Emmys: Michael J. Fox, Laurie Metcalf, 13 More Guest Actors Share Life Lessons From Their Limited Time on Set

8:00 AM 8/23/2016

by THR Staff

Stars with short-lived stints on this year's nominated series — including Hank Azaria, Allison Janney and Bob Newhart — also imagine what would happen if their characters were given shows of their own.

Courtesy of LouisCK.net

  • Mahershala Ali

    House of Cards (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    How he ended up on House of Cards

    "The 2012 pilot season was coming to an end. I was coming to accept I wasn't going to book a series. Out of the blue, I got a call to come in for House of Cards, which was going to be the first original series on Netflix. I thought it was kind of strange because, at that time, it would be like Blockbuster having a series. But because David Fincher, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright were involved, I knew the project was going to be good. So I auditioned."  

    Quality about Remy he tapped into most

    "His ambition. It's the injection I needed. I'd been working for 12 years and had hit a ceiling. As the opportunities began to feel somewhat limited, the love and energy for the work began to dissipate. Remy woke that up for me in a very real way."  

    What Remy would do next if he got an extended life on the show

    “I think I learned it was time to let go. Remy and Jackie made a conscious choice to move on and leave that life behind. I did a bit of the same. I received so much from Remy and my time on the show. But you have to listen and make tough choices that might require you to move from a place of comfort or familiarity. When I sat back and considered what I wanted for myself, in the same way Remy had to do, that voice deep inside said it was time to move on."

  • Hank Azaria

    Ray Donovan (Showtime)

    Courtesy of SHOWTIME

    Quality about Ed he tapped into most

    "My character is basically a sociopathic sexual deviant who really couldn't care less whom he hurts or screws over as long as he gets what he wants. As an actor in Hollywood, I really relate to him."

    Life lesson from his limited time on set

    "I think what you most take away is that you could die at any moment, which is probably true of real life as well."

    What Ed would do next if he got an extended life on the show

    "My character seems to have nothing but extended lives. It was fun partnering with Ray; I could see him doing that or maybe even branching out on his own. On which side of the law he'd end up, I'm not sure." 

    If Ed got his own show it would be …

    “Well it would either be called The Ed Cochran Show or The Hank Azaria Hour. Why? Who have you talked to? Do you know something I don't? I'm calling my agent."

  • Christine Baranski

    The Big Bang Theory (CBS)


    How she ended up on Big Bang

    "It was my connection with [co-creator] Chuck Lorre. He is responsible for me finally jumping into television and responsible for my first Emmy, quite frankly, because he wrote Cybill. I got a call when I was doing The Good Wife about playing Johnny [Galecki's] mother, and I read [the script], and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is so funny. It's different from anything I've done.' Once again, because of Chuck, this is my fourth Big Bang nomination. It all has to do with Chuck." 

    Life lesson from her limited time on set

    "If you have talented people who are sane and happy, there's no happier workplace than a sitcom because the hours won't kill you. It's not like hourlong network dramas, which are very challenging."

    Quality about Dr. Beverly she taps into most

    "Well, there's certainly the sense, her own sense, that she's the smartest person in the room and she has zero tolerance. She has this rapturous relationship with Sheldon [Jim Parsons] because he matches her. She really thinks, ‘Now that's the son I always wish I'd had,’ which is why the stuff with Laurie Metcalf is so funny. It's like they have the wrong mothers. Sheldon would definitely be able to appreciate Beverly and love having that mom, and Leonard [Galecki] would love to have Sheldon's mom, who's nurturing and forgiving and just kind of fun. The fact that they got Laurie and I into those episodes together was too much fun."

    If Beverly got own show it would be …

    “I don’t think Beverly should have her own show. She exists beautifully as an interloper who kind of poisons the atmosphere every time she walks in the door. She's a strong dose, you wouldn't to make a full meal out of Beverly. It's too much vinegar.”

