Hollywood's Emmy Icons
In celebration of television's 63rd annual awards, THR honors those greats whose impact on entertainment extends well beyond the sheer quantity of their statuettes.
Talk to anyone who works in television, and they'll likely use the word "family" to describe how it feels to create art for the small screen. They speak about the closeness of cast and crew; the enduring affiliation they feel with the network executives who first took a chance to greenlight their show; and, for a lucky few, the fraternal sensibility that grows from knowing they are part of one of the world's most exclusive and enduring clubs: Emmy winners. On these pages, THR salutes a rare selection of those in the industry who not only represent the best of the TV Academy's Emmy honorees but also have continued to shape and improve the medium since earning their first golden statuette. We celebrate the fabled television careers of sitcom darlings Mary Tyler Moore and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, rare comedy-drama crossovers Edie Falco and Bryan Cranston, three wily animators who reinvigorated (and made intensely more risque) the enduring genre of our youth, the man and muse behind TV's most groundbreaking and controversial variety show, three behemoth network chiefs who transformed the landscape forever and others whose work behind and in front of the camera changed a medium that in no way can be classified as small anymore.
THE DRAMA KINGS
Steven Bochco (34 noms, 10 wins), Joel Surnow (7 noms, 2 wins), Marshall Herskovitz (9 noms, 4 wins), David Milch (24 noms, 4 wins) and Matthew Weiner (15 noms, 8 wins)
It's hard to imagine an Emmy king like Matthew Weiner feeling unworthy of inclusion in the highest ranks of drama-writing giants. "Honestly, I thought this was some kind of prank having me here today," says the Mad Men writer/creator. "I'm happy to even be talking to these people, let alone taking a picture with them." The 46-year-old's reverence isn't misplaced: Before Weiner's recent domination of the drama category, the genre's most outstanding writers were culled from a relatively small pool of old friends, whose collective history -- and more than 50 Emmy nominations -- stretch back 30 years. David Milch, 66, and Steven Bochco, 67, collaborated on the latter's Hill Street Blues (1981-87) and again on NYPD Blue (1993-2005) while Joel Surnow's (24, 2001-10) first TV writing gig was in their writers room. "It was 1983 on a show called Bay City Blues, and I knew nothing about TV," says Surnow, 56. "Watching David and Steven orchestrate the writers room and throw ideas around was my intro to television. I feel everything I needed to know I learned there." Marshall Herskovitz, whose ode to pre-midlife angst, thirtysomething (1987-91), turned the domestic drama on its ear, finds a common thread within the varied storytelling styles of his peers. "When I'm around these guys, I'm most in awe of their ability to create a unique voice, a worldview," says the 59-year-old. Bochco agrees they all have a shared approach of "characters first, with the logic of behavior dictating story." And Milch, for his part, reveals a particular reciprocal admiration for the newest member among the group. "Matt has really turned things around," he says. "I watch Mad Men with great admiration -- and not a little envy."
Photographed by Robert Maxwell on Aug. 27 at Pier 59 Studios in Santa Monica.
THE DYNAMIC DUOS
Steve Levitan (6 noms, 3 wins) & Eric Stonestreet (2 noms, 1 win) and Dick Van Dyke (9 noms, 3 wins) & Carl Reiner (13 noms, 8 wins)
Gay couples? Eye-popping cleavage? Getting caught in the act? Yes, a lot has changed since Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke first struck Emmy gold with their squeaky-clean sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show. "The latitude of subject matter they get away with on Modern Family -- we couldn't have touched any of it in the 1960s," says Van Dyke, 85, who won three lead comedy actor statuettes for his role as variety show writer Rob Petrie. "I mean, Mary [Tyler Moore] and I couldn't even sleep in the same bed!" One thing that hasn't changed is the coveted bond between showrunner and actor. It's certainly one that isn't lost on Steve Levitan and Eric Stonestreet, winners of comedy statuettes last year for best series and supporting actor, respectively. "I admire how Steve can have 20 things going on in his brain at once and always put the story first," Stonestreet, 40, says of ABC's Modern Family co-creator. Levitan, 47, for whom watching reruns of CBS' Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66) as a kid helped "legitimize my comedy writer dreams," says Stonestreet always "finds a way to make everything funny. The physicality that Eric brings to his character Cam is just genius, though he shows up unannounced at my house all the time. We need boundaries." For Reiner, who won five Emmys as the head writer and creator of Dick Van Dyke, the road to showrunner sort of came by accident. The Caesar's Hour vet had hoped to play lead in the sitcom -- originally titled Head of the Family -- which he'd based on his own life as a writer and family man. "But executive producer Sheldon Leonard said I was miscast," laughs Reiner, 89, who ultimately went on to play Petrie's egomaniacal TV star boss, Alan Brady. "So we found this other guy to replace me. I guess it worked out OK. No, really … working with Dick has been one of the great pleasures of my career."
