The Hollywood Reporter's annual supporting actor group shoot may have been waylaid by COVID-19, but there was no stopping the powerful performances by these stars, who reveal their most challenging scenes and favorite co-star moments.
For the past several years, The Hollywood Reporter has gathered together 30 of TV's most talented supporting actors for a star-studded shoot. But with COVID-19 turning the world and the industry inside out, this year's supporting actor feature looks a bit different. So instead of a group shoot, these 30 actors were asked to take a self-portrait, capturing themselves in their new realities. Then, they spoke to THR about their memorable performances from the past year, including how they related to their characters (and didn't), how their character would do in quarantine, and their proudest moments on set.
I can't believe I pulled off "A flash mob where my 'computer coder' character, Max — who does not sing in real life — sang a Shawn Mendes song. Not in the context of Zoey's reality, but it had to be convincing enough to her that she would think this is 'typical Max singing to me.' That was a difficult needle to thread for our creator, Austin Winsberg, our director, Richie Keen, and of course our choreographer, Mandy Moore."
Most supportive co-star "John Clarence Stewart and Kapil Talwalkar have been brothers to me in different ways throughout this experience. I've cried with them. Offscreen. Actually, I've cried with my whole cast. On multiple occasions."
At craft services "I'd be grazing and grazing and grazing and grazing. Ask my family. I love a buffet."
How I most relate to my character "I relate to Cara Dune in a way that she is loyal and doesn’t need a lot of words to convey emotion. She’s a loner who attracts these special situations and characters. She has hurt and anger but hasn’t given up hope. She has this fight inside her that truly can’t wait to come out."
And how I don't "I don’t normally go flying around from planet to planet in a galaxy far, far away. But I’d like to."
Most supportive co-star "I developed this incredible friendship with Pedro Pascal from the moment I met him. There is something emotionally intuitive and precious in him that is very special."
Quarantining with my character "Cara Dune would be outdoors hunting, hiking, exploring, making fires, sleeping under the stars. She would have no problem isolating in the wilderness — which is funny because I've never even been camping."
At craft services "I'd be making other people eat donuts and other delicious things I want to eat but don’t. It’s a weird thing but satisfying to see Dave Filoni eat a rainbow sprinkled donut so that I didn’t have to. Thanks Dave!"
How I relate to my character "Infinity is a chameleon; she’s not how she appears. She’s able to camouflage herself. And she is not pretending or performing; she has her own trusted reality. In a lot of ways that’s what we have to do as actors."
And how I don't "Well, her grandma took over her psychology, and her psychology has been kidnapped at 7. I hope my maturation point is past 7."
I can't believe I pulled off "Singing a Sondheim song in a bald cap with Ben Platt."
Dream guest star "Amy Adams? Emily Blunt? I love them so much."
How I relate to my character "When Kelvin is on he is on, but he also has an earnestness to him. When he has to stand in front of 15,000 people and deliver a sermon or do a silly dance with the youth group, he does so with mad pep in his step, but when he is offstage he's a regular guy who is kind of reserved. I can relate to that."
And how I don't "I think Kelvin is a deeply insecure person. I mean, I have insecurities but I had great parents who told me i could do anything. I could be president if I wanted to, and after the 45th pres, maybe i can?"
Quarantining with my character "That would be a nightmare. Too much acoustic guitar and practicing dance moves for the big church celebration when the quarantine is finally lifted."
Dream guest star "Bill Murray. We shoot the show in Charleston, South Carolina, and Bill Murray is a resident. Bill, wanna swing by for a day?"
How I relate to my character "I really do dig his sneaker collection and eyeglass choices. For an agent of such chaos, he really does have on-point shoes and glasses. Sadly, his hair and the rest of his attire didn’t get the memo."
And how I don't "His desire to throw himself on any landmine despite not knowing the first thing about disarming landmines. If I were a person in charge during a crisis, I would never claim to be an expert and would probably allow the actual experts to guide key decisions, so as to not, oh, I don’t know … die. And I am of course referring to my character with bad hair on a make-believe show and not a real-life figure in a position of power with bad hair."
Most supportive co-star "With production spanning close to five months in England, I found myself separated from my family for a large chunk of that time. My cast filled that void by keeping me busy on off days with game nights at my hotel (Code Names, Mafia) or doing excursions to local places like Hampstead Heath or simply gathering to see the latest blockbusters together such a The Lion King and Avengers which we possibly saw more than 3 times but less than 10."