  • Ellen Burstyn

    House of Cards (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Quality about Elizabeth she tapped into most

    "I felt it was my job to illuminate [her daughter] Claire's character by showing her background so the audience could understand where her amazing reserve, coolness and steeliness came from."

    What Elizabeth would do next if she got an extended life on the show

    "The only way my character could have an extended life would be as a ghost. I quite like that idea — I could haunt Frank Underwood and drive him mad."

    If Elizabeth got her own show, it would be …

    "Perhaps she could have a daytime show where she is the female Dr. Kevorkian helping women decide whether or not to end their lives on their own terms — and what to wear if they do."

  • Reg E. Cathey

    House of Cards (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Quality about Freddy he tapped into most

    "His integrity through self-reliance. He paid dearly for some bad choices while enduring many trials. His redemption was hard-won."

    If Freddy got his own show, it would be …

    "Freddy's Flowers! It would be a dramedy about a small businessman and his grandson and the exquisite flower arrangements he produces. Each episode would feature a different Ikebana-style arrangement, which would relate to whatever the story would be … Or they would solve crime."

  • Melora Hardin

    Transparent (Amazon)

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    How she ended up on Transparent

    "I was put on tape, reading with our casting director Eyde Belasco, then I went in and read and improvised with [series creator] Jill Soloway. Then I did a chemistry read with my onscreen lover, Amy Landecker [Sarah Pfefferman]."

    Quality about Tammy she tapped into most

    "Jill told me that she would have the biggest balls of anyone, and that was just such a great image and a tangible idea for me to try to embody. I'm a dancer, so I immediately hooked into a physicality that just felt like Tammy."

    Life lesson from her limited time on set

    "It was so incredible to work with a group of actors who would react to whatever you threw at them with complete honesty and fearlessness."

    What Tammy would do next if she got an extended life on the show

    "I had the idea that Tammy has become a photographer and does portraits of the entire Pfefferman family. But I'm sure Jill and the amazing writers would come up with something amazing if she was brought back. I'd also like to come back on the show as someone completely different, like what Bradley Whitford did this season."

  • Michael J. Fox

    The Good Wife (CBS)

    Courtesy of CBS

    How he ended up on The Good Wife

    "I got a call from some writers. I had happened to see the show. It was a weird thing because it's not historically in my demo, but I had watched the first episode, and I got hooked. It was interesting when they called because I thought, 'Did somebody inform on me that I'm a secret Good Wife fan?' But they pitched an idea for a character, and it sounded great."

    Quality about Louis he taps into most

    "Given my history, I'm used to being the bass or the drums of the show, and in this, I get to be a soloist, doing riffs on the side where I didn't have to worry about carrying a show. What was fun for me was to make an enemy enigmatic and not worry about throwing in lot of personal notes and building a foundation for the character — I just let him trickle out and be a mystery."

    Life lessons from his limited time on set

    “They're just great examples on that show. Julianna works so hard, and was so good and so consistent and so fun to work with. Christine [Baranski] as well. Acting, performing, playing a character, you're not driving toward something, you're just driving and enjoying the scenery."

    What Louis would do next if he got an extended life on the show

    "I'd love to see him get into and out of trouble. He's never really been busted on his actions, and I would love to see the missteps he makes and what shit he puts his foot in."

    Read the full Q&A here.

