As Phillip Jennings, the ‘married’ Soviet sleeper spy husband to Keri Russell’s Elizabeth on FX’s The Americans, Welsh thesp Matthew Rhys is called upon to flawlessly snake through a ringer of emotions. Beyond the demands of Phillip’s day job that’s full of disguises and a fake marriage, he’s been hitting his head against the wall in the show’s second season between his goody-two shoes daughter Paige who is swept up with a Born-again Christian group and his fellow comrade wife who isn’t as drunk on U.S. capitalism like Philip is. Prior to The Americans, Rhys was known to U.S. audiences as Kevin Walker, the gay lawyer on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters as well as Demetrius in Julie Taymor’s big screen Shakespeare adaptation Titus. At home in the U.K., Rhys made his mark with such stage productions as The Graduate, playing Benjamin to Kathleen Turner’s Mrs. Robinson, and in the BBC crime action drama series Backup. Click through to read the interview:
Anna Faris might play ditzy onscreen, but don’t discount her industry acumen when it comes to comedy’s playability with an audience. As one of the leading comedic females, she’s got the pratfalls and cheeky camera reactions down pat, but she also knows what types of raunchy comedy features click and don’t click, having relished the highs with the near billion-dollar Scary Movie franchise, and weathered the market’s ennui with What’s Your Number? There’s nothing wrong with raunchy female roles per se according to Faris; there just needs to be an evolution with them. It’s partly why she took a pause from her string of marquee roles to play Christy: A complicated, ex-alcoholic mother who is trying to piece her life back together in Chuck Lorre’s CBS-Warner Bros. TV comedy Mom. While Faris still gets to show her flair for physical comedy, her Christy has tackled such heavy story arcs like teenage pregnancy, long-lost fathers and cancer. During her childhood in Seattle, Faris says comedy wasn’t her strong suit: “I was the short one with headgear who just had the desire to be heard.” But she quickly earned her funny stripes after working with such icons as David Zucker and Keenen Ivory Wayans, the latter who advised, “There’s no vanity in comedy”. “Embrace the idea that the audience will think you’re a certain type of person,” says Faris. Click through for our interview with her:
Peter Bart is contributor to Awardsline and Deadline
Not one to slow down, Jane Fonda has written a New York Times bestseller, Being a Teen; has signed on to costar with Lily Tomlin in Grace & Frankie for Netflix; and just finished shooting the feature film Fathers and Daughters with Russell Crowe. She’s also a prolific blogger at JaneFonda.com. But perhaps most exciting is her return as Leona Lansing in the third and final installment of HBO’s The Newsroom, for which she performed a mesmerizing monologue last season that fans hailed was not so much Emmy- as Oscar-worthy.
AWARDSLINE: You had a scene at the end of the second season of The Newsroom that I felt was really vintage Jane. Was that speech totally scripted or did you embellish it?
JANE FONDA: Oh, you don’t embellish with Aaron (Sorkin, the show’s creator); there’s no improvising. That was the first thing that (costar) Jeff Daniels said to me when I came to the first table read of the first season. He said, “Know every line backwards and forwards, every comma, every period, awake and in your sleep.”
Josh Charles was part of one of the most shocking moments of the year when his character Will Gardner was gunned down on CBS’ The Good Wife. This was the longest TV stint for Charles—he previously toplined Aaron Sorkin’s critically praised ABC comedy Sports Night, which ran for two years in the late ’90s. Charles already has one Emmy nom for The Good Wife and now is looking to join a long list of actors who won supporting acting drama Emmys after their characters were killed off, including Drea de Matteo and Joe Pantoliano of The Sopranos, Margo Martindale of Justified and, most recently, Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale.
AWARDSLINE: Were you looking to do a series when you were approached for The Good Wife?
JOSH CHARLES: I don’t think I particularly was, but it came my way, and I thought it was really well written. I liked the fact that it was shooting in New York and Julianna (Margulies), who was a friend, was doing it. So, yeah, I wasn’t really looking to do a series, per se, but this one came around, and I’m glad it did.
Christy Grosz is a contributor to Awardsline.
After a career mostly spent in comedy, Lizzy Caplan has taken on the serious role of sex researcher and proto-feminist Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s Masters Of Sex, based on the 2009 biography by Thomas Maier. Caplan says playing opposite Michael Sheen, who stars as Dr. Bill Masters, was clever casting on many levels. “It seems like a smart choice to put an actor as established and respected as Michael Sheen opposite a comedic actress, because it mirrors the relationship between Bill and Virginia,” she says. Caplan, who’s still not past the “blind-gratitude phase” of the role, discusses her admiration for Johnson and those awkward sex scenes.