Dream guest star "Julia Louis-Dreyfus."
At craft services "I'd be wiping down every fucking item with Clorox wipes."
How I relate to my character "I relate to his sense of perseverance and eternal optimism. I always try to see the silver linings in things and try not to let negative experiences or emotions hold me back from what I want to achieve."
And how I don't "Being 10 years younger than me I probably least relate to some of his decisions he makes in life. Especially romantically. He’s a teenager though, and so he will learn and grow and that’s beautiful."
I can't believe I pulled off "The Ferris wheel scene. I hate heights, and myself and Sami Outalbali were at the very top for about three or four hours. I just didn't look down."
Dream guest star "Lupita Nyong'o. Maybe she could be one of Eric's cool aunties or something."
Most supportive co-star "I’m on the board of a Shakespeare company in L.A. [The Rude Mechanicals], and we just did a reading because it was Shakespeare’s birthday last week, over Zoom. So last minute I had to help with coming up with the cast. And it was an extraordinary cast. It had Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson and Christina Applegate and Martin Short. But we lost a couple actors and last minute they begged me, they were like, "What about asking Tony Shalhoub?" So I wrote to him and I was like, "Honey, could you maybe save the day and do a Shakespeare role?" And he was like, "How can I say no to that and to you?" So Tony actually saved the day and played [my father] in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So how funny is it that he went from being my husband to my father?"
Quarantining with my character "If she were living now, during COVID-19, Rose would find ways to create the largest Skypes or Zooms, probably with her fortune-tellers or her ladies from the beauty parlor."
At craft services "I'd always be with the gummies. I love gummy fish and gummy bears and licorice — anything that is tangy."
How I relate to my character "He’s trapped. And he doesn’t quite understand how he got there, or how to get out, or even what to do about it, but he has a sense that something has gone horribly wrong in his life. I found that really relatable."
And how I don't "He doesn’t actually then do anything about it — until he is forced to. I think Bill is so afraid of change he is willing to accept being unhappy so that he doesn’t have to feel unstable or challenged."
Most supportive co-star "I was going through a pretty significant change during the show: I found out my wife [actress Jodie Turner-Smith] was pregnant. So having a collection of supermoms around me [such as co-stars/EPs Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington] helped with everything from finding doctors to baby clothes to 'what to expect' advice."
I can't believe I pulled off "That haircut."
Most supportive co-star "I was having a rough time figuring out how to play confident Chidi for a while, and Kristen Bell really talked me off a ledge. She has a quick mind, and she navigates scenes so expertly."
Quarantining with my character "He probably wouldn’t shut the hell up. I’m totally cool with silence."
Dream guest star "I would have loved for Chris Chalk to play my ripped, confident cousin."
How I relate to my character "During these unsettling times of quarantine, I have a newfound respect for how much cleaning and housework Emily Dickinson Sr. did. I have been socially isolated with my 9-year-old son and I have never done so much laundry, endless clean-up, and loading and unloading of the dishwasher. Mrs. Dickinson took care of three children, a husband, land and houses (all in a tightly bound corset) and did it with pleasure."
And how I don't "Mrs. D’s bibles were books called The Frugal Housewife and Never Done. The kitchen is her thing. She feels greatly undermined when Emily Jr. convinces her father to hire a maid for the house. Someone coming into the home to do this “dirty work” completely takes away Mrs. D’s main identity and sense of accomplishment. I have full compassion for Mrs. D’s self-identification with household duties but I, on the other hand, would have no problem whatsoever with hiring a maid."
I can't believe I pulled off "Wearing a corset for 13 hours a day. It was so helpful in making me feel the constraints women were under at that time. Bound so tightly, so constrained in every way."
Dream guest star "Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is such a strong, independent woman making a difference right now."
I can't believe I pulled off "Flouncing around Philadelphia’s historic cobble stone streets in 6-inch heels. Savage."
Quarantining with my character "She’d probably have a highly curated list of quarantine content, but it might be foreign and obscure and hard to understand."
Most supportive co-star "Sally [Field] really took me under her wing. The biggest thing I took from her was trusting my gut. She told me that when you're doubting yourself, you're wasting time."