  • Allison Janney

    Masters of Sex (Showtime)

    Courtesy of SHOWTIME

    How she ended up on Masters of Sex

    “I think my reps got a call about my interest when the show was a shot pilot, but not yet aired. That same week I got a text from my friend Lizzy Caplan saying, ‘You have to do this part in my new show.’ It was either a beautifully coordinated attack or a sign that I should watch the pilot and consider facing the complications of trying to work out network approvals and a schedule where I could do multiple episodes of Masters and Mom, on separate networks. After watching the pilot I knew it was worth the effort. I’ve always been impressed with Michael Sheen’s work, and to see Lizzy in this role, in this way — an actress who was so known for being a gifted comedienne, in a role so dramatic, subtle and layered — I was thrilled for her. Once I was introduced to the story of my character, in a call with Michelle [Ashford] and Sarah [Timberman], I was terrified at the thought of exploring some themes not often explored, and certainly ones I had not tackled in my career. It is always a blessing to be regularly employed as an actor, but it’s nothing short of a miracle to be given the opportunity to act on a hilarious comedy and a provocative drama at the same time. The networks and producers were able to coordinate that possibility for me, and I am thrilled to have been able to bring Margaret Scully to life.”

    Quality about Margaret she taps into most

    "I really connected with Margaret's naivete, her grace and reserve. She reminds me of my mother and how she navigates life. I also felt so moved by her story — her quiet struggle in her marriage that left her feeling inadequate as a woman — and her ultimate awakening as a person." 

    What Margaret would do next if she got an extended life on the show

    “I think I would like to see Margaret continue on her emotional journey of finding herself. She would explore her needs and wants in the backdrop of the time period. She is just beginning to awaken sexually, and this can lead to a whole new chapter in life — in her career as well as in her personal life. Perhaps she realizes that she can have a career now. Maybe she studies sex therapy, helping other people’s marriages work on an intimate level, while in the process finding her own piece of happiness.”

    If Margaret could get her own show it would be …

    "Margaret would open a sex clinic working on other people's 'dysfunctions.' She would be a healer of sorts."

  • Margo Martindale

    The Americans (FX)

    Courtesy of FX

    How she ended up on The Americans

    "It came to me through my FX connection, namely John Landgraf and Graham Yost." 

    Quality about Claudia she tapped into most

    "I loved that she was secretive and somewhat invisible when she needed to be."  

    What Claudia would do next if she got an extended life on the show

    "An extended life? Let's just say, an extended life!" 

    If Claudia got her own show, it would be …

    "Comrade Claudia's Creatures!"

  • Laurie Metcalf

    The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Horace and Pete (LouisCK.net)

    Courtesy of LouisCK.net

    How she ended up on both Big Bang and Horace and Pete

    "Johnny Galecki suggested that I play Mary Cooper [on Big Bang] when the time came for Sheldon's mom to make an appearance. We'd always had such fun on Roseanne, and I was so flattered to be asked to rejoin the sitcom experience. For Horace and Pete, I was given the script of episode three, and all I knew was that Louis C.K. had written it. Luckily I was in New York doing a play and the episode could be shot on my day off. I couldn't tell anybody about it because Louie hadn't released the first episode yet. I got to work memorizing it right away."

    Qualities about Mary and Sarah she most tapped into

    “I think Mary Cooper would be a great talk show host. She'd be very engaging and supportive and interested in what you had to say as long as it meshed with her own opinions and beliefs. If not, you'd have to leave the couch. What really moved me personally [about Sarah] in the scene [in Horace and Pete] is the indestructible bond this couple has for their kids even through a bitter divorce, betrayal, hatred and heartache.”

    What Mary and Sarah would do next if they got extended lives on the shows

    "I'd like to see Mary travel the world and check in with the kids from whatever interesting village or commune or capital or farm or desert. She'd always be dressed in the native clothing and having the time or her life! I'd love to see Sarah again just to find out how she survived the impending, unavoidable crash of her marriage. I'd love to see how Louis would write it."

  • Martin Mull

    Veep (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    How he ended up on Veep

    "I got a call from my agent saying there's a possibility of a part on Veep. That's like saying to someone, 'How would you like to go to heaven?' I drove to the audition and was a nervous wreck. I got the name of the street wrong and had to ask 12 different people how to get there. I got in there, sweating like a pig — mind you, I'm a man in his 70s who has been in this business for 40 years — I did the audition, and they liked it, I guess, because they called and said, 'We want you to do another audition, and this time, it will be with Julia [Louis-Dreyfus].' I went back in and did another audition with Julia and I guess they liked that. They said they wanted to do a rehearsal and gave me the lines. I learned it and then I went to the first rehearsal with Julia and all we did was improvise. It’s a dream come true to be on a show like that."

