Emmys: 2016 Nominees' Past Appearances at the Awards Ceremony

10:35 AM 9/18/2016

by Hilary Lewis

Take a look back at Keri Russell, Aziz Ansari, John Travolta and other current nominees' last times at the TV awards show as they prepare to make their return after a multi-year absence.

John Travolta at the 1976 Emmys
John Travolta at the 1976 Emmys
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For a number of this year's prominent Emmy nominees, their 2016 accolades will mark their first return to the primetime awards ceremony in several years. While Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Aziz Ansari are up for their first Emmys for their roles in The Americans and Master of None, none of them have been spotted at the Emmys in at least four years. For Jerry Seinfeld, nominated in the best variety series talk category for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, an Emmys appearance would be his first since 1998. Meanwhile, People v. O.J. Simpson stars David Schwimmer and John Travolta haven't been to the Emmys since 2003, in Schwimmer's case, and 1977, in Travolta's case, where the movie star, who made his return to TV this year with his role as Robert Shapiro in the FX miniseries, delivered a tearful acceptance speech on behalf of his late girlfriend Diana Hyland. Read on to take a look back at these and other long-absent 2016 nominees' past Emmys appearances.

  • Keri Russell (nominated for best actress in a drama series for 'The Americans')

    Last Emmys appearance: 2010

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    Keri Russell could win her first Emmy Sunday night after her hit show The Americans finally scored its first accolades from the TV Academy. She's also set to present during the awards ceremony, so she'll still get some time in the spotlight even if she fails to win. Russell's last appearance on the Emmys stage happened in 2010, when she presented the award for best reality competition series (won by Top Chef) alongside Will Arnett, who pulled a "really dirty" poem he'd written out of his jacket pocket (My Favorite Part of a Woman) and began to opine about "luscious mounds" before Russell told him they cut that bit. The duo were promoting their short-lived Fox comedy Running Wilde.

  • Aziz Ansari (nominated for best actor in a comedy and part of the team up for more Emmys for 'Master of None')

    Last Emmys appearance: 2012

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    Like Russell, Ansari is also set to present on Sunday night, ensuring he'll have some time onstage even if he fails to win one of the Emmys for which he's nominated for his work on Master of None. While the Master of None noms are Ansari's first accolades from the TV academy, the Parks and Recreation alum last appeared on the Emmys stage in 2012, when he presented the award for outstanding writing for a variety music or comedy special — and showed off his British accent. "I just wanted to say on behalf of myself and all of the other British actors here, thank you Hollywood for welcoming us. It is bloody amazing to go from doing theater in London to presenting here at the Emmys. Brilliant, bloody brilliant. Fish and chips. Cheers," he said, speaking as if he'd spent some time in the U.K., before explaining the reason for his accent: "I feel like people take your acting more seriously when you're British."

  • Jerry Seinfeld (nominated as host and producer of outstanding variety series talk nominee 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee')

    Last Emmys appearance: 1998

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    The comedian and frequent Emmy nominee's last appearance at the primetime ceremony was in 1998, when Seinfeld was nominated for best comedy series, an award the show won in 1993. There's no video online of Seinfeld at the 1998 show, but he did deliver a memorable moment on the Emmys stage the year before, when it was clear that Seinfeld's time in the Emmys spotlight was slipping away. While Michael Richards won best supporting actor in a comedy series and the show was nominated for best comedy series, Seinfeld's five-year run as a best actor in a comedy series nominee had come to an end. And he wanted to make sure everyone knew. Taking the stage to present the Emmy for best variety/music/comedy series, Seinfeld spent several minutes voicing his displeasure at Michael J. Fox, nominated for his role in Spin City, replacing him in the comedy actor category.

  • David Schwimmer (nominated for best supporting actor in a limited series or movie for 'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story')

    Last Emmys appearance: 2003

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    Another "Must See TV" alum up for an Emmy this year is former Friends star David Schwimmer, nominated for his role as Robert Kardashian in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Schwimmer last attended the Emmys in 2003 (but the above picture is from 2002), when the California governor recall election was all the rage. Indeed, presenting with Friends co-stars Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc, Schwimmer joked that, in light of questions about what the hit series' stars would do when the show ended in 2004, the three of them would be running for governor of California. LeBlanc continued to poke fun at the many recall candidates, joking that that year's best supporting actress in a comedy series nominees were "the only five stars not running for office this year."

  • John Travolta (nominated for best supporting actor in a limited series or movie for 'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,' and, as a producer on the show, he shares its nomination for outstanding miniseries)

    Last Emmys appearance: 1977

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    Travolta is nominated for two Emmys for his return to TV on The People v. O.J. Simpson. The movie star hasn't been spotted at the Emmys since the late '70s. The above picture is from 1976 and a year later he accepted an award on behalf of his late girlfriend Diana Hyland, bringing the audience to tears with his emotional acceptance speech. Hyland won for outstanding performance by a supporting actress in a comedy or drama special for her role in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and had died of breast cancer that previous March. Travolta bounded onto the stage and said of Hyland, "She'd be so excited. She really would…Wherever you are, Diana. I love you, and we did it baby."

  • Matthew Rhys (nominated for best actor in a drama series for 'The Americans')

    Last Emmys appearance: 2008

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    Matthew Rhys scored his first Emmy nomination this year for his work his role as Philip Jennings in The Americans. The actor was last spotted on the Emmys red carpet in 2008, where he posed for photos with his then-Brothers and Sisters co-stars Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths and talked to reporters about what to expect from the next season of the ABC series.

  • Jean Smart (nominated for best supporting actress in a limited series or movie for 'Fargo')

    Last Emmys appearance: 2008

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    While Fargo actress Jean Smart was last nominated for an Emmy in 2012, for best actress in a drama series for her role in Harry's Law, she won her last Emmy when she made her last appearance at the awards ceremony, in 2008. Smart won the Emmy for best supporting actress in a comedy series for her role in Samantha Who and embraced her TV daughter Christina Applegate on her way to the stage, saying of the ABC sitcom's star, "I adore her and she sets the tone for the most hilarious cast in the world." She thanked several people including then-ABC Entertainment head Steve McPherson.

  • Hugh Laurie (nominated for best supporting actor in a limited series or movie for 'The Night Manager' and, as an executive producer on the show, he shares its nomination for outstanding miniseries)

    Last Emmys appearance: 2011

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    Nine-time Emmy nominee Hugh Laurie is up for two awards this year for his work on The Night Manager. He was last seen at the Emmys in 2011, when he was nominated for best drama actor for his role in House, and presented the award for best actress in a miniseries or movie with Claire Danes, with the two of them joking that the 2011 nominees should be glad that Helen Mirren, who won multiple Emmys in that category, wasn't nominated this year. "Although she is still a 3-1 favorite," Laurie said before he and Danes presented the award to winner Kate Winslet.

  • Audra McDonald (nominated for best actress in a limited series or movie for 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill')

    Last Emmys appearance: 2008

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    Audra McDonald is well-known for her acclaimed theater career but she won an Emmy for outstanding special class program in 2015 for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Live from Lincoln Center) and earned two other nominations, prior to 2016. In 2008, she attended the Emmys as a nominee for best supporting actress in a miniseries or movie for her role as Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun.

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