At craft services "I'd be talking to a PA about the time I found a lizard in the woods and wanted to keep it as a pet but my mom wouldn't let me so I let it loose in the garage and never saw it again."
How I relate to my character "I guess when I am in a kind of stress I tend to want to just keep moving and be busy and figure out what I can do to help the situation — that tends to be what I do just because I think otherwise I’ll feel lost."
Quarantining with my character "I feel like she's incredibly smart and I could learn a lot. I could kind of understand the world really differently, which would be good."
Most supportive co-star "There was just this calmness to Merritt Wever. If in any way I was uncomfortable, I felt she would be like a mama bear and just fight for me."
How I relate to my character "He's really heroic, brave, intelligent and sexy."
And how I don't "Very occasionally he behaves like a human grease stain."
I can't believe I pulled off "Sliding down an enormous inflatable chute into the Adriatic from the helicopter deck of a super-yacht in Croatia."
Most supportive co-star "Nick Braun very kindly and supportively pulled a stray nasal hair from my nose moments before a take."
Dream guest star "My wife [actress Keeley Hawes]."
Most supportive co-star "Bel Powley and I would often carpool to work as we lived in the same neighborhood, definitely made the commute more fun and British! We once accidentally drove onto the base camp of Birds of Prey at 5:30 a.m. It was only when we got out of the car and were looking for our trailers that we realized we'd crashed the wrong set! That mishap kept us entertained all day. We are still plotting our spin-off, The Adventures of B&G."
Quarantining with my character "I suppose the perk would be that she wouldn’t be home, she’d be out in the field covering it and finding stories. I guess the drawbacks would be loneliness and that she could bring the virus home."
Dream guest star "Oprah."
How I relate to my character "I think there is a stoicism to Beth and that I felt I could tap into. What was really interesting to me about playing her was more the differences between us and bridging the gap between the contempt I felt for the world she was in, overcoming my prejudices and understanding what it would be like to be that woman in that world."
And how I don't "Beth is incredibly religious and had a level of devotion to a patriarchy that I couldn’t personally subscribe to. We are also far apart politically, but that only made her a more interesting character to explore."
Quarantining with my character "The perk of being quarantined with Beth [Ailes, wife of Roger] is that she had a fully stocked fallout shelter."
Dream guest star "Frances McDormand."
Most supportive co-star "Russell [Crowe] would bring me homemade pies, which I would munch on during the four-hour prosthetic makeup process."
Quarantining with my character "I think it would become hostile and tiresome."
I can't believe I pulled off "I was handed such an incredibly interesting arc. Some days I felt certain I was up to the task and others I fell short."
How I relate to my character "Angel's survival story is one that closely resembles my own. She is a strong, independent and affectionate survivor who desires love, family, excitement and to be celebrated, as opposed to shamed, for who she is."
And how I don't "Angel's fashion choices couldn't be farther from my own today. Her style reminds me of my younger self. When I was younger my clothes were random pieces of items from vintage shops and stuff my friends gave me. I'm grateful for the ways this character has challenged me to love parts of myself and my past I didn’t know I felt ashamed of."
I can't believe I pulled off "Filming Candy's funeral. It was the most confusing and darkest day I ever had on set. Two weeks before shooting, a video of a Black trans woman, Muhlaysia Booker, being dragged in the street and beaten surfaced online. The day we filmed Candy's funeral, I learned Muhlaysia was murdered. I was angry and distraught all day."
Most supportive co-star "When Angel Curiel [who plays Lil Papi] and I had our first intimate scene together I was more nervous than I expected to be. All my insecurities about my body, coupled with Angel and I having to physically interact in a vulnerable way, was overwhelming at first. Even though we both knew this was our job, to my surprise Angel asked me for consent before touching any part of my body at any time and made sure I was comfortable. His commitment to consent contributed to our chemistry and the world was able to see a Black trans woman being loved and respected."
Dream guest star "Viola Davis. She could play Billy Porter's estranged sister or, even better, my mom!"
How I relate to my character "Believe it or not, I too have had salacious relationships with Prince Harry, Leo, Zac Efron, Brian Littrell, Josh Hartnett, Josh Groban and Diplo."
