actor should prevent me from continuing to do the things I do. A lot of people fought for me to have the right as a woman to be able to participate, and as a person of color, and so I don't want my acting to get in the way of that. I do it as an American. And blowback? Absolutely. After I spoke at the Democratic National Convention -- our show has a very active life on Twitter and Facebook -- I couldn't go near any of it because there were threats to my life, sexism and racism. It was shocking that me speaking at a convention incited all this anger. Thank God for block on Twitter!

THR: What were they angry about, specifically? Just the audacity of an actor speaking at the convention?

Washington: I guess so, and also disagreeing with my views, which I totally think is great. I would never block somebody for disagreeing with me. But the threats to my life … that's not so good.

Britton: Last year, I co-wrote an op-ed because [Mitt] Romney had started using "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose," the motto from Friday Night Lights, in his campaign. I did the piece with Sarah Aubrey, our executive producer on the show, about the actual intent of that slogan and what the women of Friday Night Lights would think of Romney using it. I was really nervous because we had just started doing Nashville, and I got really scared about what people would think. I don't do Twitter, so I probably missed a lot of the reactions. And then Hurricane Sandy happened …

Washington: That was nice and distracting!


THR: What's the best or worst career advice you've ever been given?

Gunn: When I was a young actor, somebody said, "If there's anything else you feel you can do, you should do it."

Mara: Wait, was that good advice or bad advice?

Gunn: It was good! It was from another actress, a teacher of mine, and she just meant acting is tough, so if there's anything else that is pulling your heart or your desire, then you should go for that. But if this is in your blood so deeply that you need to do it, then you know that's the thing.

Mara: My mom has always been really, really supportive of me and my sister [actress Rooney Mara] since we were kids. It's all I ever wanted to do, and no one in my family had ever acted before. It was very new, and she had no idea how to help me go that route, how to get an agent -- none of that. It was all very foreign to us. I mean, I was playing the tree in The Wizard of Oz for the first 10 years of my acting career.

Washington: That's a lot of trees.

Mara: How did I never get Dorothy? I'm still upset about that! Red hair and everything.

Moss: You were too good of a tree.

Mara: But that support … was the best thing. She never doubted me. Or if she did, she certainly never told me.

Moss: I did this miniseries recently, Top of the Lake, with Jane Campion, and she gave me the best piece of advice I've ever gotten before an audition. We were on the phone, and I was going to be putting myself on tape with the casting director and sending it to Australia. I was so nervous just talking to her. And she said, "You don't have to hit the bull's-eye. Just get the dart on the board." And as an actress, I was like, "Oh my God, thank you!"

Mara: That's such a relief.

Moss: Yes, I don't have to come in and give you this fully realized character. I can show you a sketch; an idea. It should be a collaboration. I think that advice probably helped me to get the part because it relaxed me.

Potter: Can I say something?

Washington: Please, please, please, please.

Potter: My stomach's growling.

Moss: Mine is too.

Britton: Oh no, mine is too!

Potter: But back to advice. … I'm one of four girls, and we are all athletic. And my dad would always say, "Think of yourself like a baseball player. Step up to the plate, take a deep breath and get your feet grounded. Point to over the fence, swing, imagine your scene going over the fence and the crowd cheering."

THR: What is the biggest personal sacrifice you've made for your careers?

Britton: Going to do Nashville right after I just adopted my baby. That was big. I had just become a mother and moved to a town where I didn't know a soul and started working 16 hours a day without a support system.

Washington: What did you do?

Britton: Well, I'm still doing it. Luckily I work with wonderful people who are really supportive, and people in Nashville have been so great. I have a nanny who came with us. That's been great, but it's been challenging, I'm not going to lie.

Potter: It's tough when you have kids to sort of go, "Oh boy, am I going to miss this parent-teacher meeting?" You feel this guilt. But you also have to look at it like, "OK, Mom's going to work, putting food on the table." That's how I grew up: blue-collar, working-class home, and kids have to understand that. You have to have a life of balance and not feel guilty because I think that kids can sense that.

Britton: Oh yeah, even at 2, they can sense it.

THR: What about loss of privacy?

Mara: I don't experience that.

Britton: Me either.

Mara: Maybe at the airport, but it's never anything crazy …

Britton: That's the one place where I'm like, "Gosh, you guys really dig me!" I got in last night from Nashville, and this woman, the greeter, came to take me out to my car. Their job is to keep the paparazzi away from you. Still, there was one guy -- he was actually very courteous -- and we started walking to the car, and she looked behind us and said, "Oh God, they're coming! Run!" Literally I was running down the sidewalk of the airport dragging my bag, feeling ridiculous. "Are they going to photograph me running away from them? That's going to be really embarrassing."

Potter: That does sound exciting!

Britton: I didn't have my son with me last night, which was the first time that was the case. They always get me with my son, which I don't really love, but I've never had to run. Let's put it that way.

THR: What's the strangest fan interaction you've experienced?

Moss: The backhanded compliments. "You look skinnier or younger in real life." And it's like, "You know that's not a compliment, right?"

Mara: But they really don't.

Britton: We were shooting in a grocery store in Nashville, and when they called cut, there were these two older ladies standing there. One of them grabbed me and said, "You look so much bigger on camera!" And I'm like, "Thank you?"

Potter: Maybe she meant taller?

Britton: I told myself that. (Laughs.)

Moss: People always say to me, "You're so short. Like, really small, really short."

Potter: It's better than, "Hey, you're a fat ass!"

Gunn: People in Albuquerque are crazy about Breaking Bad. And the thing that I didn't expect was how much people got into the characters, and this incredible backlash against Skyler. I wasn't really aware it was happening until people started telling me, "Your character is a bitch. Did you know that?" And I was like, "I do now!" There were blogs about it, and having a daughter who's 12 -- I know that she's guarded from that stuff at my house, but maybe not at other people's homes -- it became a real area of concern. It was interesting that this gender war broke out -- she's such a bitch, she's nagging with Walt because he's cooking crystal meth. She's ruining all the fun.

THR: Scandal has had a lot of success engaging viewers on Twitter. Kerry, do you feel that the personal involvement with fans is a good thing?

Washington: Yeah. I mean, you read the good stuff. … But I don't tweet about my personal life. I don't tweet things that are about me.

THR: Do the rest of you feel pressure to interact with fans in that way?

Britton: I'm starting to, a little bit.

Moss: I had to have someone explain to me what the hashtag was.

Britton: Oh, I still don't know what it is.

Potter: I'm thinking hash browns.

Mara: And on your show (to Washington), they have it on the bottom of the screen and in the middle of a dramatic scene, they'll be like, "Hashtag, 'Where's Tuley?' "

Moss: So the hashtag is the symbol?

Washington: It's like a Google search on Twitter.

Moss: OK, thank you.

Britton: So if you had your own Twitter account, it would be like, hashtag, and then your name?

Washington: No, that's an "at" sign.

Gunn: This is so strange, I had no idea!

Washington: I work with a woman who is a digital social media consultant because I was terrified to go on Twitter. She helped me to figure out how to engage -- as an actor -- to promote the work without promoting myself. It's scary. It's this whole other universe.

Britton: The self-promotion aspect of it …

Washington: … is awful. It feels disgusting. So you want to feel like there's a purpose around it.

Britton: That's never what it's been about for me.

Washington: I'll give you her number!

THR: A final question. If you could be on any other show in the history of TV, what would it be?

Potter: Three's Company, hands down. I could play Chrissy's sister. Or anyone.

Britton: Mary Tyler Moore. Such a perfect show. They were all such amazing, rich characters, and she got to be so badass, funny, smart and in charge of her life. It was just a great inspiration.

Mara: Mine's not as inspirational, but I was really obsessed with My So-Called Life. And it was only on what, like, one season? Which is my dream, because I don't want to have any job commitment, and so that would be perfect!

Gunn: I'm sort of thinking The Wire.

THR: So something light and totally different from Breaking Bad. (Laughter.)

Washington: More drugs!

Gunn: It's good to be bad, you know? [I'd] definitely be the bad guys.

Mara: Yeah. Hashtag bad!





Roundtable: Bacon, Slattery, Others On Aging, Worst Auditions And 'Jerk' Pasts

(By Stacey Wilson, Matthew Belloni, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 June 2013)


The gathering of six actors on an early April afternoon in Hollywood felt less like professional duty and more like group therapy.  The performers -- Kevin Bacon, 54 (Fox's The Following); Jeff Daniels, 58 (HBO's The Newsroom); Mandy Patinkin, 60 (Showtime's Homeland); Dennis Quaid, 59 (CBS' Vegas); John Slattery, 50 (AMC's Mad Men); and Corey Stoll, 37 (Netflix's House of Cards) -- shared and commiserated like old friends (and with equal parts happiness and horror) as they dissected the terrible auditions, egotistical outbursts, bizarre fan interactions and ongoing fire in their bellies for the craft that's landed them in the Emmy race.

The Hollywood Reporter: Looking back on your career, what was your most difficult period?

Jeff Daniels: Not working. Then working and not getting paid, yeah. Pick any indie! Those times when you know you're good, you've worked with really good people and then you can't get arrested.

Dennis Quaid: Actor jail, they call that.

Kevin Bacon: I was once in a tailspin I'll never forget. I was standing on 87th and Broadway in New York with my wife [Kyra Sedgwick], and we were talking about my career. I was running out of money, had a baby on the way, and I had a total anxiety attack. And I told her, "I can't believe I'm doing a f--ing movie about underground worms [1990's Tremors]!" (Laughter.) I think that was probably a low point.

Mandy Patinkin: I love that film!

Quaid: I think we've all had that insecurity of, "Will I ever work again?" For me, it was during the '90s, when I made the transition from being in my 30s and then moving on to other roles. In a long career, you have to remake yourself, and that was a really rough transition for me.

John Slattery: The beginning of my career was difficult. I would take jobs because they were there, and there was a period in which I had done several jobs I probably shouldn't have done because they were offered to me before I realized, "Wait a minute, I don't have to do this." I wasn't getting very good advice -- I had to realize it the hard way. I hit a wall and thought, "I got to step back here and make better choices."

Patinkin: I certainly made some choices along the way that were not what I believed in but also defined my life after the fact. I remember, after I'd just done Evita [on Broadway] in the late '70s, they flew me out to Zoetrope to meet Gene Kelly, who was going to do That's Entertainment II or something. I walked into the studio to meet Kelly, and there's this sort of chubby, bald guy sitting behind this massive desk, but I couldn't see Kelly. Then I realized that I was looking at Gene Kelly. And he said: "Let me tell you something, kid. Our successes never teach us anything. They pat you on the back and send you on your way. But our failures we turn upside down and inside out and give us everything we ever had." So as anxiety-ridden as I was from some of my negative choices -- or choices that I didn't believe in -- I don't know who I would have been without them.

THR: What lessons did you learn from the low points?

Bacon: Don't leave your wallet in the dressing room!

Corey Stoll: Without getting into any names, it's good in general to not assume other people's craziness. We all have our own craziness, and we have to maintain that. I have a constant need whenever I'm in a cast to be friends with everybody, be a family, and I think I've gotten in trouble sort of trying to, you know, let's be honest, everybody be honest. And sometimes …

Daniels: It doesn't work.

Stoll: Or sometimes it works too well! But in terms of choices, I'm at that place in my career where it's really the first time I have choices. And it's really interesting because I feel I actually have something to lose -- that every success I've had has surprised people. They've always been like, "Who is that guy?" I'm at a new place now, and it's scary. Obviously, I'm not going to complain about it. It's the easiest problem in the world.

THR: Corey, after such a breakout role in House of Cards, how are you deciding what to do next?

Stoll: Just trying to follow my bliss, do what I want to do, play the scenes I want to play and work with those people I want to work with. Try not to be too strategic. It's hard because you have a million people around you telling you to be strategic. "This job will lead to that." But I think there's a danger that you can spend your entire career being strategic and just, you know, trying to get the job that will get you the next job and sort of miss the job you're in. Am I right? I don't know. I just started this!

