Emmys: Aziz Ansari, Tom Hiddleston, 11 More Lead Actors Reveal the Methods Behind Their Craft

8:00 AM 8/22/2016

by Anna Lisa Raya

Nominees from Rami Malek to Will Forte and Matthew Rhys also reveal their most memorable lines, what they learned this season and the other TV shows they'd love to see their characters visit.

K.C. Bailey/Netflix; Des Willie/AMC

  • Will Forte

    The Last Man on Earth (Fox)

    Jordin Althaus/FOX

    Favorite scene

    "It's more a series of scenes from the last act of the fall finale, when we cut back and forth between Jason Sudeikis [Mike Miller, his character's brother] hurtling down from space and Mary Steenburgen [Gail Klosterman] unsuccessfully trying to perform an appendectomy. It was fun to try something so intense and so different."

    How has your character changed you?

    "The main change in my life that I can attribute to Tandy is that I don't really use the F-word anymore. I used it pretty liberally for most of my life, but now I find myself saying 'friggin' instead. Thank you, network television, for helping me be able to hang out around priests and librarians again!"

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Documentary Now!, Portlandia, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — any show where I'd get to work with my SNL buddies. And Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I love that show, and Rachel Bloom was actually an intern at SNL when I was there, so it would fit under that SNL umbrella."

  • Bryan Cranston

    All the Way (HBO)

    Hillary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

    Favorite scene

    "I have two: One was just fun, and the other was meaningful. The fun one was when I cornered Sen. William Fulbright [Ned Van Zandt] in the elevator to lobby him to my side of the Civil Rights Bill. True to LBJ's famous 'Johnson Treatment,' I made up some B.S. about the cuff links he took a liking to and how they were the only ones in the entire world and he was now the proud owner of them … then I whisper to my Secret Service escort, 'I'm gonna need another set of those cuff links.' The meaningful one was when LBJ, in one of his depressed moods, vented about how poorly his father was treated — he was humiliated in public. He witnessed how it broke him as a man and, reflecting on his own feelings, said that all he wanted was a little solace, a little love. That was very illuminating to the character of the man."

    How has your character changed you?

    "Lyndon Johnson was a towering figure of great ambition — and an empty vessel, insatiably looking for love and approval. He had phenomenal achievement in his domestic policies and crushing failures in Vietnam. I have come to accept the good and the bad, the successes and the failures in our leaders, as I do in other people. I apply a philosophy that just because someone has an opposing ideology than mine, it doesn't make them the enemy. We all love this country — we just have different ideas on how to solve our problems."

  • Kyle Chandler

    Bloodline (Netflix)

    Saeed Adyani/Netflix

    Favorite scene

    "The one between Eric O'Bannon [Jamie McShane] and John in the cabin with the gun."

    How has your character changed you?

    "As an actor, Bloodline has afforded me the gift of a whole new wonderful skill: murder! That's different."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "Well, someone has got to kill Frank Underwood [in House of Cards]."

  • Aziz Ansari

    Master of None (Netflix)

    K.C. Bailey/Netflix

    Favorite episode

    "The 'Mornings' episode. It's maybe my favorite because I wanted it to be a real depiction of modern, long-term relationships, and I was really happy it resonated with people. Also, like my friend and fellow person doing a lot of these interviews, Kenya Barris, I worry that all the talk of diversity on our show is taking away from all the great stuff we did that had nothing to do with diversity and with just making a strong show. Plus, let's not forget to give props to our white talent! Noel Wells [Rachel] and also Eric Wareheim [Arnold], who directed this episode, were truly fantastic."

    How has your character changed you?

    "The show has changed me in a fundamental way as to how I work.

    I used to have ideas or observations and they would go immediately to the standup-processing zone. Now I process things as a writer-director. I'm immediately imagining scenes and dialogue. After the experience of season one, I just feel much more confident as a writer-director-performer."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "Unsolved Mysteries — the Robert Stack era, of course. Dev is a re-enactment actor in a case about a haunted bunk bed."

  • Jeffrey Tambor

    Transparent (Amazon)

    Jennifer Clasen/Amazon

    Favorite scene

    "There was a Seder scene the Pfefferman family took part in, no table, just sitting on the floor — and each one went around passing the ingredients and speaking their innermost thoughts. We shot it for almost a whole day. I could watch this scene on a loop to the end of my days."

    How has your character changed you?

    "At the end of the day, when I change costume and head home, I don't shed this wonderful Maura. This is a character who stays with you, probes you, makes you more present and conscious. She has made me a better person, father, citizen and ally of the LGBT community. Jill [Soloway] has given me the best role of my life and the biggest responsibility. Maura is funny … much funnier than me."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "Maura loves a good TV show, especially streaming, but I think she would demur from straying from the Pfefferman family."

  • Bob Odenkirk

    Better Call Saul (AMC)

    Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC

    Favorite line of dialogue

    " 'I did it for Kim! She worked her butt off to get Mesa Verda while you and Howard sat around sippin' scotch and chortling!' For the use of the word 'chortling.' "

    How has your character changed you?

    "I have more sympathy for lawyers. We need them. They keep our society from becoming a big old mess. But holy cripes is it a hard, complex job. The good thing about it is that you get to argue with other people. That's kind of good, right? But with those old, upstanding law firms, there seems to be a lot of 'bored room' meetings. God bless them."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "Mr. Roboto — a show based on the Styx song. Kidding. I could see Jimmy McGill in The Sopranos if they would do that sequel I've been hearing about. Starting rumor … now."