Most supportive co-star "On more than one occasion, Emily Hampshire let me borrow her deodorant because, let's be real, sometimes natural deodorant isn't as powerful as you are, which results in being laughed at by your castmates."
Dream guest star "Kristen Wiig."
I can't believe I pulled off "Playing both Alexis and David. Shockingly so far, nobody's caught on."
How I relate to my character I suppose I relate in terms of being a young man struggling or confronting what it means to be a man. In season three there are many moments of Charles having to confront his responsibilities at such a young age. Beyond that I’d say we’re fairly different, but that’s the joy of playing him."
And how I don't "I’m the least like Charles in terms of my one-bedroom flat. It’s pretty beautiful and has all my favorite things in it, but it’d be a stretch to liken it to Highgrove or any of his other properties!"
Quarantining with my character "Charles is handy in the garden, and I need all the help I can get. The downside would be that he has boiled eggs with every meal — that's a bit much for my liking."
I can't believe I pulled off "The Welsh language."
How I relate to my character "I’m extremely loyal and extremely romantic. I’m not a big fan of monotony. I like adventure and big love, expressing that love whether it’s in a romantic relationship or with your friends. I think that’s there’s something romantic about all of it."
And how I don't "I don’t kill people. And I am more of a cook than a baker, I gotta say."
Most supportive co-star "I learned a lot from Penn [Badgley], picking his brain because this was the most responsibility I'd ever had on a production. It was my second major job."
At craft services "I was often preparing myself a bagel with cream cheese and lox for breakfast and lunch and dinner potentially."
I can't believe I pulled off "Eating 12 doughnuts to shoot a take of me eating one doughnut."
How I relate to my character "I relate to Katie’s humourlessness. She is unable to loosen up and allow anyone to call the machine she works with ‘baby.’ She is not ‘in’ on any jokes. As much as I like having fun, I have some of the same inability to find funny what a lot of the world finds funny. There are cosmic jokes to be enjoyed, but at the same time the cosmos is serious business."
And how I don't "I don’t relate to Katie’s ability to keep it cool. Some of that cool is due to things she’s seen — over and over — but I think it’s also innate. I’m quite excitable, so if I see something amazing, I’ll jump up and down about it. Noisily."
Quarantining with my character "[Would involve] a lot of discussions about determinism, quantum mechanics, the nature of reality, multiverse theory vs. De Broglie-Bohm."
Most supportive co-star "While shooting in Manchester, our nanny got the flu and my husband was out of town. Sonoya Mizuno stepped in to babysit my daughter on one of her very few days off."
Most supportive co-star "Zoë [Kravitz] in particular supported me because, as a Black woman, she had not only her back but mine while maintaining the authentic experience. I'd never felt that level of support prior."
I can't believe I pulled off "All of those lines and Cherise's fast-pace, high-octane energy."
Quarantining with my character "You can't escape her, and whatever she wants to do you are doing."
At craft services "I'd be asking if they had any plant-based snacks, while sipping on my LaCroix."
How I relate to my character "I most relate to Jules in the way she loves. I think she has a massive heart, maybe too big for her own good. Her heart is amoebic, in that she can be in love with multiple people at once, and have an individual love for each person. She falls in love frequently and rapidly, which others might find unnerving, but I don’t think she can help it. I find myself in the same position more often than not."
And how I don't "Jules is more forward than I am. And maybe a little more fiery. I had the hardest time accessing her anger within myself when we were filming, which might allude to an emotional gap between the two of us."
Most supportive co-star "My mind goes straight to how generous Zendaya was in our scenes as Rue and Jules. She would often hold eye contact with me when I was losing my grounding in a scene, which I found to be a really helpful tool when trying to stay in the moment with my scene partner. Not in the sense of a staring contest, but more like she really looked into my eyes and saw behind whatever was happening on the surface. This often pulled me out of my head and into the moment in an instant. It was a really gracious way she helped me in many scenes."
I can't believe I pulled off "Surviving a 30-minute take of the club sequence in episode seven: doing Molly, entering the club, dancing my ass off, having a panic attack, sensually attacking a hallucination of Nate, nearly having sex on the dance floor with a new friend, and returning to a lucid state for one last dance with friends — there were no cuts."
Dream guest star "Jodie Foster. She would kill it as Jules' estranged mother."
How I relate to my character "I think deep down F. Tony is a hard worker who hopes to gain the respect of his coworkers."