AWARDSLINE: Did the subject matter of Masters Of Sex ever give you pause?
LIZZY CAPLAN: Not really. Of course, in reading it and knowing what was to be expected of me if I ever got the role, that’s something I think anybody would think about. But I was so enamored with this woman, and her story, and who she was, that I knew it would be such a privilege and an honor to get to play her. Part of who she was, was this unbelievably comfortable-in-her-own-sexuality type of woman in a time when that was not exactly the norm. So I knew if I were to get to play this part, I had to figure out a way to be completely OK with it, and it didn’t take very long. Clearly, I’m not squeamish about it or else I don’t think I would’ve tried (out) for it.
When it comes to the thought of tubthumbing himself to his peers during Emmy season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-creator Michael Schur personally exclaims, “I don’t want to get involved with vote solicitation.” Shur’s philosophy isn’t uncommon among the denizens of actors, actresses and show creators during Emmy season: Nobody wants to be seen schilling for a vote.
However, in the last few months, a prospective nominee might have had the opportunity to make a couple of appearances outside the litter of TV Academy screenings; events that by their nature aren’t considered traditional Emmy campaign stops, but in hindsight, were potentially the best exposure for a contender in the conversation: The American Comedy Awards and The White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Like the Tiber River after Caligula’s been on a weekend bender, television today is flooded with blood. What was once the sole sphere of slasher flicks now has become a common spattering on the small screen, and not just with cable shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, HBO’s Game of Thrones and the recently launched Showtime drama Penny Dreadful. Now the networks are in the gore game with Fox’s The Following and Sleepy Hollow and NBC’s Hannibal and Grimm. The proliferation of blood and guts on TV in this era of the explicit proves that the appetite for death and destruction hasn’t jumped the shark so much as stabbed the beast, torn into its flesh, cooked it up and swam among the remains.
Christy Grosz is a contributor to Awardsline.
Playing a Cold War-era Russian spy undercover in the United States on FX’s The Americans offers Keri Russell plenty of opportunities for hand-to-hand combat. But Russell says she doesn’t focus much on the spy stuff in building her character, Elizabeth Jennings. She’s more interested in the show’s complicated relationships, particularly the marriage between Elizabeth and Phillip, played by Matthew Rhys. Russell, perhaps best known for her starring role on the WB’s Felicity in the late ’90s, next will star in Fox’s July release Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Here, she discusses those wacky ’80s wigs and why she turned down the role of Elizabeth three times.
AWARDSLINE: What made you want to come back to series TV?
KERI RUSSELL: As an actor, you’re at the mercy of what’s around, what comes your way, and I definitely have been taking some time out raising my family. Although I wasn’t looking for a TV job at all, this had a really great pilot. It sounded fresh. My image (after) reading (Elizabeth) the first time was Brigitte Nielsen in Rocky. I was like, “OK, she’s this kick-ass Russian—cold, beautiful, sexy. How did this make its way to me?” So I obviously said no about three times, and then (FX president) John Landgraf just sold me on it. He basically said, “No, that’s the whole point. We want someone who’s instantly relatable, and kind, and all those things that people project onto you.” And I’m so glad I said yes. It’s always a gamble—every job you take—but this one has been really interesting these last couple of seasons.
With outstanding drama series being the Powerball/Mega Millions of the Primetime Emmy Awards, any change in this particular competition is bound to cause a certain amount of eyebrow raising in the TV industry. And, sure enough, the Television Academy’s decision this year to let HBO enter True Detective as a drama series, which is how HBO says it always envisioned the program, is being viewed by some rivals as an introduction of a large grain of sand in their spiritual spinach. Non-fans of the decision complain that the program has an unfair advantage and belongs in the miniseries race. True Detective, which will reboot with a new cast and storyline each season, is able to attract Hollywood heavyweights such as Matthew McConaughey because it only asks of them a one-season, eight-episode commitment. Ironically, that also might be the best explanation yet as to why the TV Academy did not balk when HBO submitted it as a drama. The program also stands to benefit from the TV Academy’s loosening of the “2 percent” rule for the drama series competition, which could open up the race to allow for seven nominees.