Photographed by Joe Pugliese on Aug. 13 at Reiner's residence in Beverly Hills.
THE LADY COPS
Tyne Daly (16 noms, 6 wins) and Sharon Gless (10 noms, 2 wins)
It's easy to remember Cagney & Lacey simply as "that 1980s female cop show," but the power of the Emmy-winning CBS drama series (1981-88) far outweighs such a trite mantle. Just ask its co-stars Tyne Daly, 65, and Sharon Gless, 68, whose relentless performances as New York City police detectives Mary Beth Lacey and Christine Cagney netted them four and two Emmy statuettes, respectively, allowing for a legendary six-year domination of the drama actress category. "When you've lost to Tyne Daly three years in a row and you finally hear your name, it's explosive," Gless says of her first win in 1986. "I remember I was wearing a yellow gown, and when he opened the envelope, Michael J. Fox said: 'Oh, this is great! Sharon Gless!' It was one of the most exciting moments in my life." Both women say the series' impact on their careers has been formidable, and it shows: Gless also has been nominated for a guest role on FX's Nip/Tuck and for supporting actress on her current series, USA's Burn Notice. Daly, a busy Broadway performer (she currently can be seen in Master Class), also won for supporting work on the prairie epic Christy and the family legal drama Judging Amy, both on CBS. "The legacy of winning for Cagney & Lacey meant that I would be asked to keep working," says Daly. "And Sharon's friendship has meant there's a person who understands more than anyone else what that time in our lives meant. Seeing her again here felt like we hadn't missed a beat."
Photographed by Dan Hallman on Sept. 2 at Eagles Nest Studio in New York.
Photographed by Wesley Mann on September 7th at Edi & the Wolf restaurant in New York
Michael J. Fox (13 noms, 5 wins)
When Michael J. Fox revealed in 1998 that he had been suffering from early-onset Parkinson's disease, most assumed his acting career was over. But he has stayed in the game. This year, he received his 13th Emmy nomination for a guest arc on the CBS drama The Good Wife. And in 2009, he bagged his fifth Emmy for playing the wheelchair-bound love interest of Tommy Gavin's wife, Janet, on Rescue Me. The prize earned Fox some facetiously chagrined ribbing from pal Denis Leary, the co-creator and star of the perpetually Emmy-snubbed series. "Yeah, he hates me," laughs Fox. "That show is the poster show for Emmy-neglected work." When Leary called Fox to ask him if he would do Rescue Me, explains Fox: "His idea for the character was this misanthropic, alcoholic, drug-addicted asshole. And I said, 'And what made you think of me?' And then Denis said, 'And the best part is, he's paralyzed.' And I said, 'OK, you're aware that I can't stop moving?' "The most noticeable side effect of treatment for Parkinson's is muscle tremors, a unavoidable reality that Fox has necessarily embraced in his work: For his role as wily litigator Louis Canning on Wife, his affliction was written into the storyline as the neurological disorder tardive dyskinesia, which Canning uses to disarm hostile witnesses and elicit sympathy from jurors. (He'll reprise the role for multiple episodes in the drama's third season as well.) "It's part of who I am," says Fox, who infused his condition again into playing a spoofier version of himself in Sept. 11's season finale of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. "I can't act it away, so I have to incorporate it. I don't get to work that much anymore, so when I do, any kind of acknowledgment that it's watched and appreciated means a lot to me. It's truly one of those things where the nomination is the big prize." It's hard to imagine it's been 25 years since Fox, 50, won his first Emmy in 1986 for his role as Alex P. Keaton, the Reagan-worshiping oldest child of recovering hippies in the NBC comedy Family Ties (1982-89). That first win, he says, came during a career hot streak: Ties was a huge hit and he was also basking in the blockbuster success of the first Back to the Future movie. "It was a year where you were waiting for someone to bang on the door and say, 'Just kidding, give it all back.' " He would win three consecutive Emmys for Ties and credits his wife, Tracy Pollan -- whom he met when she joined the show in 1985 in a recurring role as Alex's girlfriend, Ellen -- for raising his game and getting him noticed by the Television Academy. "She was so good, and she brought me to a different place," he says. He won his fourth comedy Emmy for Spin City in 2000 -- his last year as a regular on the ABC sitcom and two years after revealing that he had been suffering from Parkinson's. Since then, he's raised millions of dollars for research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Finding a cure for Parkinson's, he says, has become his life's work. "When you live with a condition like this, it just becomes a part of who are."
