Kudos to all of those who took home 2013 statuettes, especially to our past guests Jeff Daniels and James Cromwell.
Over the past 10 seasons of our show, we’ve been honored to have a variety of talented actors, actresses and writer-creators share our stage as guests. Several of them are nominees for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, including Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Julian Fellowes, Elisabeth Moss and others.
But, before taking their turn on the red carpet, they sat with us and took us into their lives both creatively and personally. Some of them took us into conversations not covering their bodies of nominated work (as their appearances pre-dated their nomination announcement), but nonetheless, gave us rich discussions.
And now the envelope please…for a rundown of some of our 2013 Emmy-nominated guests.
[Click on the name or image to watch the conversation.]
Elisabeth Moss – Lead Actress, Drama (Peggy Olson in Mad Men) & Lead Actress, Miniseries/Movie (Robin Griffin in Top of the Lake)
When we sat down with the actress most notable for playing Peggy Olson, we had a lot to talk about. After all, actress Elisabeth Moss is nominated for not just one, but two Emmys this year! When she wasn’t filming AMC’s award-winning drama Mad Men, she told us she’d been working with the BBC and the Sundance Channel on a miniseries titled Top of the Lake.
In the many years she’s been on the screen, she’s captivated audiences with her versatility and with the way she makes characters impressionable, as she’s brilliantly done with Mad Men‘s Peggy. Her versatility as an actress has moved her to different films and TV shows (one show in particular being The West Wing, which she did early in her career and earned a Young Artist Award nomination). It’s also taken her to places like New Zealand, with directors Jane Campion and Gerard Lee. In the miniseries, she plays Detective Robin Griffin who works in social services with children and rape cases—very different from secretary and, later, copywriter, but equally as entertaining.
It’s a great conversation about her roles and what she would be doing if she wasn’t acting. Hmm…
Jeff Daniels – Lead Actor, Drama (Will McAvoy in The Newsroom)
Many people remember the 1983 film Terms of Endearment as a moving ensemble dramedy about family and life. And many people remember actor Jeff Daniels in it because of his well-played performance as Debra Winger’s husband.
Thirty years later, Daniels is still going strong in another great ensemble drama, HBO’s The Newsroom, which focuses on the ideals of journalism and the “fight every day.” In 30 years’ time, Daniels has become stronger as an actor, entertaining audiences in such comedies as Dumb and Dumber and The Squid and the Whale (which earned him a Golden Globe nod). He also received a Tony nod (God of Carnage) and now earns his first Emmy nom.
This is his first regular TV series role, and he explains why the show matters and what drove him to wanting to work on television. Clearly, by being in the Emmy race, that drive has paid off.
Jane Fonda – Guest Actress, Drama (Leona Lansing in The Newsroom)
Sometimes, when an actress really makes an impression, she doesn’t necessarily need to be the star of the work she’s in to be noticed. This surely was the case for nominee Jane Fonda, who earned an Emmy nod for playing Leona Lansing, the owner of the network on which main character/news anchor Will McAvoy works in HBO’s The Newsroom. It only took five episodes of her great acting to stand out as a guest actress, and it’s a well-deserved nomination.
When she came to our set though, the conversation wasn’t about her role on the HBO show; it was about her adopted daughter Mary Williams and the book, The Lost Daughter. In our discussion, Fonda continues to show us she’s not just the actress that we know, but a woman with many layers, who helped take in a young girl to give her a life of opportunities.
She’s won two Oscars, six Golden Globes and an Emmy and may have more hardware coming. Though our conversation doesn’t go into her acting accomplishments, it does spotlight how she won over the heart of a young girl and, at the end of the day, how that matters just as much as a gold statuette.
Julian Fellowes – Writing, Drama (Downton Abbey)
In Hollywood, it’s not essential, but it’s a step up when one is able to put on many different hats. If an actor can write, or a writer can direct, and so on, it makes for interesting results. This is the case with Julian Fellowes, most known for being the creator-writer-producer of PBS’ Downton Abbey. But, before the success of this timeless show, he’d been acting since the 1970s.
With this experience, he knew how to get into the minds of characters; he learned how to understand script format and just all around knew the business. So it was no surprise that his ability to write scripts for TV miniseries, films and series was a natural gift. Before his nomination for Downton Abbey, he had years of experience and even won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Gosford Park.
In our conversation with Fellowes, we also spoke with one of the show’s cast members, Elizabeth McGovern (who plays Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham). Together, they discuss the characters and how the show is a standout period drama on television. Fellowes shares how the audience can step out from their seats and examine their own values and look at their situations, every age group included. TV is a writer’s medium, and whether it’s public television or cable, viewers need to be drawn in to the characters, the situations and the places. But, if you’re Julian Fellowes, you’re able to do all that with flying colors both in Britain and the United States.