Quaid: Yeah, I envy you.

Daniels: Whatever is in your heart. I mean, I look around the room, and there's a reason why we're all still f--ing here, you know? We have enough talent to kind of beat the system. It can't kill us, we're like cockroaches. And this is a business that doesn't care whether any of us are here on Tuesday. There's nobility in longevity. You look at Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Peter Sellers -- they lasted decades, and I think that's a goal. And what gets us there is that we're all good at what we do. Talent wins out. We may not be good every time, but that's the ride.

Quaid: When you start out, you're doing it for free, basically, in acting class because you want to be an actor. You really want to find out what it is to be into character and that human condition. I'm not even talking about the job part, I'm just talking about being an actor and having a fire in your belly for it. Then, if you're lucky enough to have the success happen, all these other things come into play: having money, raising a family and these career choices like you were talking about that are coming at you from all different kinds of places. It's tough to keep that original fire. We rekindle every once in a while, and I'm not sure how it happens, but I feel fortunate that it's still there.

Daniels: I think it's all about risk, whether it's a little indie, or a TV series, or a play, music. The idea that you might fail gets you clicked in again.

Quaid: Fear is a great motivator.

THR: What were your biggest challenges transitioning from film to TV?

Bacon: I think for me, part of it was switching directors. I had a great experience watching Kyra on The Closer and then directing The Closer. I saw that sometimes she would get a little bit shaken by the idea of somebody new directing. I didn't realize that would affect me in the way that it did, especially since I had directed television.

Patinkin: I was very defensive in the beginning of my TV career because I didn't let myself trust the directors. I felt they're just coming in as guests -- not part of the process from the beginning. I was arrogant, distrustful and pretty f--ing insecure. When I was doing Chicago Hope, I literally said, "Tell these people not to talk to me." And I really can't get over that I had the nerve to do that. And it's a blessing to survive, being 60 years old now, and getting some wisdom from guys like you. I've learned I didn't have to be perfect. Stop trying to be Superman, you know? And it takes the shit off my shoulders that I lived long enough to not be such a jerk.

Slattery: I've been directing my show for the last couple years, and there's a burden that you feel, not to be Superman but, "I don't want to screw this up." You put pressure on yourself. But it's so disseminated through the ranks. The DP, designers, all the other actors. … It really took that burden away.

Patinkin: I've seen [co-star] Claire Danes work with such a freedom, it's encouraged me to take more chances. It's funny, somebody sent me the first episode of Newsroom where you [to Daniels] made that long speech about the country. I brought it to my wife, I sent it to my sons. I thought it was one of the singularly finest pieces of television on every single level I've seen. The writing, the way you delivered it, the way it was shot, the way it was directed, the other actors, what the editors did.

Daniels: The editing on our show is amazing.

Patinkin: It's extraordinary. And I just thought, "God, I'm working at a time when this kind of stuff is being done." It's pretty humbling, you know? And it wasn't just you. It was the time that that editor chose to let you sit there and stew. And it also said to me "It's not all on my shoulders" when I do a scene like that.

Daniels: Yes. But I don't watch the dailies, I don't go to video village. I wait six months and see how they assemble this, and that's when I learned that it's OK not to do the perfect take because they're going to use this and that and that, and they're going to be over here, they're going to go way behind the 500 people in the auditorium where you thought you had that brilliant moment, and … you just give it to them. The thing about the series thing is there's no time, there's no rehearsal, none of that.

Patinkin: That's our job, to give them as many choices …

Bacon: Yeah, it's so instant, you know?

Daniels: Do you find with TV that you forget what the last episode was?

Bacon: Totally.

Quaid: I forget what the last day was. I can't tell you what we shot yesterday, and I don't know what we're doing tomorrow. All I know is what we're doing today.

Daniels: It's scary.

Quaid: I kind of like the present. It's not good to have too much on my mind.

Patinkin: I also tell the writers, "I don't want to know." I ask them not to tell me what's happening or what they have in mind. I mean, I have to know seven to 10 days in advance because it takes me forever to learn the words. But I really don't want to know, and that keeps me on edge. I don't know what's going to happen in the next five seconds of my life, why should this guy Saul know?

Daniels: I embrace that.

Patinkin: I'm having fun, and I never used to be that way.

Quaid: And everybody is there to help you. That's one of the good things about doing a series; it really basically is a family.

THR: Corey, House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon has said the character who was supposed to run for governor wasn't yours, but they liked you as Peter Russo so much, they said, "Let's have this guy do it." At what point did they communicate this change to you?

Stoll: I don't want to be all spoiler-y! But it was still the same basic arc. It was just fuller. My character was still supposed to have this incredible sort of journey, but they just gave me more to lose as I went along; made my peak higher on my way down. In my experience, House of Cards was closer to theater than film because I had six-and-a-half months to marinate in this character. I knew my scene partners, and that was an incredible opportunity. They had all 13 episodes pretty much written before we started, but I felt more capable during this than I ever had on a film set.

THR: Are the rest of you good at predicting the reaction to your work?

Daniels: I don't really care. I don't! I think we all walk away from the set knowing that what we did was good. I don't need anyone to tell me whether it's good or not. I already know. Some are going to hate it, whether it's political -- like Aaron Sorkin's show -- or not. I invest no effort into it emotionally at all.

Slattery: I feel the same way. That there are people that would go, "Oh, this is going to … make a big splash," and it doesn't matter, and it never really is, no one ever gets it really right.

THR: John, did you have any idea Mad Men would be so successful?

Slattery: We shot a pilot, then we waited a year-and-a-half. It was on a network [AMC] that had never made anything. We knew the material was good but sort of figured nobody would ever see it, so I didn't have that much invested in it. And the show came at a time with DVRs [and on-demand], so people could start watching when they wanted to. Whereas before, you'd tune in during the middle of the season, and you'd go, "You know, the hell with it. I don't know what's going on, and I don't care." So that kind of happened at the same time, and it was what we wanted. I mean, you want to be involved in something that people want to watch, so it was a positive experience.

Daniels: Completely out of your control, though.

Slattery: It rarely happens where you read something that you like and that you know is good material.

Quaid: And then you have no control over it! Your movie is coming out, and the stock market crashes the day before, or there's a hurricane, or it's a success for reasons you never thought of.

Daniels: Between action and cut …

Quaid: That's the only thing you have control of.

Bacon: One of the things about television that's so amazing is that you get a chance to just act and act and act and act. You do a movie. You spend eight months, and the amount of time you're acting is like an infinitesimal part of your life. And I think we all really like to act.

Patinkin: You do not get bored.

Bacon: In TV it's, "I've been here 16 hours, we've done 10 pages," and you go, "Ahhhh, it's exhilarating."

THR: What are you most critical of when you watch yourself perform?

Bacon: Bad habits. Like, "I've done that thing before" or "I went to like a go-to kind of thing."

Patinkin: Mine is doing too much. I always do too much. I'm over-the-top, I'm like the president of the club.

THR: But on Homeland, you're generally very restrained.

Patinkin: You don't know what they cut out. I owe those editors, I'm not kidding.

Bacon: That's the great thing about your character, Saul. He's just so … small.

Patinkin: I don't know how it gets like that.

Slattery: Do you always do a small take?

Patinkin: Yes. I said to [Homeland showrunners] Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, "I promise you, before I leave today, I'll take the size down so it's not a Mandy take." Sometimes I'll look at some dailies, and when I think I hit it, I didn't. And what I thought was horrible and would beg you to reshoot it or beg for the time to redo it -- it worked.

Quaid: That's why I appreciate strong directors who have a definite point of view and can rein me in. "OK, I'm going to do this now, so please hold me back!"

Stoll: When I watch myself, I try to pay attention to how I'm making transition from one action to another, to the audience thinking, "OK, I can see this actor is making a choice now." Whenever you can see somebody acting, it's a horrible thing to watch.

THR: What were some of your worst or craziest audition experiences?

Daniels: Got a few of them!

Bacon: I got a really bad one. Studio 54 was just about to close. I used to go to 54 in the '70s, but I wasn't famous.

Patinkin: How did you get in?

Bacon: You had to have the right shoes. [Studio 54 founder] Steve Rubell would come over and see what kind of shoes you had on. And I used to go by myself, and my agent called and said: "I know you don't go in for musicals, but there is one called Got to Go Disco. And it's based on Studio 54." In fact, there was this guy at the club who would let you in named Mark, and when people would arrive at 54, they'd go, "Mark, Mark, Mark!," and he would let people in or not. He was a very, very scary dude. So Mark was one of the producers of this musical, and my agent said, "All you have to do is sing a disco song." So I got Alicia Bridges' "I Love the Nightlife" -- I was probably about 18 -- and started working on this song just from the record. I never got the sheet music, I didn't realize you had to have sheet music. So I went to Colony Records on 50th and Broadway, got the sheet music, went into the audition, and it was in a key not even close because I'm singing an octave up from Alicia Bridges. And the sheet music was like in the completely different key, the guy started playing, and I was way, way, way out of my range.

Quaid: It sounded pretty good, actually!

Bacon: Sitting there was Mark, and I just stopped the audition. I went down on my knees, and I said: "This is terrible. I never should have been here, I'm so sorry to waste your time," and I walked out.

THR: Did he ever let you in to Studio 54 again?

Bacon: 54 had just closed, but probably he wouldn't have let me in!

Patinkin: I got that part! (Laughter.)

Slattery: I once got a call to play Sylvester Stallone's brother in a movie. The audition was in an hour, but they wanted me to dye my hair black. I was at my sister's house -- I didn't have an apartment or any money -- and I went into her drawer, got the laundry quarters and went to the drugstore to buy some hair dye. I remember, as I was leaving the house, there were some guys digging a trench in the street. And I got this black Clairol hair dye and went back, put it in my hair, and it was like tar. And I go to turn the water on, and it goes, "Gug-gug-gug-gug-gug-gug-gug-gug," and I realize that the guys digging the trench had shut the water off to the building! And I was like, "Holy shit." I could stick my head in the toilet, but I wasn't that desperate. So I went into the fridge and got a couple of bottles of water, took off all my clothes and poured it all over me. It's also about 111 degrees in Manhattan, and I have this shit dripping down my face. I look like an anemic vampire. So I go to read for the coke-addled brother of Stallone. And I had to get on my knees, and I'm wiping the hair dye off my face. I saw myself on my knees, wiping my hair dye off my face with this casting director yelling at me, and I had a complete out-of-body experience. "What the f--- are you doing?" I was probably the reason the movie never got made.

Stoll: I was going to my first audition in L.A. for an episode of CSI. I was so excited to play this clerk in a porn store, and so I went to Rough Trade on Sunset in Silver Lake, a leather clothing store, and explained to the clerk, "I'm auditioning for this thing." And he thought that I was just too embarrassed to say that I was a leather daddy. I had also just been playing this orthodox Jewish man but just shaved my long beard into a handlebar mustache to prepare for this audition. And the guy was really excited, got me all dressed up, and I wound up wearing a tight little sparkly crop top. And I got the role!

Patinkin: You can get a lot of that stuff cheaper on eBay.

Daniels: My worst moment was with Juliet Taylor, one of the great casting directors in New York. It was my second year in New York, and my agent got me in to meet her. He said, "You don't have a lot of training, so just lie and put Sandy Meisner on your résumé." So Juliet is looking through the résumé, and says, "I see you studied with Sandy Meisner." I said, "Yeah, she was great." And Juliet looked at me and then just kept right on going. I later told my agent, "Yeah, it was good, she asked me about Sandy Meisner, how great she was." He goes, "Sandy is a man." F---.

THR: Did she ever cast you in anything after that?

Daniels: She did. She forgave me. I haven't forgiven myself!

THR: What single role or project most changed you as an actor?

