When Johnny Drama serves up homemade strawberry waffles or a Spanish omelet to his housemates in the morning, viewers know the "Entourage" boys are getting their day off to a good start. But for Kevin Dillon, those are often tricky scenes that involve juggling a lot of kitchen props along with the dialogue.
As the oldest, the most experienced and often the most intense of the crew, Mr. Dillon's character on the HBO comedy finally got a steady job and some respect last season. Life is imitating art, as the actor scored his first Emmy nomination for the role.
"I just love that he's got a lot to him and that he's a likable guy with tons of flaws," Mr. Dillon said. "He's so obsessive about so many things, yet really loyal to his buddies. I love that he's a real survivor. He's had tough times, but holds his head up, gets knocked down and sits up, and you love that about him. I love his resilience. He's had such a tough time for so long, but he keeps his drive and belief in himself."
"Entourage" creator Doug Ellin sees Johnny Drama as a sort of mother figure for Vince, E and Turtle, who have been friends since childhood, likening him to Thomas Haden Church's turn as a washed-up actor in "Sideways."
"He's desperate for attention, recognition and respect. It's not a monetary pursuit. He's been praying for it since he was a kid. He's likable because he's a punching bag and you feel bad for him. Kevin brings so much sympathy. We knew we had gold with him from the pilot on, because every look on his face is just begging for help," said Mr. Ellin.
Mr. Dillon is up for the Emmy against the show's heavyweight supporting actor Jeremy Piven, who has been nominated for his performance as acerbic agent Ari Gold for each of the past three years and won the statue at last year's ceremony.
"He's a very funny character and somehow gets away with saying despicable things to his wife, Lloyd and Vince, yet he plays it in a likable way. Ari's a good person, deep down inside," Mr. Dillon said.
"Jeremy brings incredible energy, and even from minute one when he was saying harsh things he brought a likability to the guy. When he's on screen, he's just electric," added Mr. Ellin.
Jon Cryer, one of the "Two and a Half Men" in the popular CBS sitcom, has been up for supporting actor in a comedy series in each of the past two years for his performance as Alan Harper, Charlie Sheen's twice-divorced and tightly wound brother, who takes up residence at Mr. Sheen's bachelor beach house with his young son.
"Jon is a consummate professional -- always prepared, collegial and joyful. He always brings it," said executive producer Chuck Lorre. "When the cameras roll, he delivers. He's a comedy writer's dream come true, whether he's falling down stairs or doing a romantic scene. ... Jon in a red corset tied to a bed by Allison Janney -- as images go, that was indelible."
Previously best known for his work on "Six Feet Under," Rainn Wilson now is being acclaimed for his performance as Dwight Schrute in NBC's "The Office."
"You need a character that's a loose cannon," Mr. Wilson said. "You don't know what's going to come out of his mouth; it could be something really self-serious or really loopy.
"Your average person doesn't know someone like Dwight, where you can't quite figure out what makes them tick. There's something so supremely odd that gives you no end of amusement. There's something universal in someone so weird."
"Rainn is a force of nature, amazing and confident and talented," said "Office" showrunner Greg Daniels. "He pulls weird things out of his dark recesses. It's very fun to come up with weird things for his character. He's so into it, and it's a really great thing for a writer to see a good actor interpret the material, and what comes out of the mouths of really good actors like him."
Neil Patrick Harris has earned his first Emmy nomination for CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," on which he plays self-styled ladies' man Barney Stinson and boasts an endless supply of outrageous opinions. Mr. Harris began acting as a teenager, landing the lead role in "Doogie Howser, M.D." when he was 16.
"On 'Mother,' he's strong within a circumscribed role. His character is the businessman, who's weird, and he has fun with it, but his character is sort of in a box. He's having a great time, but the character is somewhat two-dimensional," said Kevin McDonough, television critic for United Feature Syndicate.
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