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“Mad Men” began life, creator-executive producer Matthew Weiner reminded Sunday backstage at the Emmys, as a spec script he penned eight years ago and spent several of those gathering dust on a shelf. But the show achieved the ultimate by becoming basic cable’s first original drama to earn a victory for top drama series. As he stood alongside his beaming cast and clutching his pair of statuettes — having won earlier for drama series directing — Weiner seemed a bit hypnotized by the moment. “It’s just mind-blowing that this all has happened,” said Weiner, who also earned a Golden Globe for the AMC show in January. “The message is, if you write something and it’s good, don’t give up on it. By the same token, things happen as they should. If I’d made this show eight years ago, I don’t know if it would have resonated like it has.”
Glenn Close, winner for lead actress in a drama for “Damages,” reflected on her character on the FX series. “I am so energized, challenged, thrilled by the work that we all do on ‘Damages.’ It really is the ride of my career,” she said. Pondering the acting choices she has made during a 34-year career, Close said: “I can honestly say I’ve never chosen anything thinking it would bring me an award. I’ve chosen things because I think they’re challenging. One of the wonderful, wonderful things about being an actor is that you should only get better. You have to keep yourself open and interpret characters that might scare you. I have learned a huge amount, and I have learned to find joy in the process.”
Tina Fey took home three trophies, for lead actress in a comedy, writing “30 Rock” and another for producing the show deemed best comedy. How do the Emmys compare? “They look identical,” Fey deadpanned before adding, “The show Emmy belongs to everyone, so I don’t like it as much.” Fey said she initially resisted the idea that she resembles Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. “Then my kid saw her on TV and said, ‘There’s Mommy.’ ” Portraying Palin on “Saturday Night Live” is not something Fey wants to do for long. “I want to be done playing this lady Nov. 5,” she said. “So if anyone can help me be done playing this lady Nov. 5, I hope they do.”
Stephen Colbert, who won for writing for a variety, music or comedy program, when asked whom he would cast to play Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin, suggested Don Rickles for the presidential candidate. “Maybe me for Sarah Palin,” he added, “because I absolutely have no business being vice president.” Does that mean Colbert endorses Democrat Barack Obama? Not necessarily, he said. “Maybe I don’t want a vice president who’s prepared. Don’t read into my words.”
Kirk Ellis, who won the Emmy for penning the script for HBO’s “John Adams” from the best-selling book by David McCullough, clearly was incensed by having been cut off almost immediately after beginning his acceptance speech — just after having made a statement about the importance of words. “As soon as I opened my mouth, they were signaling to wrap it up,” he said. “I find it interesting that we can do 30 minutes devoted to reality show hosts, when the people who actually create the work don’t get enough time to talk. … I’m just a writer. But of course, words always matter. At least, they should.”
For his part, Don Rickles showed that he still has his razor-sharp wit when it came to skewering the gathered media backstage following his win for individual performance in a variety or music program. “Thanks very much for that giant reception,” he intoned after receiving scattered applause. “That means a lot.” He was asked what the best advice he ever received from anyone was. “It was from Frank Sinatra: He said, ‘Stop singing!’ ”
Most Emmy prognosticators thought Paul Giamatti would win for lead actor in a miniseries or movie, but the star of “John Adams” was not nearly as confident. “I was not expecting to win a thing. It was moving,” he said. Giamatti also expressed surprise that his miniseries broke the record for most Emmys won in a single year, beating HBO’s “Angels in America” and ABC’s “Eleanor and Franklin” by two. “I’m astounded and I’m glad to hear it,” he said of “John Adams’ ” 13 Emmys. ” ‘Angels in America’ was amazing. I’m glad people took to this show.”
“When I was nominated for the fourth time, it was like getting invited to the dance by the really pretty girl,” said a shellshocked Bryan Cranston, who was nominated three times for “Malcolm in the Middle,” following his win for lead actor in a comedy for AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” “Just being invited is wonderful. But then to win is like dancing with her.” Cranston explained his bald head and gaunt appearance as being part of the “Breaking Bad” story line. “I lost 17 pounds and shaved my head because my character is now well into chemotherapy (for lung cancer). I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be able to play such a terrific part in such a wonderful show. I just hope this (Emmy win) helps bring some attention to us.”
“This third one was more shocking than the first one,” said Jeremy Piven, who won his third consecutive Emmy for supporting comedy actor on HBO’s “Entourage.” Asked whether he will attempt to break the record of five Emmys in the category, held by Don Knotts for “The Andy Griffith Show,” Piven replied, tongue in cheek: “To be honest with you, that’s all I’m focused upon. … How am I going to take Don Knotts down?” Asked about his favorite TV shows from the past, Piven cited “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy.” “(Jackie Gleason) was a genius, and Lucille Ball was a genius, and I don’t know if we’ve come close since,” he said.
Jean Smart, who won her third Emmy, this time as a supporting actress for her role on the rookie ABC comedy “Samantha Who?” was grateful but melancholy backstage when the subject turned to her show’s star, Christina Applegate, who recently underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer. “I’ve never seen an actress as beloved by cast and crew as Christina is,” Smart said. “That was even before she was hit with hard times. She’s fun; she’s sweet; she’s great in every way. I sort of get to play mommy to her — I feel very protective of Christina. I remember when she told me (she had cancer), I started to tear up, but it wasn’t because I thought something was going to happen to her. It was because I feared what she was going to have to go through. But she’s very tough and a very spiritual person, and she’s getting through this.”
Barry Sonnenfeld, who won the comedy series directing Emmy for the “Pushing Daisies” pilot, could afford to joke backstage that he’d have a tough time getting his trophy through airport security when he tries to catch his plane this morning. His rumored issues with Warner Bros. Television president Peter Roth during the show’s first season were, he said, much ado about nothing. At the least, the controversy that nearly ended his “Daisies” association is a thing of the past. “The whole Peter Roth thing was a coup attempt by an executive producer to get me off of the show” and really had nothing to do with Roth, Sonnenfeld insisted. “I had no problem with Peter. This isn’t an attempt by me to do a fake ‘I love Peter’ thing, either. Peter’s great,” he said. Work on Season 2 “has been great,” Sonnenfeld added. “The scripts are better and funnier than last year.” He also was proud that he didn’t do his usual shtick during his acceptance speech “and get up onstage and talk about my penis.” Those backstage were relieved as well.
Jon Stewart, whose nightly Comedy Central satire “The Daily Show” earned its record sixth consecutive Emmy for comedy-variety series, was in an ebullient mood backstage but not terribly forthcoming about much of anything. His most interesting response was about flying out from New York to Los Angeles in the first place. “It’s exciting for everyone to win,” he said. “For me, it’s always wild to come out and win. I mean, it’s a long flight.”
Jay Roach, who won as director of “Recount,” about the ballot battle following the 2000 presidential election, fears there might be similar problems in November. “It’s a little bit terrifying because in many states there is still not an adequate paper trail to go back to,” he said, though he praised changes that have eliminated punch cards and chads from the voting process.
Jimmy Kimmel handled the chore of presenting the best reality host Emmy. With his customary wryness, the ABC late-night host offered all five nominees a bit of backhanded praise for their shared Emmycast performance. “Haven’t they been sufficient, everybody?” he said. He was being too kind.
Compiled by Barry Garron and Ray Richmond
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