Emmys: 'Homeland,' House of Cards' EPs Reveal Their Favorite Scenes
Executive producers for "Mad Men," "Downton Abbey" and "30 Rock" also share their picks for the most memorable -- and, in some cases, utterly bizarre -- scenes from their nominated series.
A favorite moment was when David Lynch agreed to play his part in our three-episode arc, and we had never done a three-episode arc before. We talked about lots of different people who could play that role of Jack Doll — heavy hitters, big heavy-hitting actors. And then Louis [C.K.] called me up one day and said, “I’m thinking about David Lynch,” and I just thought it was such a genius moment. It was so unexpected and just a completely different direction. David Lynch doesn’t act, he’s a director, and he doesn’t like to leave L.A. So Louis wrote him a series of letters that really glued him to do the part.
It took him a long time to say yes. He is a very dedicated practitioner of transcendental meditation, and so one of the conditions was giving him two times a day, each shooting day, to meditate. We needed a place for him to meditate that was on the set that was a quiet, solitary room. It was an odd request, but we figured out how to do it. When he finally agreed, I just thought, “I can’t even believe that this is happening.” That was a hugely great moment, and working with him was tremendous.
Going to China [for the season-three finale] was also a crazy, weird thing. We had talked about it being a totally different country, and I had started to make inquiries into working in that country and then when Louie handed me the script and goes, “China,” I put my head down and silently wept. Lots of people shoot in Beijing and Shanghai, but we shot out in the countryside, and it was really challenging to find a hutch and a family who would let us come into their house. We found a river location totally by accident, and that was great. We were there for nine days, we shot for three days. It is a long way to go and a very complicated place to shoot for what ends up being 10 minutes of the episode. It took months to set up because you have to get visas and also the Chinese government has to approve your script. Louis doesn’t show anybody anything — ever. FX never sees scripts ahead of time, so I thought the biggest obstacle was going to be convincing Louis to show the government the script. But Louis just looked at me and said, “Don’t even ask me about shooting somewhere else.”
The highlight of what I do as an executive producer is being able to say yes over and over and have the quality of the show come from his imagination, his commitment to authenticity and the choices that he makes.
Modern Family (ABC)
We were shooting a scene in which Mitchell and Cameron were best men for their friend Sal’s [Elizabeth Banks] wedding, and a young couple was visiting the set. Between takes, they were brought out to meet Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, when suddenly the boyfriend dropped to his knee and proposed. Jesse and Eric were in on the whole thing. The shocked young woman accepted, there was applause and tears, and the crew, having been tipped off, shot the whole thing. Moments later, we resumed filming. In the scene, during a heated argument, Mitchell jumped on Cameron’s back; Elizabeth Banks as Sal took in the picture and ad-libbed: “Well, this is a mystery solved.” A sweet moment cut by a great joke — neither of which we had to write.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
It’s impossible to pick a single favorite moment from last season, so I’ll say today, my favorite is when Penny finally said “I love you” to Leonard. From a writing standpoint, we struggled with the scene all week but eventually hit on a version we were feeling good about. Then I had the supreme pleasure of watching Johnny [Galecki] and Kaley [Cuoco] bring it to life in the most touching, beautiful and honest way — in a single take — that brought us all to tears. Kaley has said that in that moment, it was like the audience and the cameras went away, and it was just the two of them alone on the stage. I believe that. I’m very protective of Leonard. I care about him. I feel for him. Those words were a long time coming, and I’m glad I could play a small part in making it happen. He deserved it.
“There is an episode where they all fly to Helsinki, and Selina [Julia Louis-Dreyfus] has a press conference with the Finnish prime minister, played by Sally Phillips, a fantastic British comedy actress. It was a bit of a comedy summit, to have these two fantastic comedy actresses from different sides of the Atlantic meeting. When we were doing the scene with the press conference, Selina is given a gift of an Angry Birds clock. The clock was unusually big — we hadn’t planned it in the script — but when we saw how big it was, we just thought it was very funny to have a very serious press conference with her holding this clock that was getting increasingly heavy in her hands. It became hysterical, the atmosphere on set, because of Selina trying to answer questions on various social issues while holding an enormous Angry Birds clock and buckling under the weight and while dealing with Sally Phillips playing the Finnish prime minister, completely humorless. It just became, at one point, impossible to carry on filming.
But also we came up with a lot of funny stuff on set in that moment, and that seemed to typify how Veep works. We set up situations, and then while we’re almost getting ready to shoot, something funny happens in the mood in the moment that really carries the whole [thing], and everyone will remember that time that we struggled with the stupid clock.
30 Rock (NBC)
I really like that last scene between Alec [Baldwin] and Tina [Fey] as Jack and Liz, when they finally express their platonic feelings for each other after seven years of expressing them every way but directly. Our hope was that the audience was really going to think that Jack was going to leave on that boat — but he comes back, and everyone, in one weird way or another, is still in these roles after the series ends. These people weren’t just thrust together by happenstance. They will continue to have relationships. As silly and as big and comic as our show could get, we were very conscious of the characters and the characters’ lives. And, to me, that ending was really the most gratifying. As bittersweet as it was to end, we felt we did it on our terms with that song playing. Ultimately we went back to [the song] “The Rural Juror” because there’s a certain amount of nostalgia for us. We found a song that was nonsense but sounded sort of triumphant and sweet. It was the most 30 Rock way to do it — and also the least amount of work. Although, I think Tina single-handedly wrote the lyrics to that nonsense song. She will dissect for you exactly what she thinks it is about.
D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, executive producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones, were unable to participate.
Reporting by Scott Feinberg, Rebecca Ford, Lesley Goldberg, Philiana Ng, Michael O’Connell, Lacey Rose and Stacey Wilson.