"It is interesting what you choose to fight for. I've fought for things that don't end up edited into the show. Over time you learn, 'Well, this isn't really worth it.' Other times you say, 'Why did I let that one go?' Every show is different," said Parenthood's Peter Krause.
“Are we better than the drama actresses yet?”
"Are we better than the drama actresses yet? [In THR's June 8 issue]" asked Grammer. "None of the girls shit their pants," responded Hamm. "We win."
"I was doing summer stock in Woodstock, New York, and unbeknownst to me, we shouldn't have been drinking the well water. It's in a barn, I'm wearing a tuxedo and in incredible gastronomic pain. Things progress, I'm in a panic, and I soil myself. All I could think was, how far is it to the lodge where I can get to the bathroom? It was the most terrifying experience I've ever had as an actor," confessed Peter Krause.
"I was once a security guard for a convention of high-tech stereo equipment at The Roosevelt Hotel. That was pretty awful. I was also a ditch digger. This guy would stand there and look at us and say, 'All I want to see is asses and elbows,'" recalled Kelsey Grammer.
"I briefly worked as a set dresser," said Mad Men's Jon Hamm. "We would shoot a 90-minute cable feature in seven days. It was basically soft-core porn, and strangely enough, the guy would say, 'All I want to see is asses and elbows.' It was depressing. A week into it, I was like, 'This is the most depressing thing I've ever done. I've got to get out of this.' I did, then did the play that turned into Kissing Jessica Stein. I met my girlfriend, and the rest is history."
Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm
"The best writers write themselves into what seems to be an inextricable place," said Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston. "Then they go, 'Now, how do we get out of this?' In my situation, I don't ask any questions. I don't even know what's happening in the next episode because my character is going through such twists and turns I didn't find it helpful. There were no anchor points for this character. He was flying by the seat of his shatted pants. (Laughter.) I think we hook our wagons to good writers, they drag us and we hold on."
“I’m going to need a minute”
"Your memory goes anytime," said Kelsey Grammer. "I did something in New York a while ago. I took a week off and the first night back I forgot everything. (Laughter.) Just a blank. I actually apologized to the audience. 'I'm going to need a minute,' and I walked offstage."
“Enough to drive me out of the business”
"That kind of experience, Kelsey, would be enough to drive me out of the business," responded Bryan Cranston. "I love to act. But if it ever got to the point where you couldn't really fulfill your job, I think that's when I would hang it up."
"I really responded to Jack Lemmon and a British actor working at the moment called Mark Rylance," said Homeland's Damian Lewis. "He was a generation ahead of me, and I used to see him as a student at school and was just cowed by his brilliance. Like Kelsey, I had theater training, classical training. I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Those were my sort of touchstones. TV and film I've become a student of subsequently, and happily."
"I saw myself becoming a waiter. (Laughter.) I loved Shakespeare as a boy, so I hoped that I'd have a career in theater. Then television came along, and that was helpful," said Kelsey Grammer.
Comedy and Drama
"I like the idea of going to comedy and doing drama and changing it up," said Bryan Cranston. "Kelsey had that. The ability to go back and forth is very lucky."
"When I started working, films like Ordinary People and Terms of Endearment were being made. The $8 million movie, the $20 million movie was getting made. You had five studios making 50 films a year," said Touch's Kiefer Sutherland. "Now you have General Electric and Coca-Cola that have these subdivisions called Warner Bros., Columbia … and Sony has its own. So, you have three studios making 15 films a year. The film market went away. You can either do something where you're telling a story, or you can go do a big-budget movie with a toy — that's basically what the options are. Cable took off after that. All of a sudden people were able to do the work they wanted to do. Television was the better forum."
"I have that meeting with Matt [Weiner] every year before we start shooting," Jon Hamm said of the Mad Men creator. "Before he even opens the writers room, we sit, we have a 2½-hour lunch and talk about what possibilities are for the next 13 episodes. It's not specifics at all. It's shades and tones and themes. It's incredibly helpful."
"I'm doing 13 episodes now, and it's so much more manageable," said Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad. "Gives the showrunner and their staff some room. They're not so caved in on episode 20 and pulling their hair out."
"I've gotten scripts from Sorkin literally right before we filmed something and there's a rush to that experience, and then I've gotten things from Alan Ball on Six Feet Under like 10 or 14 days in advance. They both work," said Peter Krause.
Shakespeare to Carol Burnett
"My first gig was a sketch comedy series with Carol Burnett. That was a wakeup call when you're talking about changing the writing every day. Coming out of grad school for acting and Shakespeare, I thought, 'Ugh, TV, whatever.' But the first night I got new pages, I was like, 'What?'" recalled Peter Krause.
About THR’s Roundtable Series
Now in its sixth year, The Hollywood Reporter's Emmy Season Roundtable Series has emerged as the television industry's premier showcase for no-holds-barred discussions with the town's top talent. An offshoot of THR's popular Oscar series, the Emmy roundtables also have become predictors of academy winners: In fact, 23 of last year's roundtable participants earned nominations for acting in, writing, producing and hosting television's top series. Upcoming Roundtables: Check out THR during Emmy season for exclusive panels with comedy actors, comedy actresses, reality talent and executives.