Lily Tomlin (16 noms, 4 wins) and George Schlatter (16 noms, 3 wins)
The industry really didn't understand [Rowan & Martin's] Laugh-In," says George Schlatter, the show's co-creator and producer. "So winning Emmys meant a certain kind of acceptance." During its six-season run starting in 1968, the goofy NBC variety show -- which broke an unprecedented number of female comedians, including Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley and Goldie Hawn -- featured politically charged and controversial moments such as the now iconic 1968 bit featuring then-Presidential candidate Richard Nixon deadpanning the show's popular tagline: "Sock it to me?" (Schlatter explains that the Nixon administration later pressured NBC to ban political humor on the show). The 72-year-old Tomlin (now starring in Showtime's Web Therapy) says Laugh-In established a reputation for pushing boundaries and "taking hypocrites and abusers to task." She says, "Even with my limited politics, I would still say things that I might not say 10 years later. But even in the old days, I would tell George, 'I can't say this joke, it's sexist!' And George would say, 'Babe, you don't have to,' and yell out, 'Jo Anne!' " While Tomlin didn't join the program until 1969, Schlatter says her arrival marked a new chapter for Laugh-In. "When she dressed as [eccentric telephone operator] Ernestine, you saw this woman come to life," says the retired 78-year-old, who makes a point of seeing Tomlin as often as he can. "It was more than a character, it became a part of the culture. Afterward, everyone was walking around going, 'One ringy dingy, two ringy dingies.' "
Photographed by Brigitte Sire on Aug. 16 in Sherman Oaks
THE ROLE MODELS
Edie Falco (9 noms, 4 wins) and Mary Tyler Moore (15 noms, 6 wins and 1 best actress win-- a now retired award)
Edie Falco was convinced her television career was over when the screen went black on The Sopranos in 2007. But not because she didn't have offers. "I looked at a lot of stuff," says Falco, 48. "And for a while I thought, 'I guess I'm done.' I just couldn't respond to anything." Then along came Jackie Peyton, the pill-popping, philandering Florence Nightingale of Showtime's Nurse Jackie. It's been a Benzedrine dream of a role for Falco as it netted her a first comedy Emmy last year after three drama wins playing Carmela Soprano and the distinction of being only the second actor (after Carroll O'Connor) to score both lead drama and comedy statues. Still, with Jackie's humor more of the gallows variety, Falco doesn't see herself as "funny. "I still don't know what the hell is going on there," says Falco of her win for Jackie. "When I think of comedy I think of Lucille Ball, or Tina Fey -- or Mary." In fact, Falco is more than happy to let Mary Tyler Moore dominate that arena: The veteran actress first stole America's hearts as happy homemaker Laurie Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66), for which she earned her first Emmy, and then again as plucky TV producer Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77), a role that netted her three more wins. Set to be honored in January by the Screen Actors Guild with its Life Achievement Award, Moore, 74, still exemplifies the working woman: Last January, she reunited with MTM co-star Betty White on TV Land's sitcom Hot in Cleveland. A diabetic, Moore also is a tireless spokeswoman for the disease and international chairwoman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. And while her charity work keeps her busy (she's an animal rights activist too), Moore still finds time to watch shows like The Office and Mike & Molly and declares 30 Rock star Fey "wonderful." Says Moore of her fellow funny ladies. "For a long time, people thought women couldn't get laughs, so every time I see a woman get one, I'm personally tickled."