Quaid: For me, it was doing [the 1979 film] Breaking Away. I'd been going from job to job to job, just for credits, and along came the audition. I went in to read for director Peter Yates. I don't think I would have the career if it wasn't for him. He just offered me the role when it first came in. And that didn't ever happen to me before, and I said, "I'd like to, I'd love to, but I already have this job," and he actually got in the doorway and blocked my way and said, "Listen, young man, you have to do this." I'd come from university theater, and he was a great mentor. Peter Yates. Thank God for him!

Patinkin: For me, it was [the 1984 Broadway show] Sunday in the Park With George, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical. I had just won a Tony Award for Evita, and then Lapine comes over to my house and says, "You have to audition for Sondheim." Whoa, why do I have to audition? Don't you get anything for winning one of these awards? I'm not a good auditioner. It's going to be a disaster. And Steve calls me and said, "Everybody auditions for me except Angela Lansbury." So I'm a nervous wreck, and I end up getting it! But they didn't have the part of the artist written. James said, "We want to create a work of art based on a work of art." So they chose the Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and he wrote all the characters in the painting first, and then they realized there was a character missing -- the artist. So they wrote the artist last, so I would go through six weeks of rehearsal just drawing and doing nothing while everyone else did their thing. But within that piece were the repetitive words, "Connect, George, connect." And those became what I want on my tombstone. That is what I live my life to try to do.

Bacon: I'll tell you what was pivotal for me was actually a decision that Jeff made …

Daniels: I wondered if you were going to bring this up.

Bacon: Jeff was doing a play called Lemon Sky off-Broadway with Cynthia Nixon, and they wanted to shoot it for PBS' American Playhouse. And they offered both of them the parts, and they turned them both down. And my wife took Cynthia's part, and I took Jeff's part, so I really have him to thank for my marriage. It wasn't really a career decision of mine -- it was more a career decision of his that was pivotal for me.

Daniels: Was I invited to the wedding?

THR: What has been your oddest or most interesting fan interaction? Kevin, you just smiled.

Bacon: Well, it was actually a thing with our band. There was a woman who was a big fan and who had, unfortunately, one of her legs amputated. She was coming to a show and wanted us to autograph her prosthesis.

THR: You must also get people talking about the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing nonstop.

Bacon: Yeah, people on the subway will go, "Hey, one degree!" I've lost track of how you actually play that game.

Quaid: In New York, especially in the 1990s, people would come up and say, "Kevin Bacon, how are you?" And they actually meant Kevin Costner.

Daniels: I had a kid in my own town walk up and say, "Excuse me, Mr. Bridges?"

THR: Do people associate you with one specific role more than another?

Daniels: I find that once you've sat on the toilet in front of millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of people … [1994's Dumb & Dumber]

Patinkin: It changed the way I go to the bathroom. (Laughter.)

Daniels: Thank you!

THR: Mandy, despite Homeland's success, you must still get a lot of Princess Bride recognition.

Patinkin: At least two to three times a day, and I couldn't be happier about it. I pinch myself! I get my biggest kick when little kids come up, and I don't think I look like that guy [his character, Inigo Montoya] anymore, and their parents are going, this is so-and-so, and so I always go up to the little kid, and I whisper that famous line in his ear ["Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."] I was 34 when I made that movie. And a few years ago, I was in Philadelphia, and I went up to my hotel room to have my dinner, and my wife was watching the end of the film where Inigo was in the window, and Buttercup [Robin Wright] had just jumped out into Andre the Giant's arms. And Inigo says, "I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life." And that's the line that's most mattered to me.

Bacon: One fan thing I just thought of was someone said to me recently, "How do they make you look so bad on your show?" And I said, "I got news for you, honey, they're trying their best to make me look good."

Daniels: I've gotten, "In [1983's] Terms of Endearment, you were younger." Well, yes, so were you!

THR: Lastly, if you could run a television network for a day, what's the first thing you would change?

Stoll: I would let the show creators make more [business] decisions. This was my experience with Netflix -- they were really hands-off. And I think when you're in the trenches, when you're the people who have the biggest [creative] stake in the show, you have more than just a fractional understanding, and you're going to do a better job [as a leader] than somebody who's only thinking about advertising. Get good material, get great people and then let them do their thing.

Patinkin: I would like to see the cable networks find a way to get their extraordinary products out to people who cannot afford premium TV. We who are doing it are absolutely taking a pay cut, and we're still getting paid more than we deserve, in my opinion. I want the poorest people in this country to have the finest that we can possibly create, and that's not how it's set up at the moment. I think that's a problem. Everything doesn't have to be about that bottom-line dollar figure. I wish that this extraordinary stuff that's being made by television today is available to everyone. We're proud of what we're doing on Homeland, and there are some people -- who are my friends -- who can't afford $12, $14 or $15 a month. So we're bootlegging them copies of screeners because we're friends, you know? I don't have the solution, but I would like it found.

Quaid: I wouldn't know the first thing about running a network. I think [CBS Corp. president and CEO] Les Moonves is really good at it, but that's a different world and mind-set because it is tied to advertising. Sometimes it does really great, and sometimes it doesn't, and it's just a big-boy game.

Patinkin: I'm grateful for things like reality TV because those shows can foot the bill for these other things. But I think there are other ways to skin the cat so that everybody can afford everything.


Emmy Roundtable: Reality Stars On Bad Contestants And Biggest Regrets

(By Stacey Wilson and Lacey Rose, Hollywood Reporter, 17 June 2013)


Being a veteran in business dominated by scandals and sex tapes deserves kudos on its own. To create more than 10 seasons of family-friendly, Emmy-nominated content? Truly surreal. Representing their genre's best, the six contenders here -- Dancing With the Stars' Tom Bergeron, 58; American Idol's (departed) Randy Jackson, 56; The Amazing Race's Phil Keoghan, 46; Project Runway's Heidi Klum, 40; Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi, 42; and Gordon Ramsay, 46, of Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and MasterChef -- dish freely about the strange and hilarious moments that keep them coming back for more.

our editor recommends [5]The Hollywood Reporter: Has there been a moment where you sensed a contestant had been pushed too far, and how did you handle that particular moment?

Tom Bergeron: When Marie Osmond fainted, and I called for the paramedics. When a contestant actually loses consciousness, I think that's a good sign.

Randy Jackson: It might be time to say, "Well, maybe they went a little too far."

Gordon Ramsay: Yeah, I think pressure's healthy, and very few can handle it. Pushing them to the extreme is part of the reason why they're there, to get that kind of magic.

Jackson: It's part of the competition, too.

Ramsay: Also to separate the cream from the milk and to identify who's got it and who hasn't got it.

Jackson: Yeah, because that's what it's about. Honestly, on our show, you're going to get a chance to win, or come in the top 10 or top 20, and you're going to jump into that great brass ring with all of your idols and compete some more. So you love Rihanna, you love Mariah [Carey], you love Nicki [Minaj], you love Jay-Z, you love Justin Timberlake -- guess what? OK, you won, now go and compete with them with your record. You think there's pressure on the show? Get ready!

Padma Lakshmi: The pressure brings out more creativity for a lot of our chefs. I think that pressure is also very revealing about what kind of person that chef is. Sometimes, they'll push themselves too far. They will take on more than they can actually execute, given the time constraints and the budget.

Heidi Klum: I'm always surprised when they start complaining. I'm like, "Really? You stood in a line to be part of this, now you're here, and you're tired? Really? Go home and be tired. You're here." And then they say, "We really only have one day to complete this challenge?" I'm like, "How many times did you watch this show?" "Yeah, but we thought this is TV time."

Phil Keoghan: That is the show. What we're all trying to do is, essentially, take all this potential energy, put it in a pressure pot, heat up the pot and see what happens. We have all the ingredients for pressure, and we're watching to see what's going to happen when the heat goes up.

Bergeron: That's why there's not a show set at a spa. Who the hell wants to watch a bunch of people at a spa? They're all relaxed, and nobody's competing.

Ramsay: But it's not really pressure.

Jackson: "If you can't stand the heat, get out the damn kitchen." Right?

THR: The unscripted industry has experienced a series of unfortunate events because of unsafe conditions. What kind of responsibility do you all feel as producers or hosts?

Ramsay: You take it personally. There was a tragic incident with a chef who sadly took his life. It was nothing to do with the program, Kitchen Nightmares; it was just a terrible state that he was going through and a level of pressure [that he was under]. You know, you see that kind of environment, and you get so close to them, and then when you're out of there, you want them to stay in that normality. But I think it's about them being open and honest prior to entering that kind of circus. We do background checks, every network has to go through that parade, but we're not there six months prior. We're there for a week, and so they have to open up, and if they don't give you the bare bones of what the issues are, then no matter what happens, whether it's six months or six years later, if a crew was there, and you're part of that, then you're part of the bigger picture and the headline. It's awkward, but you take it personally.

Bergeron: I wonder, too, because the four of you, unlike Phil and myself, your shows deal with people trying to pursue careers. Andy Dick doesn't want to become a professional ballroom dancer, and nor should he. And after they're done with the race, they're back to their life.

Keoghan: You're absolutely right. They're coming in there for that experience, and one of the things that we've prided ourselves on is testing and retesting our challenges. I don't worry about the teams doing any challenge on our show because it's been so thoroughly tested over and over and over again. The thing I worry about is when they're just doing something ordinary like ending up in a taxicab in India. There is a potential for something to go wrong because it's not something that we can control.

Jackson: Last season on Idol, we were in Hollywood, and we had like three people in a row just drop from the stage and pass out, hit the floor. This one girl, she's going up to sing, and she just falls in front of us, and you're just like, "Oh my God, what is happening?" The doctors are all there, and we took it personally. You have to stay hydrated!

Klum: You take care of them, but at the end of the day, they're not kids. When you sign yourself up for what you're doing, you have to take care of yourself.

Ramsay: I think there should be more aftercare. We leave them with a prescription, but I personally would like to see a stronger follow-through.

THR: What would that look like?

Ramsay: Well, we had a situation for the first time on Nightmares where I actually sat the couple down [the owners of Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Ariz.] and said, "You've got every right to run the restaurant how you see fit, but I can't help you." The problem with restaurants is that anyone can go and buy one, and that's what we're dealing with. You have a glamorous dinner party, and all of a sudden your neighbors say, "Hey, you should have a restaurant." So they fall in love with the idea as opposed to the reality of actually doing the job. But I drew a line in the sand. If they're a couple that's so dysfunctional, then they don't deserve that restaurant, and I'm going to stick my hand up in the air and say, "I cannot help you." And that's on the back of three months of research, and it's a proper program, and I've put my hand up and admitted, "You are too far gone, stop faking it."

Keoghan: And you were the most unpopular person at work that day.

Ramsay I was, yes.

Keoghan: All that work, right?

Ramsay: I will not be going back to Arizona for a long time.

THR: A lot of this speaks to the casting process. Has what you consider to be a good contestant changed since you've started?

Jackson: We find that the public always wants to see a cross section. Sometimes people say, "Well, why don't you just have all the good people?" If all the good people would show up, that's what we'd have. Do you think all the good people are sitting at home going: "You know what? I'm going for that Idol thing, man, I'm ready"? It just doesn't happen, so you get a lot of wild, interesting people.

Bergeron: But you want to see that. We did an all-star season last fall with Dancing With the Stars, and the numbers went down. We all thought, "This is going to be great, all the people that you've loved before" -- it was like The Avengers of ballroom dancing. But it wasn't. What we heard -- and I wish my wife had told me this before we started, because she said [it, too] -- "I like it better when they're struggling. I like to see the arc."

Keoghan: It's so true.

Jackson: By the way, it shows you that if you see someone struggling or not very good, when you see the really good one, you're like, "Wow."

Klum: But you also see that sometimes these people get pushed forward, not from you guys, necessarily, but America votes for them because they actually want to see that train wreck happen again, right?

Jackson: Yeah, they love that.

Lakshmi: They like the underdog, too.

Ramsay: The transition of watching and witnessing. That's what they're like three months prior; look what they're like now with the confidence and mentoring. That, for me, is the payoff.

Jackson: That's the real story of all these shows.