And how I don't "He can sometimes be a sleazebag whose priorities get jumbled."
Dream guest star "Bill Murray."
Most supportive co-star "Everyone is so good at improv that if you ever lean into a scene a certain way, they will gladly follow. I have a handful of scenes with Don Lake, and no matter where I went, Don was right there with such hilarious and intelligent responses, always in character."
I can't believe I pulled off "Tying a full Windsor knot."
How I relate to my character "Ed and I are both big fans of a good cardigan. Also, not excellent at standing up for ourselves."
And how I don't "Ed has a standing desk. I don’t think I’d ever be able to do that. I love sitting."
Most supportive co-star "Reese [Witherspoon] and [showrunner] David [E. Kelley] were incredibly generous, inviting me into the process of figuring out this complicated relationship. It was important that it survive — but not without both of them making a painful compromise or two."
I can't believe I pulled off "That '70s wig. Actually, jury’s still out."
At craft services "I'd be calculating whether or not I had the time to throw together a quality plate of Ants on a Log. Best snack, weirdly tough to make."
How I relate to my character "I guess one of the first things that grabbed me about her — because when I read the script I had no knowledge of the story or the background at all so I was just reading it as I would read any other script — was the way she used her humor to sort of keep people either at arm’s length or to get through an uncomfortable situation. I think I’ve always been that way."
And how I don't "Well, she has much better hair. She’s rather damaged, I think, and she’s not warm, and I feel like I’m not damaged and I’m warm."
I can't believe I pulled off "Being an action hero at this stage of the game."
Most supportive co-star "Dustin Ingram is a walking encyclopedia about Watchmen. I would call him and text him all hours of the night."
Quarantining with my character "[With Chef Louis,] the perk would be always eating tasty gourmet meals, but the drawback — the meal might be you!"
Most supportive co-star "With The Little Mermaid Live! and musicals in general, the choreographers, singing coaches and directors are the ones I turn to most. But there's always a family-like vibe with musicals. It's essential to have that camaraderie with your co-stars, constantly supporting each other and knowing you're all about to go through something that is possibly the most terrifying thing an actor can do — live musicals!"
I can't believe I pulled off "Singing, dancing and sword fighting with crabs live in front of about 20 million people — and didn't slip and fall on fish guts."
I can't believe I pulled off "Uttering any semblance of French."
Dream guest star "Adèle Exarchopoulos."
Quarantining with my character "She'd probably want to play movement-based games in my apartment and destroy it in the process."
How I relate to my character "I, like Lawrence, present as capable and strong, but I’m actually deeply insecure and have no idea what I’m doing."
And how I don't "I like to live in a house that’s full of love and laughter."
Most supportive co-star "Lizzie Moss is at the creative center of the show, onscreen and off. She’s in on every draft, every cut, every shot, every time a lens is swapped. She is the rare, passionate perfectionist who is instinctively kind and respectful to everyone involved. There is no vanity or ego in her. It sounds weird, but because of her, Handmaid's is a really loose, fun set."
Dream guest star "Allison Janney."
Quarantining with my character "He would think it’s a totally normal way to live — he’s been emotionally distancing his entire life."
How I relate to my character "I relate to the way Edmund gets stressed out, and definitely to the way he’s desperate to please (certain) people. And we technically have the same glasses!"
And how I don't "He thinks Carole Baskin did it and I don’t."
Most supportive co-star "B.D. Wong and Lori Tan Chinn would share so many stories about how different the industry was when they came up, and it gave me and Awkwafina so much perspective on where we’ve been and where we need to go. Every castmember at SNL has given me a pep talk in some form, but Aidy Bryant, Ego Nwodim and Heidi Gardner have especially saved me from the depths of despair by just being good listeners. And having Chloe Fineman as a trenchmate with me this season was a godsend."
I can't believe I pulled off "Slapping RuPaul in a cut-for-time sketch on SNL; screlting the end of 'Defying Gravity' for 15 different takes on Nora From Queens. Both were tantamount to gay blasphemy."
Dream guest star "The entire cast of Parasite if the episode is them playing against the Lins in a four-way game of Family Feud. As for an SNL host, it'd be great if Cher announced a gubernatorial run in her monologue."
A version of this story first appeared in the June 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.