Photographed by Wesley Mann on Sept. 8 at Eagles Nest Studio in New York.
THE TRIPLE THREAT
Bryan Cranston (6 noms, 3 wins)
Not since Bill Cosby stunned the business with three consecutive Emmy wins for I Spy during the late 1960s has an actor's domination of a category been such a shocking surprise. Bryan Cranston's out-of-nowhere lead drama actor win for AMC's Breaking Bad in 2008 broke every rule of expectation: The series wasn't nominated, the network was barely on anyone's radar, the actor was mostly known to TV audiences as the goofy father on Fox's Malcolm in the Middle and smarmy dentist Tim Whatley on Seinfeld, and the Bad role -- cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned meth cooker -- was so dark, it made Tony Soprano look like Mister Rogers. "I knew it was going to change my life, and it has," says Cranston, 55, who gives full credit to series creator Vince Gilligan's vision for Bad's slow-buzz cult following. "To start a show with a family man, who never got a parking ticket, become a hardened criminal was something no series had done before, he adds. "He changes from Mr. Chips to Scarface." Cranston's recent Emmy kudos also have given his film résumé a serious jolt: He has 14 movie roles slated through 2012, including playing military official Lyle Haggerty in Contagion. "I'd always wanted to work with Steven Soderbergh," says Cranston. "It turns out he was a fan of Breaking Bad."
Photographed by Anya Chibis on Sept. 10 at the InterContinental hotel in Toronto.
THE COMEDY QUEEN
What those stats really say is that I'm more of an Emmy loser than an Emmy winner," jokes Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Hardly, as she finds herself in rather elite company: With legend Betty White, Louis-Dreyfus is Emmy's most-nominated comedy series actress, having scored a dozen mentions for her supporting turn as Elaine Benes on NBC's Seinfeld and as the bumbling titular divorced mother on CBS' The New Adventures of Old Christine, which earned her a supporting and lead comedy actress Emmy, respectively. Juggling work and family is familiar territory for the mother of two (her husband of 24 years is comedy writer Brad Hall, with whom she worked on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s). "It's an easier lifestyle for me to keep one foot in my family life and the other in my job," says Louis-Dreyfus, 50, who can be seen next playing U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer in the HBO single-camera comedy Veep. "I like the pace of it. Getting an episode done in five days feels bouncy and works well with my comedic sensibilities." Ever modest about her Emmy track record, Louis-Dreyfus credits the "unsung heroes" of her comedies' casts and crews and admits to being amazed by her staying power, wondering aloud, "Who would have thunk it?"
Photographed by Mary Rozzi on Sept. 10 at Smashbox Studios in Culver City.
THE JERSEY BOYS
Michael Imperioli (5 noms, 1 win) and David Chase (23 noms, 6 wins)
In some ways, I would have been just as happy if we had never won," says David Chase, whose game-changing HBO epic The Sopranos (1998-2007) netted him four Emmys, including two for outstanding drama, during its six-season run. "We would have been in good company: Jackie Gleason never won. Twin Peaks never won." Michael Imperioli, 45, who was nominated five times for his work as mob boss Tony Soprano's firebrand capo Christopher Moltisanti -- and won the supporting actor Emmy in 2004 -- says he worked hard to keep his focus on the craft. "Awards and acclaim are very seductive," says Imperioli. "If you're going to give credence to that, then you have to give credence to the opposite, which is criticism or people ignoring your work. You have to keep perspective." These days, Imperioli, who enjoyed a critically acclaimed run last season on the ABC drama Detroit 1-8-7 and directed the indie feature The Hungry Ghosts, is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism and wears a lapel pin with a Buddhist cleansing mantra. Chase also exudes a philosophical air about showbiz but offers a more blunt appraisal of Hollywood's penchant for self-congratulation. "It's like being a rat in a box," he says. "It's like drugs, a real rush of endorphins. If it goes on too long, it can actually become habit-forming." With such intense outlooks, it's no wonder that both New Yorkers have moved on from the searing legacy of Sopranos. Chase, 66, has vowed never to do another TV series -- "It was just so overwhelming," he says -- though he has written and directed his first feature, Paramount Vantage's New Jersey-set coming-of-age tale Twylight Zones starring his erstwhile Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini. Says Imperioli: "I don't think anything I'll do will match the success of [Sopranos]. The key is to not think, 'I did this show, I made this much money, I had this type of role, and the next thing has to be better.' If you do think that way, you're toast."
