Emmys: Comedy Creators Armando Iannucci, Jill Soloway and More on Weird Fan Reactions and Stressful Moments
The producers and stars of this year's best comedy series nominees talk about misconceptions, offer Emmy night advice and reveal which of their characters they'd most like to share a drink with.
This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Co-creator/executive producer, Modern Family
Biggest misconception about the show: That [castmember] Sofia Vergara is a natural beauty. Our 16 full-time employees who go at her every day with power washers, glue guns, wigs, paint rollers and harnesses would beg to differ.
Most stressful showrunner moment: Watching [castmember] Ed O'Neill demonstrate a jiujitsu chokehold on my brother and hearing the phrase, "Go to sleep."
Character from the show I'd most like to drink with: Lily [Aubrey Anderson-Emmons] because it's fun to drink with sarcastic people and having them be 8 years old could only make it better.
Most embarrassing Emmy night experience: Being seen on camera slapping my wife's hand away as she attempted, for the ninth time, to adjust my tuxedo studs.
What I need in order to write: A pad and pencil. Someday soon the world will have no more of these things, and I will walk into the ocean.
Most unexpected fan reaction: Same as every season: "I loved you in Back to the Future."
If I could choose anyone to give my acceptance speech, it would be: Any English person. They learn how to be gracious over there before they learn how to eat.
Most challenging scene to write: Anything for Ty Burrell because he's fallen down so many times on the show that he has a hard time pronouncing "R's" and "N's."
Emmy night survival tips: Libation, libation, libation.
Why our show should win best comedy in six words or less: Just seems like it's our turn.
Co-creator/executive producer, Parks and Recreation
Biggest misconception about the show: That you had to be politically wonky to be interested in it. At its heart, it was an ensemble comedy with a great cast, but some thought the subject matter was wonky, and that could have been a barrier to entry. If anyone actually felt that way, then I'd like to clear that up!
Most stressful showrunner moment: The series finale. Did we do it right? Was it the right story? People have tricky relationships with series finales as we saw with Lost, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad. I just had this feeling of, please don't let us trip at the finish line!
Most challenging scenes to write: The finale and the one where Ron [Nick Offerman] and Leslie [Amy Poehler] work out their problems. Ron confesses he'd come to her for a job because he was lonely. That got me.
If I did the Emmy seating chart, I'd want to be next to: Amy and the cast. It's a weird opportunity to be together for one last time. And other people — Jon Hamm, Tatiana Maslany — all the people who floated into our ranks for an episode.
Emmy night essentials: My tickets, which I forgot one year and had to go back home. But I don't have any special talisman. Parks has never won, so if I did have one, I'd have gotten rid of it a long time ago. Clearly it wasn't working.
Why our show should win best comedy in six words or less: Great cast, good writing, happy happy.
Co-creator/executive producer, Silicon Valley
Biggest misconception about the show: That you have to be into technology or know a lot about technology in order to like [it]. It's not the case — you might even like it more if you hate technology.
Most stressful showrunner moment: Working through the holidays to rewrite the last two episodes and continuing to rewrite them all the way through shooting.
Most unexpected fan reaction: [Boxer] Floyd Mayweather Jr. became a fan of the show, and he and I corresponded via Twitter. I didn't expect that — and I got to go to Vegas and see him fight Manny Pacquiao.
Toughest thing to write last season: Having to write out the Peter Gregory character because of the passing of [actor] Christopher Evan Welch.
Character from the show I'd most like to drink with: Laurie Bream [played by Suzanne Cryer] because I have no idea what she would be like drunk.
Quirkiest thing I need in order to write: Quirkiness is not encouraged on our show. I don't like that word at all and actually feel a little uncomfortable for just using it in the previous sentence.
Creator/executive producer, Transparent
Most stressful showrunner moment: Right before we shot the pilot, I had cast everybody except for the Josh character. It was really scary because with the other four Pfefferman family members, I had strong gut feelings. Like, it had to be Jeffrey Tambor; it had to be Gaby Hoffmann. Then I met filmmaker Jay Duplass. I asked if he ever acted, and he said, "Not really." We had to do a lot of finagling and grandstanding to a bunch of people to get Jay to be Josh. A lot of things needed to be worked out for this piece of magic to fall into place.
Biggest misconception about the show: That this is a niche show for people who are specifically interested in the trans community. It's very much a family show. It's a salute to series like All in the Family or Eight Is Enough — any of the great family shows we've all loved.
If I could jump writers rooms: I'd love to go work on [FX's] Louie.
Weirdest fan reaction: It was pretty special being at the Time 100 dinner and having Kim Kardashian tell me that the whole family watches the show together. It was a pretty cool feeling to know that the message of love is transcending from family to family.
Best advice for this year's Emmy telecast: Fun fact about me is that I'm really good friends with Jane Lynch, so I co-wrote the Emmys when she hosted a few years ago. My sister Faith and I were backstage the whole evening concerned with other things, like rewriting jokes for the evening and adding to Jane's monologue. "I don't think you should make it shorter." "I think it should be longer." Having been there and creating so-called "comedy bits," I knew we were taking away from people's moments when they were onstage and forgetting who to thank because they were so nervous.
Emmy night survival tips: I'm wearing flats, no Spanx. Something comfortable like a suit.
Creator/executive producer, Veep
Biggest misconception about the show: That it’s all improvised. We have a tremendous cast who can ad-lib till the cows come home, but the script is very much written and rewritten. I encourage the cast to improvise in rehearsals, but in the end it’s a locked, bolted and tightened script. In fact, we were running out of time in our schedule, so the final episode, the one nominated for the comedy writing, was shot without any rehearsals at all.
Most unexpected fan reaction: I did get a very nice note from Paul McCartney. It turns out he and his band have Veep on in their tour bus all the time.
Toughest episode to write this season: Episode 409, “Testimony,” was one long scene that took place in Congress. The challenge was to make what’s essentially 30 minutes of people sitting down and just answering questions seem as varied and as pacey as any other. It was tough but also satisfying to do.
If I could choose anyone to give my acceptance speech, it would be: William Shatner because such a moment would need gravitas and Shakespearean poise from an elderly, sturdy man.
Emmy night survival tips: Tape it and fast-forward through the commercials. Have I said a bad thing? Is that bad? Is it? '
On Emmy night, I always make sure I have: Loads of caffeine in my system. I’m usually just in from the U.K. and enormously jet-lagged. No one wants to see a grown man dribble on live television.
Biggest misconception about the show: That it's a comedy.
Most unexpected fan reaction: Just the love. The pure love. From every kind of human possible. It's like being in traffic school in the '90s. You become friends with all kinds of people you never knew could like you.
Most challenging episode to write: They have all been pretty easy for me because of the collaboration with Louis. But sometimes it's like milking the prostate of a horse.
If I win at the Emmys, the people I'd most like to give my acceptance speech for me would be: My daughters.
Emmy night viewer tip: Prerecord the East Coast feed.
Emmy night survival tools: I will definitely have Grether's Blackcurrant [candy] Pastilles with me. I gave one to [actress] Viola Davis last year. We were all dying of thirst and hunger in there. And she started kind of doing the dry cough thing, and I had one in the pocket of my gown — which is hilarious for me to say, "pocket of my gown" — and she so gladly and gratefully took it.