Keoghan: The viewer sees it more than a lot of people realize. The viewer is incredibly discerning at very quickly picking up whether that person is there because they are really that coal miner from Alabama and they're there to take on this experience as opposed to someone who's there because they want some afterlife from the show to go do something. With our show having been on over a decade now, we're attracting more people, but there are also a lot more people who are applying because they think, "Ooh, I could become famous."

Ramsay: I've seen it more with the parents. We're just coming to the end of this shoot with Junior MasterChef, which was about 8-year-old boys and girls. Their parents are up on the balcony, and they are literally pointing, "I told you inside that layer cake is where you put the f--ing raspberries."

Bergeron: I wouldn't think you'd want to annoy your child and then have them hold sharp objects.

THR: Is it fair to say the thread between your collective shows -- some of which have been on the air for a decade -- is that they're family-friendly?

Ramsay: Sometimes.

BERGERON Dysfunctional families are families, too.

Jackson: Yes, they are, they are.

Keoghan: But you know, what's interesting is, there are still so many people out there that when they hear the words "reality television," they don't actually think of these shows. It does frustrate me sometimes that people will immediately think of the train-wreck shows that are big, big, big, and then they're gone the next season.

Lakshmi: I couldn't agree with you more. I actually don't think of our shows as reality shows. I think they're mislabeled. To me, they're game shows or competition shows.

Ramsay: Everyone says it's reality, but it's unscripted drama.

Lakshmi: A common denominator in all of our shows is that they're about people trying to be better, whereas there's still a large swath of reality shows that are actually exhibitionists and people willfully trying to be controversial or idiotic or just acting out.

Bergeron: There was this -- I don't want to malign the well-intentioned people who put it together -- but I'm about to …

Keoghan: Go for it.

BERGERON It was this reality awards show that happened in town like a year or so ago, and I, in a moment of weakness, agreed to go. I think a friend was being honored, and I went there, and it was like a Fellini wet dream. I mean, it was unbelievable. Freaky.

Lakshmi: I'm still amazed at how much people are willing to humiliate themselves to be on TV.

THR: Looking back, is there a scene or moment on your show that you wish hadn't aired?

Klum: Thankfully, I don't have anything like that.

Jackson: I don't think there's any moment on Idol I wish hadn't aired. If you're calling yourself a real reality show, you have to show it all.

Keoghan: I wish we hadn't done the family version of Amazing Race, but I'm proud that we tried it. It didn't work, and it came back to the whole thing of having to eliminate kids. It's hard enough to eliminate anybody because they want to be there so badly, and I had to look into a kid's eyes with the tears pouring down with a raised eyebrow and dramatic pause, cameras coming in: "I'm sorry to tell you, you've been eliminated."

Klum: You're a monster, Mr. Keoghan.

Keoghan: So we do the family version of The Amazing Race, and the very first family that I have to eliminate is the Black family, who happen to be black. They were an amazing family, and I was talking to the father about how he wanted to be addressed. He said, "I want to be called the Black family. I'm very proud of my name, and I'm proud to be black." I was like, OK, and so we go to Harlem, and I'm doing a school visit, and I'm standing on the stage thinking, "How am I going to do this?" It's 800 kids, and I go, "And now from The Amazing Race: Family Version, please welcome …" And I just didn't know what else to say but "the Black family." I thought I was going to be killed, and then Mr. Black, thankfully, came up and said, "Hey, settle down, that's our name, we're Black, and we're brown." He saved my life. I guess I wish that hadn't aired.

Lakshmi: That's great television, clearly.

Bergeron: Week two, he gets rid of the Honky family.

Lakshmi: I don't know if I wish it hadn't aired, but I certainly wish it hadn't happened. It was my first season of Top Chef, and it was toward the end of the season, when there was this Lord of the Flies moment, and they kind of ganged up on Marcel Vigneron, who looks very similar to the Wolf Man or Wolverine. He had these mutton chops. He's a very eccentric, interesting young man, and he's very sweet, but he came off as very annoying to all of the people who had to live with him. They held him down and threatened to shave his head, and it got very ugly, and we did stop it. The person who actually did the holding down regretted it terribly and paid the price because we did air it. It was a terrible moment for us. What happened out of the kitchen did overshadow what happened in the kitchen.

THR: How involved are you in the day-to-day business realities of your shows, whether it be ratings or network notes?

Lakshmi: I don't look at ratings until somebody tells me. But I've already filmed that season when the ratings come out. With advertising, it's a very expensive show to do, so there are times when we have people or corporations who come in, and it's the "challenge for Uncle Ben's" or whatever. I'm the one on air who gets kind of most, I don't want to say saddled or slammed with the crappy part of it, but I feel like I do because I wind up saying the brand name in my introduction of the challenge to these chefs. And it's never, "Get in your car," it's "Get in your blah, blah, blah car." I have to make that shit sound natural, and it's hard.

Ramsay: I think it's a lot more difficult in the U.K. because you can't be that blatant. Over here, it's so much easier, so having experience in producing The F-Word and Nightmares in the U.K., we can't do anything there. We can't mention that Uncle Ben's. What it does do from a producing point of view is, it makes you strive harder to become more creative.

Klum: As long as the show does not suffer because of that, it's OK.

Bergeron: It's hard. I got on a Netflix binge with Sons of Anarchy, so I'm watching every episode, and they're all drinking Miller Lite. They're these bikers, and all the labels are facing the camera. And it took me right out of the show. It was awkward product placement.

Klum: We have to integrate it into the challenges. My show, Project Runway, is probably one of the lowest-budget shows sitting here. We do everything in one small room at Parsons [design school], and it has never changed. And when we have the people come with their integrations, we try to really make them great. For example, if we have a big car company, we say what car it is, but then the designers have to make something out of that car, so they're ripping the car seats out, and they're using that as fabric. If it doesn't hurt the integrity of the show and makes for a great challenge, bring it on.

Jackson: For us, it's probably been the most seamless integration. Nobody cares if it's a Coke cup or a Ford car because it's the singing and it's synonymous with the show now. So it has actually worked out quite well, but in the beginning, we got made fun of a lot with the Coke cups.

THR: Do the rest of you pay attention to ratings?

Bergeron: We're live every week, so Tuesday morning when I go in and we're going to do a show that night live, I've got the overnights from Monday, and I'm looking at the half-hour breakdowns. We've got The Voice against us now, and we've taken a hit because of that, so I grumble about that a little bit. But I look at where the demo has bumped, what's opposite us. How are they doing? I'm a bit of a ratings whore, frankly.

Keoghan: I'm looking. I call [CBS] and say, "How'd we do?" And we've been blessed. We've been on for over 10 years, and we've sat right around 10 million for 10 years, and so I think I would look more if we were dropping radically, or I would probably be more interested if we suddenly went to 20 million and did a Simon Cowell [who famously suggested The X Factor would launch to 20 million viewers]. Oh, that's right, he didn't hit 20 million.

Jackson: Oh, it's getting cold in here. Is there a draft? (Laughs.) I don't think about ratings that much because I think when you're in your 12th season and you're still on the air, and you're getting 11, 12, 13 million people an episode, wow.

THR: But there's a target on your back with Idol.

Jackson: But there's a target on your back because there's a show [The Voice] in its fourth season that's getting that, so you go, "Wait a minute, really?" But we have a saying in the music business. Do you know how you know that you've made it? As soon as they start hating on you, you must be huge. So we get all of the hate from the critics, from the journalists, from everybody, "Idol's fallen, the show's over, it's tanking, whatever." I see it and go, "Wow, we must be really good."

THR: Does it ever get to you? The criticism?

Ramsay: It does at a stage. Then you become thick-skinned because how much shit does one want to read? So I think the longer the seasons go on, the more thick-skinned you become, and then after a while, it's just irrelevant.

Jackson: It never gets to me. I played in so many bands for nobody in the crowd, I played a million shows before I made four dollars. So guess what? Bring it on.

THR: Final question, which is a little bit lighter. What's your own reality-show guilty pleasure?

Jackson: Well, I mean if I must, then I …

THR: Is it The Voice?

Jackson: Are you kidding? I'd be the last guy to watch a singing show.

Keoghan: Have you watched it?

Jackson: I watched it the first season and liked the spinning chairs. I thought it was very game-show, very Star Trek. But being a proud boy from Louisiana, you know what I love? Duck Dynasty, baby. I'm in, dude.

Klum: You know what my kids like to watch, and I watch it with them, is Wipeout.

Ramsay: I'm excited to see the new CBS baking show [The American Baking Competition] because it's coming from Britain. I'm not too sure about the affinity in terms of baking here [in the U.S.] because you guys cook brilliantly, but to see these marquees and these tents and British, English tea and scones in the afternoon, I can't wait for it.

Keoghan: It's huge there, right?

Ramsay: It's massive. They'd come out of their grave to watch that thing.

Bergeron: This is no lie, my favorite reality show is C-SPAN. It's not only fascinating sometimes just to watch the minutiae of government, but if you're having trouble sleeping, it is like a video roofie. You just put it on, and you have no memory of what you did for hours beforehand.

Ramsay: Deadliest Catch.

Lakshmi: Hoarders.

Keoghan: My daughter is 17, and I keep up through her. I'll say to her, "What's everybody talking about at school?" And for years, nobody at her school cared about Amazing Race, but in recent years [they have started watching]. … There was this funny story when my daughter met Paula Abdul on the street, and she loved Idol at the time, and she went up and asked for an autograph. Her friend said to Paula, "Oh, you know, her dad is on …" And my daughter's like, "Shh, shut up, don't talk about Dad." She didn't watch my show until she got older, and now, suddenly, I'm kind of cool.

Jackson: You know what show my wife loves? Amazing Race.

Keoghan: Is that right? I should record a little phone message to your wife. Let me eliminate her for you. When she's a pain, you say: "Hey, baby, watch this. I'm sorry to tell you, you've been eliminated. Boom."

Klum: How many times did you have to do that?

Keoghan: Every day.

Klum: "Can I get you to please say auf Wiedersehen?" I get that.

Keoghan: Or "This is Tom's voice mail. You must now choose between leave a message or not leave a message."

Lakshmi: The pilot on the American Airlines flight coming here was like, "I have to tell you, please pack your knives and go." I was like, "Yeah, I've never heard that one before."


Emmy Nominations: A TV Academy Member Dishes on His Ballot
(As told to Scott Feinberg, Hollywood Reporter, 17 July 2013)

I recently had a marathon phone conversation with one of the most diligent of the 15,000 members of the TV Academy of Arts and Sciences -- a young male who watches virtually every major drama and comedy series and attends their panels and receptions -- who agreed to share with me the names of the shows and people he voted for on his nomination ballot for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. (Nomination ballots had to be turned in on June 28 and the nominations will be announced on July 18.)  His picks are not necessarily indicative of how the overall membership felt about these shows -- nothing really is -- but they are as carefully considered as any voter's picks could be, and, as you can read below each of them, cogently defended.

Best Drama Series

1. Mad Men
Well-written and visually-beautiful, as always, this season was particularly powerful and devastating to watch, as Don Draper's problems finally came to a head.

2. Game of Thrones
Its ambition and writing are second to none, as demonstrated by the fact that they killed off several major characters and not only retained their audience but became the talk of the town.

3. Downton Abbey
With its intertwining and melodramatic storylines, it's hard to argue that this isn't a period-piece soap opera -- but it's a soap opera that's so smart that you can feel proud to watch it.

4. Breaking Bad
Watching the show is probably not unlike being on meth -- once you start, you can't stop. Vince Gilligan and his stars are winding down the series even better than they began it.

5. Homeland
There's no question that it has fallen off a bit since season one, but it still has breathtaking moments that will get your heart beating faster than just about anything else on the air.

6. House of Cards
At a time when real-world politics are as dirty and cutthroat as ever, it's oddly cathartic to watch a show that revolves around a politician who is open and honest -- at least to the audience -- about being a scoundrel.