For Jim Parsons, taking part in Ryan Murphy’s HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Tony-winning play, The Normal Heart, was a no-brainer. Parsons could’ve gone on collecting Emmys for his superlative work on The Big Bang Theory—he has three so far for outstanding lead comedy actor. And he had already played acid-tongued AIDS activist Tommy Boatwright on Broadway. But it was important to him that he reprise the role for the telefilm. Here, Parsons reveals the confusion that followed his first meeting with Murphy, his reaction to his new scenes and the significance that his first Emmy nomination for a dramatic role would hold.
AWARDSLINE: How did you get involved with this project?
PARSONS: I’m pretty sure Ryan saw (me in) the stage production. But I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure whether he had the idea to approach me, or if jointly with Larry he had the idea to use me, or, if completely pushed by Larry, he had the idea to use me.
AWARDSLINE: I actually spoke to Ryan and he said Larry pushed to have you play this role.
PARSONS: That does not shock me. I was very fortunate with my experience doing the play with Larry. He was around a lot, (and) he happened to really like what I was doing. He was always a big, big supporter.
As far as Jay Carson knows, none of the 435 representatives and 100 senators who make up the United States Congress has resorted to murdering reporters. “But then, there are so many of them,” he jokes. Still, with 15 years in politics under his belt, including his current stint as senior adviser to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the consultant on Netflix’s House of Cards understands why lawmakers have fallen in love with Kevin Spacey’s murderous Machiavellian despot Frank Underwood. “Frank’s ability to get things done, even if some of his actions aren’t so legal, might actually be a nice antidote to the gridlocked Washington we have right now,” Carson insists. “He’s a man of action, as (showrunner) Beau (Willimon) says. He runs up against a wall and he’s not thinking, ‘Oh well.’ He’s thinking, ‘OK, I can go under it, over it or knock it right down.’ ”
Carson and Willimon met while in college at Columbia University. The seeds that became House of Cards were planted when Carson started interning for Chuck Schumer’s successful Senate campaign. “No one thought he would win,” says Carson, who brought Willimon onboard. “We became this inseparable duo. You can see from House of Cards how important it is to have someone around you can trust.”
We know too well the ins and outs of how Gravity and Dallas Buyers Club barely made it to the big screen. These rags-to-riches backstory tales are used by film marketing execs to curry Oscar votes, but the strategy isn’t always such a deliberate part of an Emmy campaign.
Arrested Development’s resurgence on Netflix after Fox canceled it was last year’s underdog story that nabbed the show three Emmy nominations. This year, Marc Cherry’s Devious Maids could use a similar boost. The show was developed by ABC, rejected after a series order and then saved by Lifetime. Next year, NBC’s Emmy-less Parks and Recreation, which will end its series run at the end of next season, will have its own sob story to use against the competition.
With every aspect of television rapidly evolving, there probably isn’t an area that has undergone more sweeping changes in the past couple of years than late night. A slew of new shows cropped up across the dial, and the networks with the longest traditions in the day part, NBC and CBS, both changed the hosts of their late-night franchises. That big changeover could shake up the Outstanding Variety Series Emmy category, which has long been dominated by late-night shows. The field finally got a jolt last year, with The Colbert Report taking the Emmy after a 10-year winning streak for The Daily Show that followed five consecutive wins by Late Show with David Letterman.
There were a handful of major late-night changes and new additions in the 1990s and the 2000s. The first botched Tonight Show transition in 1992, which installed Jay Leno as successor to Johnny Carson, led to CBS breaking NBC’s late-night monopoly with Letterman and the introduction of Conan O’Brien. They were followed by the launch of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. The following decade saw the arrival of Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Chelsea Lately on E! and another messy Tonight Show transition at NBC, resulting in the launch of O’Brien’s Conan on TBS and the emergence of Jimmy Fallon.
There is no one who has had more success and holds more influence in late-night at the moment than Lorne Michaels. Next season will mark the 40th anniversary of the Canadian native’s signature series, Saturday Night Live, which redefined variety shows. He has executive produced NBC’s Late Night since 1993 and last year added oversight of The Tonight Show, which he helped bring back to New York. Hosted by his SNL pupils Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, the new Tonight Show and Late Night have been ratings powerhouses. In a rare interview, Michaels, 69, talks about his longtime connection to The Tonight Show that goes back over 50 years when he first saw it live, shares behind-the-scene SNL stories of how he almost became the host of Weekend Update and how his recurring cameos on the show came about and reflects on SNL’s “hard” rebuilding season and possible casting changes.
DEADLINE: When did you become interested in late-night?
