“Entourage’s” Jeremy Piven declared of his Emmy win, “This third one was more shocking than the first two. I do believe the show is getting better. I think that’s the brilliance of HBO, they stick with their shows, and this show is beginning to find its voice. It’s getting more intricate, and it’s just a pleasure to play these characters.”
- TVWeek’s Emmy Central 2008, full Emmys coverage here.
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After having joked about the opening in his acceptance speech, Mr. Piven was asked backstage what he really thought of it: “I thought we were being punked as an audience. I was confused. Like in ‘The Producers,’ ‘Springtime for Hitler,’ there was the interesting moment like what’s happening right now, so i was confused, as i’m sure you were. … From Lucille Ball on, television has been so unbelievable entertaining. And then it was a celebration of nothingness, so I was confused.
“I just got off a plane from New York, where I’m rehearsing ‘Speed-the-Plow’ on Broadway, and then I have to get on a plane and go back. I’m in the midst of what i consider my Olympics, eight shows a week.”
To one of the less relevant questions, “What do you think when you hear the phrase ‘President Palin?'” Piven said, “It’s the Bridge to Nowhere endless loop that I keep hearing. And Matt Damon’s quotes about her.”
Reminded he’s closing in on Don Knotts’ record of five Emmys in the category and asked if he thinks about that, he quipped,”There isn’t a moment where I don’t think, when am I going to take Don Knotts down?”
Speaking of his favorite shows as a kid, he said, “I remember seeing reruns of ‘The Honeymooners,’ and there’s this great quote about comedy. How do you play comedy? You play it a little more serious than the serious stuff. And you look at Jackie Gleason, and he’s playing it like a Greek tragedy. He’s just a brilliant actor, head to toe, who’s digging in. And Lucille Ball was a genius, and I don’t even know if we’ve come close since.”
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On stage, supporting actress in a comedy winner Jean Smart joked, “I just want to let you know I have a tuxedo on under this dress. But I’m not ripping it off….”
Backstage, asked about her “Samantha Who?” co-star Christina Applegate, whom she thanked in her speech, Ms. Smart said, “The star of any show sets the tone, and it works its way down to the crew. I’ve never seen an actress so beloved by cast and crew as Christina, and that was even before she had some recent hard times.
“I get to play mommy to her, and I don’t have a daughter. … I feel very protective of her. I was shocked when she told me and I started to cry a little bit. I said, ‘I’m sorry I’m tearing up, it’s not because I think anything is going to happen to you, I’m sure you’ll be fine.’ She’s a very spiritual person and she’s very strong, She got through it.”
Asked if the key to getting roles as an older actress is to work in television, she said, “If you had a couple hours, I could talk about women in Hollywood. I would never encourage a woman to go into this business. I started out in theater and it was kind of shocking when i came to Hollywood. The priorities were very different. You do have to learn how to play the game or you become very bitter. I’ve never been pigeonholed or typecast, and for that I’m eternally grateful to this business.”
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“Damages'” supporting actor Zeljko Ivanek described his reaction to winning: “I was just incredibly pleased for the show. It’s a little tougher for a cable show to get the same traction, the attention.”
Told the applause for his win sounded “thunderous,” he said, “I did feel it, and that was amazing. It was really nice. I live in New York, so I sometimes feel like I’m slightly sneaking in the back door to work here. So it’s nice to have that confirmed.”
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“Without ‘Laugh-In,’ I don’t think I’d get into comedy,” said Jon Stewart, gesturing to the show’s cast members who presented him with the Emmy for variety, music or comedy series.
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“I’ve written something down because I’ve been known to get scatalogical,” said winning comedy director Barry Sonnenfeld of “Pushing Daisies.” “Surround yourself with people smarter than you and you’ll get all the credit,” he advised, adding, “Love TV and fear the Internet.”
Backstage, he quipped that he might not be able to get his Emmy on his flight at 6:30 a.m. Monday. “You could really take over…,” he trailed off.
Asked to deliver the scatalogical version of his speech, as mentioned, he admitted, “Often I will get up on stage and start to talk about my penis. Twice on the Letterman show I have either talked about my scrotum or my testicles. So many people fear me speaking in public, especially my lawyer … and my wife.
