Backstage notes: Mirren crowned for 'Elizabeth'

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Tony Shalhoub, winner for lead actor in a comedy series for USA's "Monk," said that though he was "shocked" about his win last year, "this year I was semi-comatose. I couldn't quite process it. What comes after deja vu? Deja trois? I would like to feel good about it, but I feel too numb." Shalhoub said he was confident that Steve Carell was going to win for his role on NBC's "The Office." "At this point, this isn't even frosting on the cake; this is like the rarefied air above the frosting on the cake -- the smoke on the candles above the frosting on the cake." Asked about similarities with his character, an obsessive-compulsive detective, Shalhoub said, "I'm much more of a worried person in real life than my character, if you can possibly imagine that."

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Barry Manilow, who took the Emmy for individual performance in a variety or music program for PBS' "Barry Manilow: Music and Passion," said he attributes his long career to his fans. "They've been with me all these years. They just keep supporting what I do, and I think the music holds up. ... I've always believed in myself, no matter" what the critics have said. The singer, who performed a tribute to Dick Clark during the show, praised the TV legend backstage. "He introduced us to all sorts of great music," said Manilow, who co-wrote the "American Bandstand" theme song. "We wouldn't have the music we have if it weren't for Dick Clark continually fighting to introduce pop music to the public."

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Bertram Van Munster,  co-creator and executive producer of CBS' "The Amazing Race," which won its fourth consecutive Emmy for outstanding reality competition program, noted that because the recent family edition of the show received a lot of criticism, "we worked extra hard to put the show back on track" for the following installment, which marked the show's ninth cycle on the air. "What we do, and what the Academy recognizes that we do, is not mean-spirited, but everybody can relate to it. What we've done is raised the bar for reality TV, and we take a great deal of pride in it." Co-exec producer Jerry Bruckheimer, asked whether the producers of Fox's "American Idol" needed to be "soothed" for not winning in the category, said: "I don't think they need to be soothed. It's the No. 1 show on television, a fantastic show done by talented people, and they've captivated people. ... All of our hats off to them; they've done an extraordinary job. It's an accomplishment being the No. 1 show."

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Terence Winter, who won the trophy for drama series writing for the "Members Only" episode of HBO's "The Sopranos," said he didn't have any clues about the upcoming series finale that he could share. "(Creator) David Chase is going to decide what happens; it's premature to answer," he said. "But I couldn't if I knew anyway." He did point out that with any series finale, it's always the case that some people are happy and some aren't. "You can't please everybody," he said. "We do the show how we want and let the chips fall where they may." Winter also noted that he is starting to "experience a form of separation anxiety" with the show ready to wrap up. "The crew and cast have been together for nearly 10 years since the pilot. We're all sort of sensing the end of a really great thing. It's going to be tough."

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Veteran "24" director Jon Cassar, who won his first Emmy for his work on the action drama series, credited the cast and writers for the show's success this season. He also dropped a hint that the creative resurgence would continue next season, saying: "I've already directed the first two episodes of next season, and I think it's going to be a good year, our best year ever."

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In the past couple of years, television -- and especially American television -- has become more and more attractive for top talent, said Oscar winner Jeremy Irons, who won a best supporting actor Emmy for his role in the HBO telefilm "Elizabeth I." "I suspect there is better, more interesting work happening on television than in most movies," he said. "We used to be snobbish about television, but if you look at the material on television, there is nothing to apologize about." Still, Irons said he has a hard time adjusting to the ever-expanding TV universe. "I think having a lot of channels bleeds the power away from television." As for paying taxes on gift bags, "If we have to pay taxes, so be it," he said. "But don't spend it on bombs, for Christ's sake."

Helen Mirren, named best lead actress in a miniseries or movie for the title role in HBO's "Elizabeth I," said she was fortunate to get such a great role. "It's one of those roles that when it comes along, as an actress, you thank your lucky stars," she said, noting that she did a lot of research and "came to an understanding of what I thought Elizabeth was like." Mirren, who said she couldn't wait to celebrate with a glass of champagne, said the best advice she ever got was from her mother. "She told me to never be afraid of getting older because as you get older you'll find that you love being whatever age you are. When you're 40, you can't comprehend being 20, but you love being 40."

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Kelly Macdonald was named best supporting actress in miniseries or a movie for HBO's "The Girl in the Cafe," and when she came backstage to face reporters she was still stunned and visibly shaken about her first Emmy win. "I still think someone's going to take it off me," she said of her trophy. Asked whether she would have been upset had she lost to Ellen Burstyn, who has received a lot of attention for being nominated for a role in HBO's "Mrs. Harris" that put her onscreen for only 14 seconds, Macdonald replied: "I didn't know anything about that. I was just hoping one of the other (actresses) would win -- it's so nerve-racking, it's a nightmare." Macdonald also noted that she has been acting for 10 years but that every so often she gets a "diamond part, so I couldn't ask for anything better than that."

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"I am absolutely floored," "Huff" co-star Blythe Danner said of her second consecutive win in the supporting actress in a drama series category for her role on the Showtime drama series, which was canceled after two seasons. "It's a very nice way to say goodbye, very bittersweet." Danner dedicated her award to her late husband, TV producer Bruce Paltrow. "He had some wonderful shows on the air. This does belong to him."

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"When they called my name, I was so proud to be there with my mother," said Jeremy Piven,  Emmy winner in the supporting actor in a comedy series category for his role on HBO's "Entourage." Piven teared up when he talked about his late father. "He is here, and he is very proud." On a lighter note, he offered an explanation for the use of the word "fluffer" in his acceptance speech. "I am such a ham and desperately wanted a laugh," he said. "Fluffer came into my head and I went with it." As for the goody bags given to award show presenters which have been in the spotlight over the IRS' decision to tax them, "I think the goody bags should be sent to New Orleans, to Katrina victims," Piven said to an ovation. "Don't tax them, just give them to (the victims)." The actor also had a message to aspiring actors. "I was always the underdog," he said. "If anybody looks at me and gets inspired, that will make me very happy."

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Greg Garcia and Marc Buckland arrived backstage with their Emmys for comedy series writing and directing, respectively, for the pilot episode of NBC's "My Name Is Earl." Garcia, the show's creator, noted that it would be easy to complain about "Earl" not getting nominated for best comedy series "but I'm confident we'll be in that group next season. ... I've been doing this for several years, so I'm not going to complain -- I'm just going to enjoy this." Garcia also said that Season 2 of the series will feature some episodes in which Earl (Jason Lee) isn't trying to cross items off his list of wrongs that he needs to right and also will include some serialized story lines. "We're going to change it a little bit -- not drastically, just to keep it fresh," he said. He also noted that upcoming guest stars will include Burt Reynolds, Roseanne, Amy Sedaris and Giovanni Ribisi. "Our show is one that needs a lot of guest stars because (they're getting) crossed off the list and that's a big part for somebody," Garcia said. "So guest stars are always going to be a big component of our show."

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Mariska Hargitay thought she already had it all when she gave birth in June to a son, August. "I didn't think my life would be any better, but this is not bad," she said, hoisting her first Emmy trophy, for lead actress in a drama series. Hargitay credited the continuous creative strength of the crime drama "Law & Order: SVU," which is going into its eighth season in the fall, for being recognized so late in the series' run. "It's crazy," she said. "Who wins on a police procedural?" Hargitay's first thought when she heard her name as winner in the lead drama actress category? "That my dad would be very happy," she said, choking up. Hargitay paid tribute to her father, Mickey Hargitay, for encouraging her to "make dreams happen, make miracles happen."
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