  • Thomas Middleditch

    Silicon Valley (HBO)

    John P. Johnson/HBO

    Favorite scene

    "I liked the face-plant scene [in episode four this season]. I've always been a physical comedian, and that was a chance to stretch those muscles with Richard, who is normally quite restrained. It's pretty symbolic, too — it comes right after sticking it to Jack Barker [Stephen Tobolowsky], and Richard, just like the Pied Piper guys, always falls right on his face when things start going his way."

    How has your character changed you?

    "Well, now I only drink lightly flavored sparkling water, and I have a little manservant named Chico, who open doors for me and applies face moisturizer. But other than that, and my private jet, hoverboard (a real one, not those utterly pedestrian roller ones) and my recent knighthood, I'm still pretty much the same guy."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "Let's just say that when Winona Ryder and David Harbour stepped through that weird vagina portal to go into the underworld [in Stranger Things], if they saw Richard coding at a computer, it would blow some minds, for real."

  • Rami Malek

    Mr. Robot (USA)

    David Giesbrecht/USA Network

    Favorite scene

    "The scenes in Ray's [Craig Robinson] basement will be etched in my mind for a long time. Elliot is at the end of his rope, struggling to breathe, barely able to move and still resolved to find the truth. Every moment between Christian [Slater] and me down there was charged with rage and compassion. You got the sense that at any moment we could either come to blows or reconcile the past, but neither one of us really ever knew which was coming."

    How has your character changed you?

    "He has made me so much more acutely aware of just how hard it is for anyone who is stigmatized by their differences to survive and flourish in the world we live in. The obstacles so many endure because of their mental state, their deep loneliness or deep dissatisfaction with the world has been hammered home to me by Elliot. He has made me much more sympathetic to these struggles but has empowered me to be a force in changing them."

  • William H. Macy

    Shameless (Showtime)

    Warren Feldman/Showtime

    Favorite scene

    "The cancer concierge scene where Frank is shopping for a terminally ill woman. That was 'shameless.' "

    How has your character changed you?

    "Professionally, I feel I've gained acting skills because I get to practice so much. As far as how Frank has changed me? Not much, I don't think. … Wait, let me think about this. … What was the question?"

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "House of Cards or Veep."

  • Matthew Rhys

    The Americans (FX)

    Patrick Harbron/FX

    Favorite line of dialogue

    " 'Well, I'm sorry the man you loved died and you're stuck with me.' It was part of a huge argument Elizabeth [Keri Russell] and I had that was much needed after four seasons. Relations between them had been a gathering of storm clouds that finally culminated in some thunderous lines being thrown at each other. But they needed that vent. That, or when Elizabeth simply said, 'We’re in trouble,' and I replied, 'I know.' That summed it all up."

    How has your character changed you?

    "He's aged me. Philip carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. It's given me Eeyore eyes."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "I'd like to see Philip step into The A-Team. I think his skill set would be a significant contribution."

  • Courtney B. Vance

    The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

    Prashant Gupta/FX

    Favorite scene

    "The jail cell scene with O.J., when I [Johnnie Cochran] related to him who I thought he was. I prepared very hard for it and was so pleased with the results. My favorite line of dialogue was in the courtroom cross-examining scene, [when Johnnie asks] the police officer, 'You had O.J.'s shoes in the trunk of your car for three days? Three days … in Simi Valley … Mnh … Mnh … Mnh!' "

    How has your character changed you?

    "I think because I was able to live with Johnnie for those nine months, I was able to get an inkling of what those men and women — on both sides and on the jury — had to live with from the moment they became involved with the case. Being a part of our show allowed me to go back in time. Reliving the trial was amazing because some of the things that happened during the course of it were absolutely unbelievable. It's so sad to me that we lost Johnnie in 2005. His wisdom is so needed today. We need that voice."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "Game of Thrones! There is just so much drama and intrigue. I would like to see him in the center of all those maelstroms causing and wreaking havoc."

  • Kevin Spacey

    House of Cards (Netflix)

    David Giesbrecht/Netflix

    Favorite scene

    "It's difficult to boil down to a favorite scene, but I would say in the final scene for the season, [the line] 'We are the terror' embodies the duplicity, complexity and closeness of the relationship between Francis and Claire — solidified and bonded, both within themselves and the audience."

    How has your character changed you?

    "The character has shown a perspective of power in ways I've never experienced — despite work in politics and entertainment. I'm challenged and delighted at the surprising turns the show and the Underwoods take."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "I would love for Frank to appear on Seinfeld. But until that reunion show happens, I'd be happy for Frank to drive around with Jerry Seinfeld."

  • Tom Hiddleston

    The Night Manager (AMC)

    Des Willie/AMC

    Favorite line of dialogue

    "At the end of the first episode, Olivia Colman's character, Angela Burr, asks Jonathan Pine why he risked his career [to join her effort to capture a weapons dealer]. Pine responds, 'If there's a man selling a private arsenal to an Egyptian crook, and he's English, and you're English, and those weapons can cause a lot of pain to a lot of people, then you just do it.' For me, his response sums up the ferocity of John le Carre's anger at the hypocrisy and cynicism of the worst men in the world."

    How has your character changed you?

    "I found his moral clarity very inspiring and his courage deeply moving."

    What other TV show would you like to see your character step into?

    "I'd love to see Pine fight crime with Idris Elba in Luther. The detective and the spy."

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