“But I’ve done so well tonight. If I didn’t have the 30-second thing, i would have mentioned all the actors. Also Bryan Fuller—so much of what he wrote I get credit for. He really deserves this as much as I do.”
Asked about reports of tensions between him and Warner Bros. executive Peter Roth last season, Sonnenfeld explained that it was a “coup attempt” manufactured by an executive producer who’s no longer with the show. “I love Peter,” he declared. “And this is not me doing a fake ‘I like Peter’ thing. Last week Peter and I just had a conversation about our future together. So Peter’s great. And [Steve] McPherson, who i refer to as Mr. Happy, has been just fantastic.”
Sonnenfeld explained that “Pushing Daisies” is “a really hard show to prorduce because it looks so different from other shows,” where you shoot some explosions or a few walk-and-talks and “suddenly you’ve shot six pages. What we do is, every page has five or six different scenes.”
Already up to shooting the ninth episode of season two, Sonnenfeld said, “has been great. The scripts are better than last year. I think they’re funnier. All the actors have gotten their characters nailed down. [Kristen] Chenoweth is better than ever, and we’re making sure you see her firm and supple breasts.”
Also, he added, “We have a pig this year called Pigby that goes with the dog called Digby.”
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Collecting her third Emmy of the night, this one for writing “30 Rock,” Tina Fey said, “We write these episodes together, especially those ones late in the season, when I’m held together by spit and tape. I’m very proud to be a writer. I would never have had any of the other jobs that I’ve had if I hadn’t been a writer first. Also, if you’re at a wedding or something and you tell people you’re a writer, they’re less interested in talking to you than if you say you’re an actor, which is great.”
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Accepting the made-for-television movie Emmy for HBO’s “Recount,” producer Paula Weinstein said, “This award really belongs to the men and women on the ground who fought to have every vote counted. They will be there again on Nov. 4—vote!”
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“I guess I’m gonna have to find something new to complain about,” said “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, who won for directing the AMC series’ pilot, in his onstage speech. “I met a lot of writers during the strike and I’m proud to be a writer.”
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Marking its sixth straight win in the category of competitive reality series, “The Amazing Race’s” Bertram van Munster said that this year, “We produced a better show than we did the time before. As time goes on, we get better at it. That’s the frightening part. As we go on and on, who knows?”
Reminded that some actors have withdrawn their names from competition after dominating a category, executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer was asked if that was something the “Race” crew would consider. “I doubt it, I really do. We love these statues,” he admitted. “The show’s such a success because of these people behind me, and the contestants who run around the world. People really relate to the contestants.”
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Casting questions ruled the backstage appearances by the “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” Emmy-winning writers.
On the “Daily Show” side, with a question that started with praise for Tina Fey’s recent “SNL” portrayal of Gov. Sarah Palin, Jon Stewart and his writers were asked who should play the Obamas. Their answer: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Stephen Colbert, however, was asked who should portray the McCains. “Rickles, obviously,” he said, “and maybe me for Sarah Palin, because i also have absolutely no business being vice president.”
The “Colbert” gaggle obviously was well-prepared for the inevitable question. Asked “How does it feel to win?” they raised their Emmys in unison and shouted “Whoo!”
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Don Rickles got comfortable, perching in a director’s chair with his Emmy in one hand and a mic in the other. Of the future of comedy, he said, “Comedy will be bigger and better than ever, because some of these young people really have a lot of ability.
“If I had to do it over again, I would, I loved it, but it’s tough to get this far,” he said.
Asked what the best advice was he ever got, Rickles said, “Frank Sinatra, who said, ‘Stop singing.'”
Rickles said, “I thought that British gentleman was really funny,” referring to Ricky Gervais, and also praised Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
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Paul Giamatti seemed genuinely surprised and humbled by the record-setting wins for HBO’s “John Adams.”
He offered his historical perspective on politics, saying it was worse then than now. Now, he said, there is at least some public accountability, unlike in the days of the Founding Fathers.
As for the job itself, he said, “The wig was hot. The whole thing was difficult for me. It was an endurance test for me.”
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Bryan Cranston admitted, “I thought I was the dark horse” for AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”
“This was nice because the tension was mounting,” he added, rather than losing the first award of the night and then being stuck for three and a half hours, as used to happen when he was a supporting actor nominee for “Malcolm in the Middle.”
