Emmys: 21 Nominated Actresses Talk On-Set Rituals and Character Quirks

3:20 PM PST 08/12/2013 by Reagan Alexander
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Ali Goldstein/NBC
Tina Fey in 30 Rock

The female nominees for best lead and supporting roles reveal what they need to get into character, which show they’d die to guest star on ("Game of Thrones"!) and how wigs can be a bitch.



Vera Farmiga
Lead Actress, Drama
Bates Motel (A&E)

How my character and I differ: Actresses are always clamoring for strong female characters, I think we should want more “weak” female characters. Not weak as in damsel in distress, but flawed. What’s so beautiful about her is her perseverance. She’s neurotic, downright errant, repressed, an insufferable know-it- all, but she’s strong. My favorite scene from last season: When Norma chooses to divulge to Norman that she was the victim of incest just as the doorbell rings and it’s his date for the school prom. It was quintessential Norma at her quirkiest, at her most broken. My dream guest star: A tie between Dianne Wiest, Deborah Harry or Cher to play Norma’s mad-hatter mom, and Gene Wilder to play her dad or freaky uncle. My dream guest-star gig: Vikings! I want cornrows and I want to guest star as a flamboyant warrior. Get me a guest role on Vikings!

Tina Fey
Lead Actress, Comedy
30 Rock (NBC)

How my character and I differ: Liz is a Sliding Doors version of me ... she stayed in that time before I was married, living in New York, serving as head writer. Liz is possibly a little more sour than I am, slightly less optimistic, and she’s a workhorse in the way that I possibly used to be. The most difficult part of playing Liz: It would have to be doing any sort of romantic scene. It’s weird because you’re playing this version of a person who is close to you, and then you pay an actor to kiss you. You feel like a john, like you’re soliciting that person to be there. My favorite scene from last season: The scene with Tracy [Morgan] at the strip club, which really bookended the series because in the pilot we’re in the same strip club. It really was seven years later, and it was very emotional but also kind of cathartic and sweet. The first person I’ll thank if I win the Emmy: A-Rod.

Anna Gunn
Supporting Actress, Drama
Breaking Bad (AMC)

How my character and I differ: I’m a more emotional person and much more accessible. Skylar is somebody who has learned through her experiences to keep things buried. The most difficult part of playing Skylar: In the early days, when I was playing things like finding out about Walt’s cancer,
I found it difficult not to react emotionally, and Vince [Gilligan] was pretty adamant about me playing against the emotion of things because he had this idea of Skylar being somebody with a backbone of steel. What I love about playing Skylar: I appreciate her strength. She was the one who never, ever said, “I buy your line of bullshit.” Even when she was most terrified of Walt, she still quietly held her ground. My dream guest star: We always were wondering who Marie and Skylar’s parents were, and at one point Vince said that their mom probably left at an early age and their dad was this heavy drinker. He said, “I have this idea of Kris Kristofferson playing him,” which I thought would have been awesome.

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Christina Hendricks
Supporting Actress, Drama
Mad Men (AMC)

The thing I need most to play Joan: It’s a layered effect, but once the hair is up and you zip up that last tight skirt, it solidifies things. The tight skirt and the updo really do it. The first thing I do on set: I have it timed out: I live six minutes from work, so every day I show up on the dot with wet hair, I throw my purse in my trailer and go straight into hair and makeup. My dream guest star gig: I want to be on all of them because I’ll be unemployed in a year, so put that out there! I want to be on Homeland because I love the suspense of it, but I also want to be on Game of Thrones. I want to wear pelts and horns and ride around on horseback. If I weren't an actress, I would be: I think I would make a great florist.

Jane Krakowski
Supporting Actress, Comedy
30 Rock (NBC)

How my character and I differ: Delusion. I think Jenna lived in a world of delusion, and it was so incredibly fun to play a character with no sense of reality. My favorite scene from last season: In the finale, I love that the thing that made Jenna cry the most was saying goodbye to her mirror, and then they played a montage of Jenna admiring herself. FunnIest co-star: Tracy [Morgan], hands down. One of the great joys of working on 30 Rock was watching Tracy in read-throughs. The first person I’ll thank if I wIn the Emmy: Oh, if I get up there, whoever I thank I am going to do it in a song! But there is nobody to thank more than Tina Fey.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Lead Actress, Comedy
Veep (HBO)

How my character and I differ: She’s got shorter hair than I do, she wears panty hose more than I do, and she certainly wears pearls more than I do. I swear like a drunken sailor, but she swears more frequently, much more cleverly and much more beautifully than I do. Also, she’s completely out of her mind. What I love about playing Selina: I love to play somebody who is in charge, but there’s an aspect of indignity about the role. The idea of being powerful and powerless at the same time is where the comedy lies in the show. What I need most to play SelIna: I need that wig like nobody’s business. (“Wiggy” is a total bitch by the way — moody and difficult.) And I need a very tight, well-tailored suit because then I feel very constricted and it helps me feel irritated. Funniest co-star: I can’t look Tony Hale in the eye for very long without losing it — I look at his ear or chin or the top of his head— and Matt Walsh has this sort of hangdog, lost-at-sea look that slays me every time. My dream guest-star gig: If HBO ever decided to do another movie about Liberace, maybe I could play Liberace.