Photographed by Peter Yang on Sept. 9 at Drive In 24 Studio in New York City.
THE CABLE GROUNBREAKERS
Jeff Wachtel (45 noms, 8 wins), Tony Shalhoub (8 noms, 3 wins), John Landgraf (46 noms, 5 wins) and Michael Chiklis (2 noms, 1 win)
"You got four hours?" That's how long Michael Chiklis says he'd need to describe the impact of his Emmy win for FX's The Shield in 2002 against such formidable broadcast competition as The West Wing's Martin Sheen and 24's Kiefer Sutherland. "I remember [former FX president] Peter Liguori calling me the night before and saying: 'I'm pulling for you, but you probably can't win this. We only have nine voting members of the academy at FX. You need a mass,' " says Chiklis, 48. "That was the greatest thing: We were giant-killers." Liguori's successor, John Landgraf, 49, says FX's brisk growth from having one original series to a slate of 10 "is built on The Shield and Michael's performance. Both he and Tony Shalhoub changed TV with their Emmys. They showed that basic cable was also worthy of being at the highest level of quality." One year after Chiklis broke the basic cable drama barrier, Shalhoub, 57, shattered the funny mold by playing an OCD-afflicted detective on USA's one-hour comedy Monk -- a role that netted the Wings alum eight nominations and three wins. "The theory was get the best talent we possibly could, but on a budget," says Jeff Wachtel, 56, USA's head of original programming. "I knew we had an opportunity with Tony. I begged for him! Networks look for a tentpole success; Monk was ours." Shalhoub says "the machine" of broadcast TV is what drove his interest to USA, and his Emmy wins are proof that the "risks paid off, and people saw it as equal to network-quality programming." How did it feel triumphing over such names as Ray Romano, Larry David and Matt LeBlanc? "I felt like a party crasher. It was surreal."
Photographed by Smallz + Raskind on Sept. 6 at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.
THE NETWORK GODS
Jamie Kellner, Don Ohlmeyer and Leslie Moonves
We're still alive!" bellows former Fox chief Jamie Kellner as his onetime rival Don Ohlmeyer enters Stage 9 on the CBS Radford lot on a blistering September day. Minutes later, Leslie Moonves arrives, greeting Ohlmeyer, a dear friend and early mentor, then Kellner, whom Moonves argues never got the credit he deserves for launching the Fox network. "Jamie was a rebel," says the CBS chief executive, prompting former NBC West Coast president Ohlmeyer to add, "Had it not been for Fox pushing the envelope on what was considered acceptable, the other networks would have stayed safely where they were." To be sure, all three know something about defying expectations: Under their watch, their networks and studios collectively have nabbed more than 350 Emmys. Ohlmeyer, 66, remembers the scathing Time magazine article published on his first day at the job, Feb. 3, 1993. "Cosby was gone, Cheers was leaving, Letterman had gone to CBS -- they had no chance of ever coming back," the retired executive says of the article's thesis. "I remember sitting in my office thinking, 'What the f-- have I done?' " Twenty-two months later, NBC had soared to No. 1 on the strength of such hits as Friends and ER. When Moonves, 61, left Warner Bros., the studio behind both of those series, to take the reins at CBS, the industry was similarly critical. "It was a big change in the business when Les took over CBS," says Ohlmeyer, who ticks off Moonves' accomplishments at the now-No. 1 network. Then there's Kellner, 64, who launched the WB after his time at Fox. "He started two networks, which was something that everybody said couldn't be done. So he was right one-and-a-half times," quips Moonves. Kellner, retired and focused on his Santa Barbara winery, erupts with laughter: "It's the best average in the whole industry."
Photographed by Art Streiber on Sept. 6 at CBS Studio Center in Studio City.