Proud and happy, pleased for the series, Cranston admitted that his extremely short hair “feels like Velcro, and acts like Velcro—all sorts of things stick to it!”
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“John Adams'” Emmy-writing screenwriter Kirk Ellis, who got cut off midspeech, bitterly said the telecast made plenty of time for the reality contingent but “the people who actually create the work don’t get enough time to talk.”
He said he had been planning to say that “the men talking in articulate sentences” “believed in the word over the sword. We have to listen to a lot of bloviating from television pundits about whether words matter. I’m not anybody important, apparently—I’m just a writer—but of course words matter. They always matter.”
Ellis said the timeliness of the miniseries was due to HBO. “They wanted this show out during primary season and that was a very shrewd move. But I don’t think anyone expected people to be so engaged in the primary.”
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Jay Roach backstage said the HBO film for which he won a directing Emmy, “Recount,” was “about the notion that democracy really does depend on fair elections. We don’t want to have to go anywhere to do it again.”
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Reality host Emmy winner Jeff Probst said of the awardscast co-hosting gig, “We knew all along it was going to be tough, having five people agree on anything. … I give a lot of credit to Ken Ehrlich. We were tough, saying all along we don’t know if this will work.
“It feels great to be part of the family,” he said of his win for hosting “Survivor.” “They invited us along, they gave us an award, and I’m happy as hell to have won it.”
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Glenn Close said she’s “thrilled” with “Damages,” and can’t wait to see where it goes in its second season. The winning actress in a drama series said, “It means a lot to me to win, because it represents my entire show.
“I’ve never chosen anything thinking it would bring me an award. I’ve chosen things that would challenge me and would be worth leaving home every day to be a part of it, and this is one of them and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
When she was offered made-for-TV movie “Something About Amelia,” she said, her agent told her it would be detrimental to her career to do TV. But the actresses she mentioned on stage, including Judi Dench, easily switched back and forth among genres, and she models her career on them.
“There is an incredible amount of content on television, and anything that can help focus on what’s going on in particular shows is very helpful,” she said. “It’s an honor to be nominated with ‘Mad Men’ as one of the first two basic cable series.”
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Laura Linney, winner of the Emmy for actress in a miniseries, said the most difficult part of making “John Adams” for her was “when it ended. It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.”
“I got my hands on every book I possibly could. I all of sudden got an understanding of how people get addicted to American history.”
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The cast and creatives of “30 Rock” were a hit backstage. Creator Tina Fey said the show’s many Emmys were “very exciting for all of us. We’ve had so many great guest stars. Seven of our guest stars were nominated. That’s where the number goes crazy.”
Asked if there were any guest stars they haven’t been able to get, no one on stage could think of a single one. “Everyone that we’ve dreamed of, we’ve been so lucky, Oprah Winfrey to Paul Reubens” has been on the show, Fey said.
Also, she said, “I think our cast is very diverse and talented. Obviously Alec [Baldwin] elevates the show to another level with his abilities and I think we have a very strong writing staff.”
Asked about her now-famous impersonation of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, Fey said: “I want to be done playing this lady Nov. 5. So if anyone can help me be done playing this lady Nov. 5. … But she seems like a very nice lady.
“I was very resistant to acknowledge that there was a resemblance. Then my kids saw her on TV and said, ‘It’s Mommy.'”
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“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner expressed some surprise backstage. “I’m surprised there’s such a segregated cast system at the Emmys. I have this amazing cast and I’m surprised none of them were asked to present. We’re just so happy to win.”
The AMC drama’s star, Jon Hamm, said, “You tend to get your phone calls returned a lot quicker when something like this happens. You dream about getting to play something this rich and layered and beautiful and sad.”
Asked if there’s any Jon Hamm in Don Draper, the actor, clutching a wine glass, said, “Sure. Any actor brings a percentage of themselves to who they play. But I don’t behave how Don behaves. But it is fun to drink and smoke in fakeland.”
January Jones, who plays Betty Draper, said of her character, “The second season you see a darker side of her. In the first season she was imploding. Now you see her exploding and fight back. It’s been really fun to play.”
Weiner wrapped up the evening by thanking the television critics, which he said he’d meant to do on stage. “To any of you who wrote about the show, thank you.”