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Emmys: Six Nominated Actors Dish the Details of Character-Building

8:00 AM PST 08/20/2013 by Edited by Stacey Wilson
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Sam Urdank for Netflix
"Arrested Development"

In their own words, lead actor nominees in "Arrested Development," "Downton Abbey" and "The Big Bang Theory" reveal how nailing the audition is just the beginning to perfecting the art of their roles.

MATT LeBLANC on playing Matt LeBlanc
Episodes (Showtime)

I play the public's perception of a celebrity -- namely, me -- if that makes any sense. I show up to work, leave my morals in the car and go play this guy, who's a bit more damaged than I am. You know, everybody's got baggage, but he's got quite a bit more than I do -- or I like to tell myself that. We shoot in a very bizarre way. We don't shoot it one episode at a time; we shoot like a film. So everything that happens at the network office for the whole season, for example, we shoot at once. We go to that set, and we shoot all of those scenes. In one day, you may be shooting a scene from episode nine and episode seven and episode four, and two scenes from episode one and then a scene from episode three. It's really tricky to keep it all straight. You keep all of your scripts in a binder, and you can kind of keep it straight that way. I've never worked that way in television before.

This is single-camera -- it's not Friends, which was multicam -- so it's essentially like shooting a long movie. The rhythm of [Episodes co-creators Jeffrey Klarik's and David Crane's] writing is similar to the rhythm on Friends [which Crane also co-created and co-wrote]. I can really hear their writing -- and my biggest concern was, I didn't want to slip and have it come across as Joey. That was something that I was really careful to keep an eye on. And I think there is a clear distinction between the two.

I've been nominated for an Emmy five times; I've been nominated for a Golden Globe five times, too, and I won on my fourth one. I had always said it was just an honor to be nominated, but when you win, it's quite a bit different. That sounds shallow and vain or whatever, but it's true. The history book doesn't show who came in second or third or fourth or fifth. So it's validating to be nominated, but I would go out on a limb and say it's probably nicer to win. It's a kick in the ass -- how's that?!

STORY: 'Big Bang Theory's' Jim Parsons: Emmys Like TV's Own Reality Show

JIM PARSONS on playing Sheldon Cooper
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

What attracted me to the pilot and to Sheldon was the way he talked. It wasn't about what he was saying or talking about, it wasn't even completely the situations he was in or how smart he was -- although all that informs how he talks. The writers have always had a very specific way to show how Sheldon strings words together. Some of that is that he talks too much and knows too many words. There's a real rhythm. Looking back, the only specific thing that I ever did to "get into character" is simply running those lines again and again and again. I've gotten a bit better, and I don't panic as much as I used to.

There were two main things about the way Sheldon spoke that scared me as an actor: There were no "umms," "buts" and that kind of filler to bridge the gap where I don't fully remember the line. The other thing was that Sheldon wasn't talking about things I actually understood very well. I had to get these words strung together mechanically because my brain didn't understand at a deep enough level.

I learned early on in junior high this trick of biting on a pencil just to force you to articulate and enunciate. It's harder to make clear words come out when biting on a pencil. With some of the more dense passages, I'd drill the lines with a pencil in my mouth, and suddenly things you were struggling with -- not memorization but words with too many consonants -- would just flow right out of my mouth. That was the only trick I had. I don't do it as much as I used to, and I'm not as panicked as I used to be, now six seasons later. Thank God!

Lead drama actor nominees Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Damian Lewis (Homeland), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and comedy actor nominee Louis C.K. (Louie) were unable to participate.

Reported by Scott Feinberg, Lesley Goldberg and Michael Walker.

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