Best Actor (Drama Series)

1. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
He plays the most complex character on television and makes it look effortless. Plus he's an incredibly nice guy who made a strong impression at this year's TV Academy talkback.

2. Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Hamm has always played Don as totally in-control, which made the latter part of this season, when his emotions finally bubbled to the surface, all the more powerful. Getting caught wiped the smirk right off his face, possibly forever.

3. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
He's an average-looking guy, but when he's on screen you can't take your eyes off of him. I find the Shakespearean asides to the audience to be a little off-putting, but the overall performance to be masterfully nuanced. And a great Q&A and event at the TV Academy certainly didn't hurt.

4. Damian Lewis (Homeland)
Has there ever been a better depiction of Stockholm Syndrome? And, like the lead characters on The Americans, you find yourself liking the guy in spite of his muddled ideology because you want to believe that he will eventually come around.

5. Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom)
Daniels rises above the inherent flaws of the show and gives a searing portrayal of a man in crisis. (I'm always fascinated by characters who present different private and public faces.) Plus he stayed at the TV Academy reception until there were only 10 people left, which really endeared him to a lot of people.

6. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey)
I can't imagine there's anything harder than playing a stiff character and still keeping him interesting and likable, but Bonneville, in partnership with Fellowes, does just that. He was particularly interesting this season as his morally-upstanding character was caught in moral dilemma after moral dilemma.

Best Actress (Drama Series)

1. Claire Danes (Homeland)
Playing a person with a mental illness is challenging, but playing a person with a mental illness that sporadically surfaces and then fades away, and having to make the necessary adjustments to a performance, is off-the-charts, and yet she's never less than totally believable.

2. Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)
Not exactly a sympathetic character, she portrays a manipulative and needy woman (she's clearly her grandmother's granddaughter), but you still can't help but root for her happiness, if only because you want to believe that it would enable her to be a better person.

3. Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
A truly groundbreaking character -- a married working woman as the show's one and only central character -- played by a woman who can say more with a glance or a blink than most actresses can say in a full monologue. After all she's been through, I so desperately want her to find happiness.

4. Keri Russell (The Americans)
It's so interesting to watch this beautiful and obviously intelligent actress play a character who is torn between her two desires -- continuing to work on behalf of the motherland and maintaining a happy home for her kids -- particularly in the moments when you can see, from something as subtle as a glance or a twitch, that she has doubts about whether or not she's doing the right thing.

5. Kerry Washington (Scandal)
This strong actress portrays a strong character who has a remarkable presence -- and a bit of an edge, as we see in the scenes involving her personal life. I wonder if her appearance in Django Unchained improves her chances this year?

6. Emmy Rossum (Shameless)
What makes this performance so memorable is the 180-degree turn that the character has experienced over the course of the show -- from enabling her alcoholic father to cracking down on him and even taking him to court.

Best Supporting Actor (Drama Series)

1. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
He's believable -- and actually immensely likable -- as a troubled kid who's in over his head, and you just hope that Walter doesn't drag him down with him, and that he somehow finds a way out of this mess.

2. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
One of the wittiest characters on the show, but not just a comic foil. Every one of his wisecracks is driven by pain.

3. Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad)
This season really humanized Banks' character, showing that he was not just a machine, but a man who, like most men, wound up in his profession in part because he had the necessary skill-set and in part because if offered him a way to provide for his love ones.

4. Jeff Perry (Scandal)
Playing a loyal servant to the president, he offers one of the best examples of a new generation of characters who homosexuality is basically incidental, and not the reason for their being or constantly reiterated through stereotypical behavior. That's progress.

5. Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
Saul is Carrie's rock and the only thing keeping her operational, metaphorically and literally. And don't be fooled by his calm exterior; Patinkin is understated, but one look into his eyes shows you that he has a burning inner-life that drives him to keep at his often demoralizing job.

6. Rob-James Collier (Downton Abbey)
Thomas is the least likable and most complex character on the show, making an art out of manipulating others, and then, this season, being manipulated by others.

Best Supporting Actress (Drama Series)

1. Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
For bringing to life everyone's favorite character on Downton, Smith certainly shares credit with Fellowes, who saves his best lines for her, but without her inimitable timing, delivery and facial expressions they wouldn't be nearly as funny. The scene in which her character mourns a great loss is a mini-masterpiece.

2. Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
Skyler’s character has gone through an emotional roller-coaster throughout the series, and particularly during the most recent season. Dealing with depression and even suicidal thoughts, she has to keep her fears to herself as she tries to protect her kids.

3. Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
A strong woman who is not nearly as in-control as she leads most people to believe, it's been particularly interesting to watch her this season, as she tried to prove that she is worthy of the senior position that she holds for reasons other than her talent at advertising -- only to run up against resistance from others, including her biggest female ally.

4. Morena Baccarin (Homeland)
A woman who has been through the ringer and back again, it's been captivating watching her begin to put together the pieces and realize that her idealized husband has not been telling her the truth.

5. Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
A powerful woman who is caught between her professional ambitions and her desire to be with the person that she loves, she is admirable for her decency, good-intentions and irrepressible drive -- plus she always has an endearing twinkle in her eye.

6. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones)
Don't be distracted by her youth and beauty -- she knows exactly what she's doing in order to get what she wants, the throne, which she feels is rightfully hers, and which I want to be hers, since she has had to go through so much and has come so far.

Best Comedy Series

1. Modern Family
It delivers more consistently than any other comedy on the air.

2. 30 Rock
I'm going to miss the show, which has the flow and tempo of a musical, complete with a score in the background.

3. The Big Bang Theory
It's incredibly smart and often very funny -- but, with all its jargon and nerdiness, I must admit that it can get a bit grating. (Is it taped in front of a live audience or with a laughtrack? Because sometimes I find myself asking, "Why is the audience laughing?")

4. Louie
Like Curb, it's a brilliant study of a certain emotional state, which leads to the laugh-out-loud humor.
Despite being slightly depressing, everyone who sees it likes it.

5. New Girl
Zooey Deschanel was always funny, but lately her costars have risen to her level, which has made the show considerably more enjoyable. Plus the cast's Q&A at the TV Academy was one of the funniest I've ever attended.

6. Parks and Recreation
Whether or not things are actually being improvised on the spot, it feels as alive and electric as any show. That's a rare thing, and for it to happen everyone has to be on their game and clicking together, as this show's cast certainly is.

Best Actor (Comedy Series)

1. Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
He is a comedic genius with impeccable timing that makes the show worth watching. It can't be easy to make highfalutin language funny!

2. Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Jack is such an unabashedly vain and selfish prick -- not unlike Baldwin himself, according to his critics -- that you can't help but get a kick out of him.

3. Louis C.K. (Louie)
He has an amazing ability to keep his crazy character -- maybe the most average and real and depressing character on TV, save for Larry David -- grounded in reality.

4. Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation)
Some people come with a track record that makes you predisposed to laugh at them the moment you see them, even before they crack a joke. He's one of those guys.

5. Jason Bateman (Arrested Development)
It's great to have the show back on the air, even if it's not what it was. Good luck finding a better straight man to anchor a series full of whacky characters.

6. Jake Johnson (New Girl)
He and Zooey are great together and their relationship made the show's second season worth watching.
Best Actress (Comedy Series)

1. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Veep)
She has a presence about her, on and off screen, and it's been amazing to watch her go from Seinfeld to The New Adventures of Old Christine to this show, each of which demanded totally different comedic skills from her, which she seemed to have no problem furnishing.

2. Tina Fey (30 Rock)
She's not the underdog anymore, but she's had to fight hard for everything she's got, and I admire the heck out of her for it. She gets bonus-points from me for not only performing but also writing her character.

3. Lena Dunham (Girls)
Maybe even more than with Fey, I am in awe of the fact that this youngster, through sheer smarts and force of nature, dreamed up an idea unlike anything else out there and then wrote and willed it into being, giving herself a pedestal that someone else might never have given to her.

4. Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
One of the most gifted and totally unique women in comedy, she is always willing to "go there" -- as in, anywhere! -- for a laugh. My favorite part of her performance are the little asides that she mumbles to herself.

5. Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
She is weird and proud of it, on screen and off, and I like that.

6. Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory)
I've liked and believed in her since Charmed, and she's a perfect counterpart for Jim Parsons. His character may be a genius, but hers has got common sense.

Best Supporting Actor (Comedy Series)

1. Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
He's super funny -- and you'd never know that he's actually straight!

2. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
He and Stonestreet perfectly complement each other; I'm not sure that one would be funny without the other, and it's a shame that one can't vote for them together.

3. Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Playing a guy who tries too hard, but still retains the audience's sympathies, he displays great comedic timing.

4. Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live)
He trots out an incredibly wide array of characters -- everyone loves Stefon! -- and is almost always the source of the show's biggest laughs.

5. Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
The perfect straight man.

6. Will Arnett (Arrested Development)
A selfish, ignorant and stupid character, and probably the funniest element of the show.

Best Supporting Actress (Comedy Series)

1. Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
She can go more over-the-top without becoming annoying than anyone out there. Her character is immensely likable, and so is she.

2. Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
She's the female version of Alec Baldwin's character, and I really get a kick out of those buffoon types.

3. Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
She's a great straight (wo)man, bouncing off of everyone else's broader performances, while still managing to generate big laughs of her own.

4. Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)
She's a completely hilarious woman, on camera and off. She doesn't even need the show's writers to be funny -- her visit to the TV Academy a few months ago had people rolling in the aisles!

5. Jessica Walter (Arrested Development)
I love her on Archer and this, and I want her to get nominated for this as a thank you to Netflix for bringing back the show, even if it's not as great as it used to be.

6. Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation)
She's a natural who is clearly terrific at improvisation.


Emmys: Scott Feinberg's 5 Biggest Nominations Takeaways (Analysis)
(By Scott Feinberg, Hollywood Reporter, 18 July 2013)

THR's awards analyst on the rise of Netflix, the fall of broadcast, voters' obsession with movie stars, the impact of campaigning and the next round of voting.  I was seated in the front row at the TV Academy in North Hollywood at 5:30 a.m. PDT as Neil Patrick Harris and Aaron Paul unveiled the 65th Emmy Award nominations, but it wasn't until the traffic-plagued drive from there to the office that I was able to really digest the larger meaning of what was disclosed there. Here are five points I think are as important as any to take away from Thursday's big announcement.

1. The future awards prospects of broadcast TV look bleaker than ever.
Everyone today is focused on the ascendance of the new form of television, streaming, thanks to a nice showing by Netflix. But what has not received enough attention is how poorly the original form of television, broadcast, did today.  For the second straight year, not a single series that airs on one of the big four broadcast networks -- CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox -- received a nom for best drama series, and only three were among the six nominated for best comedy series (CBS' The Big Bang Theory, NBC's 30 Rock and ABC's Modern Family).

They didn't fare much better in the acting categories, either. On the drama side, their sole representatives were lead actresses Connie Britton (ABC's Nashville) and Kerry Washington (ABC's Scandal) and supporting actress Christine Baranski (CBS' The Good Wife). There wasn't even room in the lead actress category for Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), who was nominated for that show each of the past three years, thanks to the influx of cable and streaming competition in the category -- Vera Farmiga (A&E's Bates Motel) and Robin Wright (Netflix's House of Cards) helped knock her out.
Even on the comedy side, where broadcast contenders have more effectively held off the rise of cable contenders, cable and streaming made major inroads. Zooey Deschanel (Fox's New Girl), who was a best actress nominee last year, got boxed out this year by Laura Dern (HBO's Enlightened); Jon Cryer (CBS' Two and a Half Men), who won the best actor race last year, was displaced by Jason Bateman (Netflix's Arrested Development); Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), who won the best supporting actor race last year, and Max Greenfield (Fox's New Girl), who was nominated last year, lost out to Adam Driver (HBO's Girls) and Tony Hale (HBO's Veep); and Anna Chlumsky (Veep) claimed a best supporting actress spot that some thought would go to Eden Sher (ABC's The Middle) or Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory), who tied for the Critics' Choice Award last month.