LORNE MICHAELS: I think probably in high school. I would stay up to watch The Tonight Show, first with Jack Paar and later Johnny Carson. They were 90-minute shows then. I’d have early classes, so I’d watch the first 15 minutes and say, “I’m just going to watch the monologue, and then maybe I’ll see what Johnny does at the end.” And then, it’d be 1 in the morning, and credits would be rolling.
The Board of Governors of the Television Academy voted to split three more fields heading into this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards. That pushed the number of Emmy categories to a record 106. Yet we’ve never had so many shows that don’t seem to fit in any of them. The problem impacts mainly anthology-style dramas, which straddle the worlds of regular series and miniseries, and the proverbial “dramedies,” which blur the lines between comedy and drama. The issue came to the forefront with the debate surrounding HBO’s decision to enter the eight-episode True Detective as a drama, Showtime switching Shameless from drama to comedy series after three seasons and Netflix entering Orange Is the New Black as a comedy after submitting it as a drama for the Golden Globes.
Anna Lisa Raya is editor of Awardsline.
Mindy Kaling — creator, star, executive producer and writer on Fox’s The Mindy Project – is living her childhood dream, albeit with backbreaking, endless days on set. Her big break into TV comedy came when she was the first woman hired — at 24 — as a writer on NBC’s The Office. She’s now the first and only woman of color to run and star in her own network show. With these firsts has come great responsibilities, some of which Kaling bristles against, such as viewers’ demands that her Indian-American character date more ethnically diverse men on the show. She can’t make everyone happy, but Fox certainly is. Despite middling ratings, the critically well-received show was renewed for a third season.
AWARDSLINE: What would you say were the biggest differences between Season 1 and Season 2?
MINDY KALING: We try every season for there to be certain scenes and journeys that each of the characters go on, certainly the leads. But it’s harder because, unlike a cable show, we have 22 or 24 episodes a year so we can’t do that wonderful thing I’ll see on some of my favorite cable shows where they’ll have 12 episodes to do a full arc that in the course of two and a half months is done. Our journeys have to be longer, so usually what we do is set up a couple of different arcs, which is something I learned on The Office. The single biggest difference is that you just know the characters more this year.
The period surrounding World War I, Prohibition and the Great Depression has been skillfully and realistically reflected in such shows as PBS’ Downton Abbey, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Lifetime’s Bonnie & Clyde. While each program’s storyline illustrates how world events shaped the lives of their characters, the physical surroundings—rendered in minute detail—really drive the narrative home. Such is the work of a production designer. The old Hindu saying, “The world is like the impression left by the telling of a story,” is analogous to the role of his craft, says production designer Bill Groom, who has won two Emmys for his work on HBO’s Prohibition-era drama Boardwalk Empire. “As designers, we leave the evidence behind of a person’s life, and we do it in advance—it’s captured in film and then told back to the audience. We create rooms where a person sometimes has lived for 40 years,” he says.
Christy Grosz is an Awardsline contributor.
After building a career on comedic characters he calls “eccentric,” Will Arnett is back in primetime with CBS’ The Millers, playing TV journalist Nathan Miller, a recent divorcee who finds himself living with his mother. Arnett is more of a leading man than he has been in the past on such shows as Arrested Development and Up All Night, and he’s doing it in front of a live audience on the multi-camera sitcom directed by TV stalwart James Burrows (Taxi, Frasier). He’s also enjoying a thriving film career, voicing Batman in The Lego Movie and appearing in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this year.
AWARDSLINE: Showrunner Greg Garcia asked you to be a part of The Millers when he heard that the future of NBC’s Up All Night was not looking good. What about the role of Nathan appealed to you?
WILL ARNETT: I had known Greg personally for a number of years, and when he heard that basically the show was over, he said, “I just want you to read this script, if you don’t mind.” I didn’t think that I wanted to necessarily start work on a TV show quite so quickly, and yet because it was Greg, I thought, “Well, I’ve got to read it.” When I read it, I really liked it. Then I had a meeting with Greg and (director) Jimmy Burrows. Jimmy said, “You are going to have to play a character who is much more at the center of it.” So in that sense, it was a bit of a departure for me. I had to play somebody a little more together. But that really appealed to me. It was something I really wanted to do.
History could be made at this year’s Emmys. Should Modern Family win the best comedy series award, it would tie the record set by Frasier in the ’90s. Frasier is the only TV show—comedy or drama—to win a best series Emmy five times. Will Modern Family share the enviable title? There’s also some history being made with a call to reform the category. The brouhaha broke out when the TV Academy announced it had approved the move of Showtime’s Shameless to the best comedy arena after three years of largely unsuccessful stabs as a drama series contender.