Elisabeth Moss
Lead Actress, Drama
Mad Men (AMC)

How my character and I differ: We’re both at our happiest when we’re working, but the biggest difference is that she is extremely incapable of finding happiness in other places. She can only seem to figure out the work part. What I need most to play Peggy: It’s the shoes. There’s something about the heels, the way they make you stand and the way they make you feel. Favorite scene from last season: I have a soft spot for the episode where Peggy and Abe [Charlie Hofheimer] break up, and she stabs him and then she goes to the office looking all messed up. She seeks out Ted [Kevin Rahm], and he puts her down, so she walks out of his office and tries to walk into Don’s, and he closes his door. It was a real pie-in-the-face moment for Peggy, where she’s stuck in the middle and she realizes that she is worse off than she ever was. My dream guest-star gig: My biggest regret is not having been on Friday Night Lights because I loved that show, but now the obvious one would be Downton Abbey. I feel like I would probably be downstairs, not upstairs.

Sofia Vergara
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Modern Family (ABC)

What I need most to play Gloria: The outfits. With Gloria I can wear things that I would never wear in real life because they are so over-the-top. The truth is that I play her just to see how I look in those outfits! What gets me through a day on set: The grips know me, and they hide these all over the set: hot tamales and marshmallows! So in between scenes I’m eating them. My dream guest star gig: I love Revenge! I think it’s like a soap opera in Latin America, but only with really wealthy people.

Kerry Washington
Lead Actress, Drama
Scandal (ABC)

What I love about playing Olivia: I think it’s the dichotomy. In some ways she is the most powerful person in almost every room she walks into, but her personal life is a mess. The most difficult part of playing Olivia: The sheer workload of playing this kind of character for 22 episodes. It’s living in a state of high anxiety and stress for nine months. My dream guest star gig: I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, but I also fantasize about a celebrity Amazing Race.

Merritt Wever
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Nurse Jackie (Showtime)

How my character and I differ: She’s a lot more optimistic and confident than I am. She’s willing to give anything a shot, and sometimes she can be a little overly confident, but it often makes for fun things to play. What I love about playing Zoey: Working with Edie [Falco]. I know that it sounds like a brown-nosing response but it is that, plus the physical comedy and absurdity of Zoey sometimes. What I need most to play Zoey: When Zoey is out of her scrubs, it can feel a little strange. Maybe the pink scrubs with the bunnies and whatnot give me license somehow to act ridiculous. My funniest co-star: I think Steve Wallem is amazing. He’s somebody who is really fun to have on set, and because of the nature of our characters, I’ve had times where I had to control myself instead of letting myself go there with him. The first person I’ll thank if I win the Emmy: Edie. I haven’t thought like that though. The whole process is so scary that my mind hasn’t even gotten to the dress yet.

Robin Wright
Lead Actress, Drama
House of Cards (Netflix)

How my character and I differ: My moral compass couldn’t be more different than a Claire Underwood — I can’t imagine living in a relationship where it’s OK to have dalliances if that’s what is needed to further a career. I’m much more conventional and old-school than that. That and I don’t wear Spanx. What drew me to the character: I didn’t have a script when I signed on — it was David Fincher selling me on the conceptual idea of this person. He assured me that it would be much more interesting and layered, that it would be a partnership with Francis Underwood [Kevin Spacey], with my character being Lady Macbeth to his Richard the Third. My favorite scene from last season: The one I have with Zoe [Kate Mara] when I’m in her apartment. I think we did a take where I actually leaned in and kissed her lips, but they didn’t use it. You want to see that Claire wants to f— her also. My dream guest star: I love Bryan Cox, and one of the greatest actors ever is Mark Rylance. As far as women actors, working with Meryl Streep would just be a gift.

NOMINEES NOT INCLUDED
Maggie Smith (supporting, Downton Abbey), Amy Poehler (lead, Parks and Recreation), Lena Dunham (lead, Girls), Claire Danes (lead, Homeland) and Jane Lynch (supporting, Glee).

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