It's not exactly a fair fight: Broadcast shows must be conservative enough to be viewed by people of all ages, whereas pay cable shows can use just about any words or images they'd like; broadcast shows, in order to make money, regularly have to be interrupted by commercials, whereas premium cable shows do not; and the people behind broadcast shows are expected to churn out a large number of episodes per season (i.e. 22 for The Good Wife), whereas the people behind pay cable shows (i.e. 12 for Showtime's Homeland) are not, which makes it harder for the former to rise to the artistic level of the latter.
2. Netflix did well, but let's not crown a new king yet.

Netflix, the subscription-based streaming service that made a big splash this year with its original series House of Cards, Hemlock Grove and Arrested Development, scored 14 nominations Thursday, including some big ones: House of Cards nabbed noms for best drama series, best actor in a drama series (Kevin Spacey) and best actress in a drama series (Wright), and Arrested Development was recognized with a best actor in a comedy series nom (Bateman). In short, it had a very good day.  But before we get too carried away and start calling Netflix "the new HBO," as some did this morning -- and not just in reference to the fact that HBO's The Sopranos was the first pay cable network to score a best series Emmy nomination back in 1999 -- let's take a moment to put things in perspective. 
Netflix spent a fortune on its Emmy campaigns -- indeed, the only other network that was in its spending hemisphere was HBO, another subscriber-based service that sees campaigning and awards primarily as a way of attracting new subscribers. And yet Arrested Development still came up short in the races for best comedy series (whereas HBO was represented in that category by Girls and Veep), best supporting actor in a comedy series (Will Arnett and Jeffrey Tambor were knocked out by Hale and Driver of HBO's Veep and Girls, respectively); and best supporting actress in a comedy series (Jessica Walter was held off by Veep's Chlumsky). Additionally, House of Cards' supporting actor and supporting actress contenders, Corey Stoll and Kate Mara, were both snubbed (at the expense of Bobby Cannavale and Emilia Clarke of HBO's Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, respectively); and Hemlock Grove was, not surprisingly, nowhere to be found.  Netflix, the new kid on the block, did very well, but HBO, with 108 nominations (more than twice as many as the next highest-scoring network and nearly eight times as many as Netflix), decidedly remains the king of the hill.

3. The TV Academy (still) really loves movie stars.
The top tier of TV, in my humble opinion, never has been stronger. However, even as the quality of TV generally gets better and the quality of movies generally gets worse, Emmy voters still disproportionately reward "movie stars" -- or people better known for their work in movies than on TV -- when they grace TV shows with their presence. Because more and more movie stars are fleeing the movies for TV, where they can find meatier parts (as opposed to just formulaic remakes, sequels and adaptations), there are more movie stars nabbing coveted Emmy nominations.

This year's class of nominees includes two-time Oscar winner Spacey and Wright for House of Cards; Jeff Daniels for HBO's The Newsroom; Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock; Oscar nominee Don Cheadle for Showtime's House of Lies; Oscar nominee Dern for Enlightened; Oscar winners Matt Damon and Michael Douglas for HBO's Behind the Candelabra; Oscar winners Al Pacino and Helen Mirren for HBO's Phil Spector; two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange, Oscar nominee James Cromwell and Zachary Quinto for FX's American Horror Story; Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver and Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn for USA's Political Animals; Oscar nominee Laura Linney for Showtime's The Big C: Hereafter; Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard for Lifetime's Steel Magnolias; Charlotte Rampling for BBC One's Restless; and Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton for HBO's The Girl.  In short, I'm pretty sure that the days of movie stars regarding TV work as a comedown now are firmly a thing of the past.
4. Expect Emmy campaigning to continue to increase.

For a long time, the extent of Emmy "campaigning" was having talent show up at awards shows for which they were nominated and perhaps taking out a few "for your consideration" ads in the trade papers. Then, a couple of years ago, FYC ads started to show up on the sides of buses, the backs of public benches and even on a few billboards. But this year, several networks kicked things up a notch by hiring independent awards strategists -- people with years of experience in the fine art of Oscar campaigning -- to organize and orchestrate strategic Emmy campaigns. Ginsberg-Libby handled Netflix; LT-LA handled History; MRC PR handled Matt Weiner and therefore, in effect, AMC's Mad Men.  And now it looks like there's no turning back because, surprise surprise, the new approach worked.
Netflix scored several major nominations; History scored an improbable best movie or miniseries nom for The Bible and a bunch of lower-profile noms for drama series The Vikings and fiction miniseries The Men Who Built America. And Mad Men registered 12 noms -- including best drama series, best drama series actor (Jon Hamm), best drama series actress (Elisabeth Moss), best supporting actress (Christina Hendricks), best guest actor (Harry Hamlin and Robert Morse) and best guest actress (Linda Cardellini) -- despite having a relative shaky season.

5. Voters really like a lot of different things this year.
Emmy winners always are hard to predict because they are chosen by small clusters of TV Academy members (as opposed to the roughly 15,000 who pick the nominees), supposedly on the basis of single-episode submissions (as opposed to a full season of work). But this year, things look even harder to predict than usual because of the fact that the major nominations were so widely dispersed among so many shows, denying us even a semicredible hint of how voters might be leaning.  Take, for example, the drama series nominees. Emmy voters clearly love Mad Men, having awarded it this prize in four of the past five years. Last year, however, they awarded it to Homeland, which is nominated again this year, but for a season that most people agree was considerably less impressive than its first. They've nominated Breaking Bad each of the past three years without ever giving it the top prize (even as they regularly recognize its actors), but this year its greatly anticipated final season will be airing Aug. 11, just as the second round of voting takes place, and that could put it over the top for many people who have been catching up with it during its long hiatus.

Meanwhile, PBS' Downton Abbey, which surprised many by winning the best ensemble SAG Award over the aforementioned three shows (plus Boardwalk Empire), remains immensely popular with a certain segment of Emmy voters, as demonstrated by the fact that it scored at least one nom in all four acting categories for the second year in a row, something that also could be claimed by only Mad Men last year and Homeland this year. But whereas Downton may not have matched the quality of its earlier seasons this year, Game of Thrones had its best and most-watched season yet and made demonstrable inroads with actors, too, by adding a nom for Clarke to its annual nom for Peter Dinklage. But then there's House of Cards, a very buzzed-about new show from a network that hasn't previously factored into Emmy race -- a description that certainly fit Homeland last year when it ended up winning the category, didn't it?
In the comedy race, there's a generational and temperamental war brewing. Will traditional broadcast network shows with multiple cameras (i.e. 30 Rock and Modern Family, one of which has won the category each of the past six years) and sometimes even laugh-tracks (i.e. The Big Bang Theory) still be able to hold off edgy pay cable shows that may have fewer total viewers but more effectively permeate the zeitgeist, as demonstrated by social media activity (i.e. Girls, Veep and FX's Louie), or will there be a changing of the guard?

Even in the movie/miniseries category, it's something of a crapshoot. The winner has come from HBO in five of the past 10 years, which, along with a late release date and the participation of huge movie stars, bodes well for Behind the Candelabra. But FX's American Horror Story: Asylum benefits from being the second incarnation of a franchise that was nominated in this category last year and led the entire field of shows this year with 17 total noms, including four for its actors (Lange, Cromwell, Quinto and Sarah Paulson), three of whom stand a great shot at winning. (Behind the Candelabra received 15 total noms and three for its actors -- Douglas, Damon and Scott Bakula.) To win, though, they will have to beat the miniseries Top of the Lake, from BBC Two, and Political Animals, to say nothing of Phil Spector (in the form of the star-anchored HBO movie of the same name) and Jesus Christ himself (in the form of the most-watched TV miniseries of all time, The Bible).  In short, there is plenty of uncertainty as we head into the second phase of the Emmy season ... which should make it all the more fun.

Emmys: 21 Nominated Actresses Talk On-Set Rituals And Character Quirks
(By Reagan Alexander, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 August 2013)

The female nominees for best lead and supporting roles reveal what they need to get into character, which show they’d die to guest star on ("Game of Thrones!") and how wigs can be a bitch.  dy Actress Roundtable: Auditions for 'Homely' Parts, 'Girls' Paparazzi Problem Emmy Roundtable: 6 Drama Actresses on Death Threats, Post-Baby Auditions THR's Awards Analyst Handicaps the Comedy Leads Scott Feinberg Handicaps the Drama Leads (Analysis) Uncensored Comedy Actress RouDying to know which shows are calling to Emmy-nominated actresses? Looking for insights on how they get into their (extremely different) characters? 21 actresses tell THR, in their own words, what it's like doing their jobs right now.

Morena Baccarin
Supporting Actress, Drama
Homeland (Showtime)
The most difficult part of playing Jessica: Think of a scene that is four minutes long, I spend 10 to 12 hours working on that — that’s an entire day being in that shitty situation and really vulnerable. I can’t leave work without: It used to be a glass of wine — or three — but now I’m pregnant, so it’s a cup of tea. My dream guest star: Lena Dunham. I think she’s incredibly smart, and I would love to see what she’d do with this crazy spy-thriller world we’ve created. The first person I’ll thank if I win the Emmy: You save the best for last, so that’s my husband, but first would be my manager, Sarah Jackson. She was adamant we chase this show, and I thought there was no way in hell anyone would go for it.

Christine Baranski
Supporting Actress, Drama
The Good Wife (CBS)
How my character and I dIffer: She’s more self-contained and has a particular kind of intellect. I’ve always been fascinated by how actors play people smarter than themselves. What I need most to play Diane: The costumes and that wonderfully sparse set with those red accessories. When I enter those law offices, it draws me to my center. I think: “OK, less is more. You run this place.” My dream guest-star gig: Game of Thrones. It reminds me of classical acting we did at Juilliard. There’s something unabashed about that style — I could really release my inner bitch. No subtlety there! My dream guest star: Alan Rickman. He has that marvelous droll quality. I’d love it if he were a friend of Diane’s.

Mayim Bialik
Supporting Actress, Comedy
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
How my character and I differ: Not much! She’s a very unusual, tactless and late-to- develop character socially. The first thing I do on set: On tape night, I have onion rings and half a Coca-Cola, and I study with a friend. We study Jewish philosophy — that’s my pre-Tuesday ritual during dinner break. It puts some perspective on what we’re doing, and it takes my mind off the Coke and onion rings. My dream guest-star gig: Saturday Night Live. They have a quirky-girl bit (“Bein’ Quirky”) where they mention me as Blossom, so I think it would be hysterical if they had me on for a cameo. If I weren't an actress, I would be: I was a scientist before. Actually, in between — I was an actor when I was younger. I’m probably going to continue teaching in our home- school community.

Julie Bowen
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Modern Family (ABC)
How my character and I differ: I’m the amalgamation of all the writers’ sisters or wives or themselves, and I’m getting a crash course in parenting. They’ve made it OK for me to look at my own children occasionally with disgust and still know I love them deeply. Claire’s further along the track than I am. I sent my kid to camp yesterday without lunch and was mortified when they called to tell me they had to give my child food! Claire is better than that. The most difficult part of playing Claire: There is a very, very fine line between being shrill and being a real mom. My dream guest-star gig: Orange Is the New Black. There’s violence, lesbian sex, power games, seduction — it is a dark, dark place. It’s genius! If I weren't an actress, I would be: My major was Italian Renaissance Studies, so I’d probably be working at a coffee shop.

Connie Britton
Lead Actress, Drama
Nashville (ABC)
What I love about playing Rayna: All of the singing and performing— that’s the biggest challenge as an actor, but it’s also the most exciting. You’re at the edge of your own learning curve. My funniest co-star Chip [Charles] Esten, who plays Deacon, makes it very hard to keep it together. We were shooting this scene that was the aftermath of a car crash, and we’re crumpled up in this car just dying with laughter. My dream guest-star gig: I really want to be on Girls. I’ve been very public about that, and I know [co-showrunners] Lena [Dunham], and I know Jenni Konner. We’ve talked about it for a long time now, and it just needs to happen. The first person I'll thank if I win the Emmy: The Academy. This is my fourth nomination, and they’ve been so supportive and jumped on board for both Kyle Chandler and me for Friday Night Lights. I don’t take any of that for granted.

