Road to the Emmys: Waxing About the Award’s Impact

May 2, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

With some industry awards, such as the Oscars, the effects of winning-instant international celebrity, a skyrocketing compensation quote-are easily definable.

In the case of the Emmys, the impact of winning is often not as immediately clear. Many winners are already under contract to series where salary bumps have been pre-negotiated and aren’t tied to awards. In television career growth is determined by, in the words of Irving Berlin, “Anything the traffic will allow.”

Whether those little gold statuettes will eventually lead to better roles, bigger trailers or none of the above, at the end of the night, as actor Gordon Clapp said, “The thrill is in the winning.”

Here are some other observations, reflections and anecdotes about Emmy’s impact from eight recent winners:

Allison Janney

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2000, 2001) and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (2002, 2004), “The West Wing”

“The day after I won the first Emmy was one of my favorite days professionally and psychologically. Most actors are self-deprecating. We think someone will discover ‘I’m not talented.’ So psychologically, having that Emmy that day was a release. And I now permanently have a title: ‘Four-time Emmy winner Allison Janney.’ Hopefully, when this run (on “West Wing”) is over, that will get me some respect as well as my next job. There are also jokes to be had from the Emmy. When you’re on the set and the director is giving you notes, you can pull it out and say, ‘Excuse me?'”

Robert Cort

Outstanding Made for Television Movie (2004), “Something the Lord Made”

“I think if you look at the record, the types of films that win Emmys are the ones that in some ways are the most difficult to get made, that take more than usual perseverance and effort. So winning the Emmy for a project like ‘Something the Lord Made’ meant to us that our peers in the industry responded to that effort. They are saying, ‘You guys were right to fight for this project.’ The second thing is that when a project wins an Emmy more people will want to take a look at it. We know from HBO’s subsequent repeat showings that this was the case. So with the Emmy, your satisfaction is multiplied.”

Dennis Franz

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (1994, 1996, 1997, 1999), “NYPD Blue”

“I know whenever I am introduced on a talk show or at an event it will always be as ‘Emmy winner,’ just as I’ve accepted that people will always know me as Detective Andy Sipowicz, though I hope they’ll know me for other roles as well. And it’s nice to be introduced as an Emmy winner, but I have to say that when you win one, there’s an instant gratification. Afterward, for the first week and maybe the second, people you didn’t even know knew you are calling to say congratulations. Then it begins to fade, and after two months people can’t remember who won. But the Emmy opens doors and has given me other opportunities.”

Halle Berry

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Movie or Miniseries (2000), “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”

“The Emmy was the most important thing at the time for me. It meant I was recognized for my work as an actor, not just for my physical [appearance], which had been the case. I thought after, at first, that the script angel was going to drop off several wonderful projects. I was that na%EF;ve. But instead, I grew the confidence to develop my own projects. When I went to speak to Colin Callendar (president of HBO Films) about ‘Lackawanna Blues,’ I truly believe he trusted me that this was a good project because he was thinking, ‘Well, she was right about Dorothy Dandridge. She won an Emmy for that. Let’s give her a shot.'”

Arnold Shapiro

Outstanding Informational Program (1979), “Scared Straight!”; Outstanding Children’s Program (1994), “Kids Killing Kids”; and Outstanding Children’s Program (1999, 2001), “The Teen Files”

“When I won my first Emmy for ‘Scared Straight,’ I couldn’t have asked for more. It brought me to the attention of Norman Lear, and I joined his company as vice president of movies for two years. But the subsequent Emmys were given at the Creative Arts ceremonies, which are not telecast. So unless I decide to take them out for air and walk down the street carrying them, which of course I am not inclined to do, no one [in the industry] even knows I won them. I lobbied the Academy [of Television Arts & Sciences] to maybe give out the awards at commercial breaks or before the telecast so they can do the recipient some good, but to no avail.”

Gordon Clapp

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (1998), “NYPD Blue”

“The immediate effect of the Emmy is the honor of being nominated, though the thrill is in the winning. But I have to say that while it was a validation of a lot of years of hard work, I don’t think it made a whole lot of difference careerwise, for the simple reason I was tied up with the show. My next chance to do anything that might have been propelled by the Emmy was a year away, and you get maybe a year’s window to ride the Emmy, sometimes not even that. I have a friend who won an Emmy and didn’t work for a year. But the Emmy is on my resume, and I’m proud of it.”

Robert Cochran

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (2002), “24” (pilot episode)

“What’s weird about the Emmys-and in no way do I want to put them down-is that you write a script a year before, and then they are honoring you for it, and the next morning it’s a greater script than it was hours earlier. One of the nicest things is that an awful lot of people from my past got back in touch with me [after] having seen me accepting the award, and we had some very meaningful, positive reunions. I don’t know of anyone who regrets rejecting me, but reconnecting was very sweet. And my kids went to school the next day thinking their father wasn’t quite the loser they thought he was.”

John Spencer

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2002), “The West Wing”

“I don’t want to minimize winning the Emmy-it’s sort of a celebration of you by your peers-but for me, I had been nominated two times before, so it was like getting the monkey off my back. I didn’t find any sort of unique things happened after. I don’t say this as a complaint. It’s an observation. Even with my family. They’ve had esteem for me since the first time they saw me walk out on stage in a school play in elementary school. They’ve been wonderful about that. So winning the Emmy for me was, ‘OK. Wonderful. Now on with the show.'”