Laura Dern – Lead Actress, Comedy (Amy Jellicoe in Enlightened)
Every child takes a piece of their parents with them as they get older. For actress-producer-writer Laura Dern, that’s certainly the case. She grew up seeing cameras and sets, as the child of actor parents Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, with whom she later shared the screen. Since childhood, she’s gone on to make more than 40 movies and appear (both as a guest and a regular) in seven TV series, with the latter being a role that’s earned her an Emmy nomination: the HBO series, Enlightened.
She’s also earned an Oscar nomination and three Golden Globe wins. Many recognize her from her roles in the Jurassic Park franchise, Little Fockers, I Am Sam and Rambling Rose (for which she received an Oscar nomination with her mother).
Though she has famous parents, she’s earned her own stripes in Hollywood by challenging herself in a diversity of roles and genres. In Enlightened (she’s also a producer-writer), she plays a woman who is spiritually enlightened. In the process, she learns new things (such as Twitter) and, in a satirical way, becomes a whistleblower. Though the show is only 30 minutes, it’s filled with enough quantity and quality to invite audiences back every week.
Dern may have acting genes, but it’s the work she’s done with them that’s brought her this far.
Don Cheadle – Lead Actor, Comedy (Marty Kaan in House of Lies)
Being an actor means that one has to go outside his comfort zone, into scripts with words he might not normally use or playing characters he’s not like in real life. That has certainly been the case over the years with actor-producer Don Cheadle, who’s enjoyed playing different people. He’s played Sammy Davis Jr., as well as a hotel manager in Rwanda, and has fought alongside Iron Man, played criminals, DAs, detectives, lieutenants, doctors and colonels. And now, he plays a brash management consultant, which he executes quite well.
In his Emmy-nominated lead performance in Showtime’s House of Lies, Cheadle is cast in a part that wasn’t exactly written for a Black man. He plays an offensive character, but underneath that, a father with good intentions for his son.
In our conversation, he discussed how he entertains audiences every week by turning a role that wasn’t for him into a part that is now both Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated. Perhaps having a background on the stage and having played strong characters in film and on TV has helped him prepare for such a role.
It’s no lie that, in any case, in any medium, when one gives the best of themselves to the work, the work will give the best of itself back. With this nomination and recognition, it’s safe to say that’s true.
Matt Damon – Lead Actor, Miniseries/Movie (Scott Thorson in Behind the Candelabra)
During the 2012 holidays, we had the honor of sitting with a notable actor-writer who’s made his way in Hollywood and goes by the name of Matt Damon (short for Matthew). Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He began his career as a steamer in Mystic Pizza in 1988 and has since been the lead character in many blockbusters. He’s definitely grown since his small roles and been down the red carpet numerous times; he’s won an Oscar and a Golden Globe and has more than 10 nominations under his belt. He’s added one more nod to the list for his performance in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, in which he plays Scott Thorson, Liberace’s young lover.
During our conversation, we recapped his then-new feature, Promised Land, which he co-wrote and starred in before this nomination (sharing the screenplay credit with John Krasinski). He discusses the film as a backdrop to the issues of natural gas drilling in America, as well as his humanitarian work.
Equally talented as a writer and an actor, he also recounts how writing a script with his friend Ben Affleck at a young age helped them (and it sure did, look at their Best Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe wins for Good Will Hunting). Damon says being a screenwriter is about control and being an actor is about generating one’s content, but film is a director’s medium and working with certain directors can bring out even better performances.
He doesn’t need nominations or awards to prove his skill in writing, acting or producing, but it’s always the cherry on top of another great cinematic year.
James Cromwell – Supporting Actor, Miniseries/Movie (Dr. Arthur Arden in American Horror Story: Asylum)
For many years, James Cromwell has been in the business of playing different characters. But, he’s well known for playing Farmer Arthur Hoggett in 1995′s Babe. In the film, he was a “supporting actor,” if you will, to a pig named Babe. This performance blew audiences out of the water and earned him an Oscar nomination. After that, he continued his success with such films as L.A. Confidential, The Green Mile, The Longest Yard and The Artist, to name a few.
When he came to our set, it was for a conversation about his then-new film, Still Mine, in which he earns attention for the lead role. It’s a drama piece about an aging couple fighting to build a home for each other and also a husband dealing with a wife who has dementia. It’s yet another body of work that brings out emotion in its audience, reminding them that people who are aging still have their own lives.
This year, Cromwell earned an Emmy nom for his turn in American Horror Story: Asylum and rightfully so. In the series, he plays Dr. Arthur Arden, who conducts experiments in a lab, mysteriously and with a very dark mind. The show has an array of cast members, but Cromwell’s acting ability in playing a “bad guy” is what made him so good that he’s in the running for a statuette.
For audiences who see Cromwell on screen or on the theater stage, it’s not who he’s supporting that draws attention, but how he’s standing out among the pack.
Congrats to all of this year’s nominees.