Anna Chlumsky
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Veep (HBO)
How my character and I differ: Amy doesn’t have a lot of respect for others. As ambitious as I am, she has a Machiavellian streak where everybody is a piece in the game. What I need most to play Amy: I always tell myself “speed chess” because it’s like playing a very strategic game, very quickly. And she wears her hair the same way every single day, and if the part is even a centimeter to the left or to the right, it doesn’t feel like Amy. My favorite scene from last season: The one where Selina [Julia Louis-Dreyfus] runs the half marathon and also walks into a glass door. We filmed the hotel scene where she’s supposed to be loopy on St. John’s wort pretty much straight through like a little one-act. It’s like candy to an actor to get to play a scene that long.

Emilia Clarke
Supporting Actress, Drama
Game of Thrones (HBO)
How my character and I differ: Aside from the dragons and the hair? She is definitely more fearless. The most difficult part of playing Daenerys: The Valyrian and Dothraki [fictional languages]. There are days when it just hasn’t gone in — those are the Tourette’s days, when my British potty mouth comes out. I’ll try to speak Dothraki, and the only word that comes to mind is an expletive! My dream guest star: Cate Blanchett. If she could just come in and be a Targaryen. And Cate Blanchett’s son should be Ryan Gosling, whom I would have to marry

Laura Dern
Lead Actress, Comedy
Enlightened (HBO)
How my character and I differ: I have learned to have boundaries in my life, which makes my life easier but also makes me harder to be around. The most difficult part of playing Amy: Keeping my “skin” raw enough that one word — not even the wrong word — taken the wrong way, and I would leap into an unbelievably, inappropriately huge response. What I need most to play Amy: Longing. That pretty much sums her up, and I find it relatable. My favorite scene from last season: My favorite Amy moment was when Dermot Mulroney’s character dumps her and he says something like, “We both knew that this was never going anywhere,” and instead of the Amy you’ve watched go ape shit for two seasons, she says, “I didn’t know.” I loved it — it showed that sometimes maturity and wisdom comes from being your most vulnerable self.

Michelle Dockery
Lead Actress, Drama
Downton Abbey (PBS)
What I love about playing Mary: She is so direct in her delivery and what she thinks. As much as [show creator] Julian [Fellowes] made Mary more vulnerable in the second series, he never shied away from her being shockingly cutting. I’m glad that she hasn’t lost the sting in her tail. The most difficult part of playing Mary: Sometimes getting into the accent in the morning, I have to kind of work on it a bit. It really is a different voice that I use as Mary, and that to me, more than costumes, is my character. My dream guest star: I always say that someone like George Clooney would just be hilarious. If I weren't an actress, I would be: Maybe something in music. ... Or a midwife. (Laughs.)

Edie Falco
Lead actress, Comedy
Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
How my character and I differ: Jackie bulldozes her way through her life. She needs what she needs and goes after it, which is very different from my people-pleasing persona. The most difficult part of playing Jackie: The memory of being at the mercy of an active addiction is very troubling. And to realize that there are so many people I know and love, as well as many people I don’t know, who are dealing with this. ... That part can nag at me. My favorite scene from last season: When Zoey (Merritt Wever) and Thor (Stephen Wallem) kept calling for a doctor and no one would come, so Zoey went ahead and did the procedure herself. There’s something about the way Merritt goes about this stuff, a quiet calm, it’s magical. My dream guest-star gig: I know I’m late on the uptake, but I’ve become a maniacal fan of Downton Abbey — a cuckoo-crazy fan. Why the hell not? I could be their American cousin or something.

Vera Farmiga
Lead Actress, Drama
Bates Motel (A&E)
How my character and I differ: Actresses are always clamoring for strong female characters, I think we should want more “weak” female characters. Not weak as in damsel in distress, but flawed. What’s so beautiful about her is her perseverance. She’s neurotic, downright errant, repressed, an insufferable know-it- all, but she’s strong. My favorite scene from last season: When Norma chooses to divulge to Norman that she was the victim of incest just as the doorbell rings and it’s his date for the school prom. It was quintessential Norma at her quirkiest, at her most broken. My dream guest star: A tie between Dianne Wiest, Deborah Harry or Cher to play Norma’s mad-hatter mom, and Gene Wilder to play her dad or freaky uncle. My dream guest-star gig: Vikings! I want cornrows and I want to guest star as a flamboyant warrior. Get me a guest role on Vikings!

Tina Fey
Lead Actress, Comedy
30 Rock (NBC)
How my character and I differ: Liz is a Sliding Doors version of me ... she stayed in that time before I was married, living in New York, serving as head writer. Liz is possibly a little more sour than I am, slightly less optimistic, and she’s a workhorse in the way that I possibly used to be. The most difficult part of playing Liz: It would have to be doing any sort of romantic scene. It’s weird because you’re playing this version of a person who is close to you, and then you pay an actor to kiss you. You feel like a john, like you’re soliciting that person to be there. My favorite scene from last season: The scene with Tracy [Morgan] at the strip club, which really bookended the series because in the pilot we’re in the same strip club. It really was seven years later, and it was very emotional but also kind of cathartic and sweet. The first person I’ll thank If I win the Emmy: A-Rod.

Anna Gunn
Supporting Actress, Drama
Breaking Bad (AMC)
How my character and I differ: I’m a more emotional person and much more accessible. Skylar is somebody who has learned through her experiences to keep things buried. The most difficult part of playing Skylar: In the early days, when I was playing things like finding out about Walt’s cancer,
I found it difficult not to react emotionally, and Vince [Gilligan] was pretty adamant about me playing against the emotion of things because he had this idea of Skylar being somebody with a backbone of steel. What I love about playing Skylar: I appreciate her strength. She was the one who never, ever said, “I buy your line of bullshit.” Even when she was most terrified of Walt, she still quietly held her ground. My dream guest star: We always were wondering who Marie and Skylar’s parents were, and at one point Vince said that their mom probably left at an early age and their dad was this heavy drinker. He said, “I have this idea of Kris Kristofferson playing him,” which I thought would have been awesome.

Christina Hendricks
Supporting Actress, Drama
Mad Men(AMC)
The thing I need most to play Joan: It’s a layered effect, but once the hair is up and you zip up that last tight skirt, it solidifies things. The tight skirt and the updo really do it. The first thing I do on set: I have it timed out: I live six minutes from work, so every day I show up on the dot with wet hair, I throw my purse in my trailer and go straight into hair and makeup. My dream guest star gig: I want to be on all of them because I’ll be unemployed in a year, so put that out there! I want to be on Homeland because I love the suspense of it, but I also want to be on Game of Thrones. I want to wear pelts and horns and ride around on horseback. If I weren't an actress, I would be: I think I would make a great florist.

Jane Krakowski
Supporting Actress, Comedy
30 Rock(NBC)
How my character and I differ: Delusion. I think Jenna lived in a world of delusion, and it was so incredibly fun to play a character with no sense of reality. My favorite scene from last season: In the finale, I love that the thing that made Jenna cry the most was saying goodbye to her mirror, and then they played a montage of Jenna admiring herself. FunnIest co-star: Tracy [Morgan], hands down. One of the great joys of working on 30 Rock was watching Tracy in read-throughs. The first person I’ll thank If I wIn the Emmy: Oh, if I get up there, whoever I thank I am going to do it in a song! But there is nobody to thank more than Tina Fey.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Lead Actress, Comedy
Veep (HBO)
How my character and I differ: She’s got shorter hair than I do, she wears panty hose more than I do, and she certainly wears pearls more than I do. I swear like a drunken sailor, but she swears more frequently, much more cleverly and much more beautifully than I do. Also, she’s completely out of her mind. What I love about playing SelIna: I love to play somebody who is in charge, but there’s an aspect of indignity about the role. The idea of being powerful and powerless at the same time is where the comedy lies in the show. What I need most to play SelIna: I need that wig like nobody’s business. (“Wiggy” is a total bitch by the way — moody and difficult.) And I need a very tight, well-tailored suit because then I feel very constricted and it helps me feel irritated. Funniest co-star: I can’t look Tony Hale in the eye for very long without losing it — I look at his ear or chin or the top of his head— and Matt Walsh has this sort of hang-dog, lost-at-sea look that slays me every time. My dream guest-star gig: If HBO ever decided to do another movie about Liberace, maybe I could play Liberace.

Elisabeth Moss
Lead Actress, Drama
Mad Men (AMC)
How my character and I differ: We’re both at our happiest when we’re working, but the biggest difference is that she is extremely incapable of finding happiness in other places. She can only seem to figure out the work part. What I need most to play Peggy: It’s the shoes. There’s something about the heels, the way they make you stand and the way they make you feel. Favorite scene from last season: I have a soft spot for the episode where Peggy and Abe [Charlie Hofheimer] break up, and she stabs him and then she goes to the office looking all messed up. She seeks out Ted [Kevin Rahm], and he puts her down, so she walks out of his office and tries to walk into Don’s, and he closes his door. It was a real pie-in-the-face moment for Peggy, where she’s stuck in the middle and she realizes that she is worse off than she ever was. My dream guest- star gIg: My biggest regret is not having been on Friday Night Lights because I loved that show, but now the obvious one would be Downton Abbey. I feel like I would probably be downstairs, not upstairs.

Sofia Vergara
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Modern Family (ABC)
What I need most to play Gloria: The outfits. With Gloria I can wear things that I would never wear in real life because they are so over- the-top. The truth is that I play her just to see how I look in those outfits! What gets me through a day on set: The grips know me, and they hide these all over the set: hot tamales and marshmallows! So in between scenes I’m eating them. My dream guest star gig: I love Revenge! I think it’s like a soap opera in Latin America, but only with really wealthy people.

Kerry Washington
Lead Actress, Drama
Scandal (ABC)
What I love about playing OlIvIa: I think it’s the dichotomy. In some ways she is the most powerful person in almost every room she walks into, but her personal life is a mess. The most difficult part of playing Olivia: The sheer workload of playing this kind of character for 22 episodes. It’s living in a state of high anxiety and stress for nine months. My dream guest star gig: I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, but I also fantasize about a celebrity Amazing Race.

Merritt Wever
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
How my character and I differ: She’s a lot more optimistic and confident than I am. She’s willing to give anything a shot, and sometimes she can be a little overly confident, but it often makes for fun things to play. What I love about playing Zoey: Working with Edie [Falco]. I know that it sounds like a brown-nosing response but it is that, plus the physical comedy and absurdity of Zoey sometimes. What I need most to play Zoey: When Zoey is out of her scrubs, it can feel a little strange. Maybe the pink scrubs with the bunnies and whatnot give me license somehow to act ridiculous. My funniest co-star: I think Steve Wallem is amazing. He’s somebody who is really fun to have on set, and because of the nature of our characters, I’ve had times where I had to control myself instead of letting myself go there with him. The first person I’ll thank If I win the Emmy: Edie. I haven’t thought like that though. The whole process is so scary that my mind hasn’t even gotten to the dress yet.

Robin Wright
Lead Actress, Drama
House of Cards (Netflix)
How my character and I differ: My moral compass couldn’t be more different than a Claire Underwood — I can’t imagine living in a relationship where it’s OK to have dalliances if that’s what is needed to further a career. I’m much more conventional and old-school than that. That and I don’t wear Spanx. What drew me to the character: I didn’t have a script when I signed on — it was David Fincher selling me on the conceptual idea of this person. He assured me that it would be much more interesting and layered, that it would be a partnership with Francis Underwood [Kevin Spacey], with my character being Lady Macbeth to his Richard III. My favorite scene from last season: The one I have with Zoe [Kate Mara] when I’m in her apartment. I think we did a take where I actually leaned in and kissed her lips, but they didn’t use it. You want to see that Claire wants to f— her also. My dream guest star: I love Bryan Cox, and one of the greatest actors ever is Mark Rylance. As far as women actors, working with Meryl Streep would just be a gift.

Maggie Smith (supporting, Downton Abbey), Amy Poehler (lead, Parks and Recreation), Lena Dunham (lead, Girls), Claire Danes (lead, Homeland) and Jane Lynch (supporting, Glee).

Emmy Nominations: The Complete List
(By Michael O'Connell, Hollywood Reporter, 18 July 2013)

Nominees for the 65th annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced on Thursday morning Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood. Aaron Paul was on hand to announce the nominations, and while Kate Mara could not join him, Neil Patrick Harris joined the festivities as a last-minute substitute.  The duo kicked off the announcement with the first 12 categories before the Academy released the full list for this year's awards, which sees HBO's Game of Thrones and Behind the Candelabra trailing leader FX's American Horror Story Asylum for the most nominations.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Damian Lewis, Homeland

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Connie Britton, Nashville
Claire Danes, Homeland
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade's End
Michael Douglas, Behind The Candelabra
Matt Damon, Behind The Candelabra
Toby Jones, The Girl
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum
Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake
Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
Betty White, Betty White's Off Their Rockers
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway
Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
Anthony Bourdain, The Taste

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Louis C.K., Louie
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Reality-Competition Series
The Amazing Race
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway
So You Think You Can Dance
Top Chef
The Voice

Variety Series
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Saturday Night Live
Real Time With Bill Maher

Drama Series
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men

Comedy Series
30 Rock
The Big Bang
Modern Family

Miniseries or Movie
American Horror Story
Behind the Candelabra
The Bible
Phil Spector
Political Animals
Top of the Lake

Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire
Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Morena Baccarin, Homeland
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Guest Actor In A Drama Series
Nathan Lane, The Good Wife
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Rupert Friend, Homeland
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Harry Hamlin, Mad Men
Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal

Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ed O'Neill, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Tony Hale, Veep

Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Jane Lynch, Glee
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Guest Actor In A Comedy Series
Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie
Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live
Will Forte, 30 Rock

Guest Actress In A Drama Series
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Diana Rigg, Game Of Thrones
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife
Linda Cardellini, Mad Men
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
Joan Cusack, Shameless

Writing For A Drama Series
George Mastras, Breaking Bad • Dead Freight
Thomas Schnauz, Breaking Bad • Say My Name
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey • Episode 4
D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, Game Of Thrones • The Rains Of Castamere
Henry Bromell, Homeland • Q&A 

Directing For A Drama Series
Tim Van Patten, Boardwalk Empire • Margate Sands
Michelle MacLaren, Breaking Bad • Gliding Over All 
Jeremy Webb, Downton Abbey • Episode 4
Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland • Q&A 
David Fincher, House Of Cards

Guest Actress In A Comedy Series

Molly Shannon, Enlightened
Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
Melissa Leo, Louie 
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live 
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

Writing For A Comedy Series
Jeffrey Klarik and David Crane, Episodes • Episode 209
Louis C.K and Pamela Adlon, Louie • Daddy's Girlfriend (Part 1)
Greg Daniels, The Office • Finale
Robert Carlock and Jack Burditt, 30 Rock • Hogcock!
Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock 

Directing For A Comedy Series
Lena Dunham, Girls • On All Fours
Paris Barclay, Glee • Diva
Louis C.K., Louie • New Year's Eve
Gail Mancuso, Modern Family • Arrested
Beth McCarthy-Miller, 30 Rock • Hogcock! / Last Lunch

Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum
Zachary Quinto, American Horror Story: Asylum
Scott Bakula, Behind The Candelabra
John Benjamin, The Big C: Hereafter
Peter Mullan, Top Of The Lake

Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Asylum
Imelda Staunton, The Girl
Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals
Charlotte Rampling, Restless
Alfre Woodard, Steel Magnolias

Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special
Richard LaGravenese Behind The Candelabra
Abi Morgan, The Hour
Tom Stoppard, Parade's End
David Mamet, Phil Spector
Gerard Lee and Jane Campion, Top Of The Lake

Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special
Steven Soderbergh, Behind The Candelabra
Julian Jarrold, The Girl
David Mamet, Phil Spector
Allison Anders, Ring Of Fire
Garth Davis and Jane Campion, Top Of The Lake • Part 5

Reality Program
Antiques Roadshow
Deadliest Catch
Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives
Shark Tank
Undercover Boss

Variety Special
The Kennedy Center Honors 
Louis C.K.: Oh My God
Mel Brooks Strikes Back! With Mel Brooks And Alan Yentob
Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday (Part One) 
12-12-12: The Concert For Sandy Relief

Writing For A Variety Series
The Colbert Report 
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart 
Jimmy Kimmel Live 
Real Time With Bill Maher 
Saturday Night Live

Writing For A Variety Special
Louis C.K.: Oh My God
Night Of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together For Autism Programs
Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday (Part One) 
66th Annual Tony Awards

Directing For A Variety Series
James Hoskinson, The Colbert Report
Chuck O'Neil, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Andy Fisher, Jimmy Kimmel Live
Jerry Foley, Late Show With David Letterman
Jonathan Krisel, Portlandia
Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live

Directing For A Variety Special
Louis J. Horvitz, The Kennedy Center Honors
Hamish Hamilton and Bucky Gunts, London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony
Louis C.K, Louis C.K.: Oh My God
Don Mischer, The Oscars
Michael Dempsey, 12-12-12: The Concert For Sandy Relief


Emmys: The Morning After, Who's Feeling Sick From More Than A Hangover?
(By Scott Feinberg, Hollywood Reporter, 23 September 2013)
At the 65th Emmys -- or as it might be called, The Night of 100 Upsets -- the pain, as much as the joy, was truly spread around. Anyone who tells you, for instance, that they bet that the sole acting winner from American Horror Story would be James Cromwell and from Breaking Bad would be Anna Gunn is a liar. It was just that kind of night.  Let's start with AMC's Mad Men, which was coming off a record 0-for-17 shutout at the 2012 Emmys, and was completely shut out yet again, suffering 12 losses this time around. Somehow, Matthew Weiner's series is still seeking its first acting winner, and with The Newsroom's Jeff Daniels -- rather than Mad Men star Jon Hamm, who was as great as ever this season -- sneaking past presumptive frontrunners Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) to win best actor in a drama series, it's hard to see that changing anytime soon. Meanwhile, the network's other hit series, Breaking Bad, took home the top prize, best drama series, but lost two other chances to make history, with three-time winner Cranston missing what would have been a record-setting fourth best actor in a drama series win and costar Aaron Paul missing a chance to become the first three-time winner of best supporting actor in a drama series.
Widely buzzed-about newcomer Netflix, meanwhile, got less bang for its buck -- and it spent many this awards season -- than it would have liked: House of Cards caused a stir when it scored 14 noms, but in the end it won just three, only one of which is a big one: David Fincher took home the best director of a drama series statuette (or will have it delivered to him, since he was a no-show). In the end, all of those food trucks and yards signs and free Netflix subscriptions weren't quite enough to push it over the top in the drama races that it wanted to win most, best series, best actor (Spacey) or best actress (Robin Wright). Not shockingly, its other two shows that received nominations, Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove, fared even worse, going a combined 0-for-5.
The folks over at FX must be a bit stunned by the fact that they have only two winners to show for their impressive haul of 26 nominations -- and that they are Melissa Leo for her guest actress stint on Louie and best sound editing for a miniseries, movie or special for American Horror Story: Asylum. The network had higher hopes for both of those shows. This was supposed to be the year that Louie would take home best comedy series and Louie -- as in Louis C.K. -- would win not only best writing for a comedy series (as he did last year), but also best actor and best director. Instead, he went home empty-handed. Even more shockingly, American Horror Story: Asylum, which garnered a field-leading 17 noms, prevailed with only the one, thanks to the shocking upsets, in the TV movie or miniseries categories, of best actress hopeful Jessica Lange (by The Big C: Hereafter's Laura Linney) and best supporting actress hopeful Sarah Paulson (by Political Animals' Ellen Burstyn).
The TV Academy didn't do any favors for U.S.-U.K. relations by snubbing PBS's Downton Abbey, which came in with 12 noms but left with only one win, best music composition for a series, prompting a reporter from a British newspaper to ask me this morning why the Americans have fallen out of love with the British show. As I told him, they clearly haven't, awarding it drama noms for best series and in each of the four acting categories -- best actor (Hugh Bonneville), best actress (Michelle Dockery), best supporting actor (Jim Carter) and best supporting actress (Maggie Smith). The fact that Smith failed to win for a third consecutive year is probably less a reflection on Julian Fellowes' show than it is on the scorching heat that presently surrounds Breaking Bad, the fact that Anna Gunn had yet to win for the show and the realization that Smith, who never shows up for the Emmys or any other awards show, couldn't really care less. I'd bet a lot that Downton, as a period piece costume drama with a massive ensemble, will be back in contention next year. Its next season premieres in the U.S. on Jan. 5, 2014.
Showtime didn't have as incredible an Emmys as last year, when Homeland and its stars Damien Lewis and Claire Danes all won their respective drama categories -- but it still had a pretty solid showing. Danes managed to withstand a surge of momentum for Scandal's Kerry Washington to win best actress in a drama series again. It picked up another major acting win in the best supporting actress in a comedy category, which Nurse Jackie's Merritt Wever won in an absolute shocker over several past winners (Modern Family's Julie Bowen and Glee's Jane Lynch) and higher-profile nominees who seem long overdue (The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik, Modern Family's Sofia Vergara and 30 Rock's Jane Krakowski, who lost for the fourth time for her dearly-departed show). And Homeland writer Henry Bromell, who died of a heart attack in March, was celebrated with a best writing for a drama series win. I would imagine that the network's only real disappointment was that Boardwalk Empire's Bobby Cannavale, rather than Homeland's Mandy Patinkin, was the beneficiary of a Breaking Bad split (between Aaron Paul and Jonathan Banks) in the best supporting actor in a drama category. It would have been a nice way to mend any lingering wounds that he stills feels after last year's inexplicable snub.
Comedy Central must be feeling conflicting emotions. Its hallmark program, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a winner of best variety series every year since 2003, was finally toppled -- but it fell to The Colbert Report, a show that it spawned which also airs on the network. Colbert also beat Stewart to win best writing for a variety series, marking its third victory in that category in the last six years.
HBO shouldn't really complain much -- after all, it picked up against-all-odds wins for best actor in a drama series (The Newsroom's Daniels), best supporting actor in a drama series (Boardwalk Empire's Cannavale), best supporting actor in a comedy series (Veep's Tony Hale), plus expected wins for best actress in a comedy series victory (Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and in the TV movie or miniseries races (for Behind the Candelabra and its director, Steven Soderbergh, and star Michael Douglas, if not its writer Richard LaGravenese). But it can't go without mention that its most watched drama series of all this year, Game of Thrones -- which received 16 noms, more than every other show but one -- and its most buzzed-about comedy series, Girls, both got lost in the shuffle. The former, which some even picked to win best drama series, will have to be content with best make-up for a single-camera series (non-prosthetic) and outstanding special visual effects. (I guess the fantasy genre just isn't the TV Academy's thing.) And the latter was completely shut out, coming up short with all five of its nominations, including both afforded to It-girl Lena Dunham (best actress in and best directing of a comedy series).
And, despite the onslaught of great programming now available via cable and streaming, it's premature to write the obituary for the broadcast networks just yet -- at least on the comedy side of things. ABC's Modern Family hung on for a fourth consecutive best comedy series win and third consecutive best direction of a comedy series win. NBC's 30 Rock went out with a best writing for a comedy series victory (if not big goodbyes for stars Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey in their respective lead acting categories), The Voice became only the second show to ever beat The Amazing Race for best reality competition program and Saturday Night Live beat both Colbert and Stewart to win best direction of a variety series. And CBS's Jim Parsons won best actor in a comedy series for the third time in four years.

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