    Quality about Bob he taps into most

    I think it’s the fact that I’m turning 73 next week. I have to realize that — and in so many cases — being on in years is a detriment. In a lot of roles, people want to play younger than they are. In the case of Bob Bradley, he is past his prime, so that was something I tapped into.

    Life lesson from his limited time on set

    "I realized — and I hate the word 'organic,' but it's really apt in this case — when you're dealing with a show as organic as Veep, it's liable to change at the drop of a hat. The line will change, you'll improvise something or we'll go on to a different episode. You have to prepare to be unprepared."

    What Bob would do next if he got an extended life on the show

    "It would be interesting if he finds out he's a clairvoyant and can talk to the ghosts of previous presidents. Every now and then they would say, 'Well, what would Kennedy do?' And he would say, 'Hold on, let me ask him.' Gary [Tony Hale] would go nuts."

    Read the full Q&A here.

  • Bob Newhart

    The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

    Courtesy of CBS

    How he ended up on Big Bang

    "It's the oldest story in the world. Chuck Lorre and I are skydiving, and I heard him say something — but it's very hard to hear when you are in free-fall — so I yelled at him, 'Did you say something about The Big Bang Theory?' And he yelled back, 'Yes, would you like to be on The Big Bang Theory?' And I yelled back, 'We'll talk.' "

    Quality about Arthur he tapped into most

    "Dr. Proton reminded me of my relationship with Larry, Darryl and Darryl on Newhart. That being, the only sane man in the room."

    If Arthur got his own show, it would be …

    "The Dr. Proton Show, naturally."

  • Carrie Preston

    The Good Wife (CBS)

    Courtesy of CBS

    How she ended up on The Good Wife

    “From what I understand, Robert King had seen me on True Blood and in a movie called Duplicity and apparently he thought I could do something interesting with this new character they were introducing at the end of season one. When I read the script I was thrilled and terrified. Thrilled because it was an incredible and singular role on the page. Terrified because I knew this could be a career-defining moment and I did not want to mess it up! I did the two episodes and had a ball. And luckily they kept periodically inviting me back.”

    Quality about Elsbeth she tapped into most

    "I loved the mercurial nature of her mind. She had so many things going on inside all at once, and it seemed to me that each one of those things got equal attention. I tapped into that immediately because those qualities are such challenging and exciting things for an actor to play.”

    Life lesson from her limited time on set

    "Sometimes when you have a guest role, it is actually the best role. If you are lucky, you get the freedom to bring something new and fresh to an established show." 

    If Elsbeth got her own show, it would be …

    "I would love to see her as the head of her own firm. The show would be like Columbo-meets-Monk but set in the legal world."

  • Paul Sparks

    House of Cards (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    How he ended up on House of Cards

    "I'd been a fan of the show from the beginning. And I'd auditioned, fruitlessly, for several parts. Just as I was finishing up the final season of Boardwalk Empire, the clouds parted and good old Tom Yates came along. I read for Julie Schubert, the casting director, and then again for everybody else that makes those kinds of decisions, and luckily it worked out for me. It was a good day."

    Quality about Tom he taps into most

    "Tom is a guy that lives a very remote, private existence and has no insecurities about being vulnerable and honest with the Underwoods. He's like an actor that's shy. That's a contradiction that I understand and am very interested in exploring."

    Life lesson from his limited time on House of Cards

    " 'Don't spend too much time at the craft service table.' House of Cards has an amazing, seemingly bottomless supply of snacks."

    What Tom would do next if he got an extended life on the show

    "That's a good question for which I do not have a good answer. Luckily, it's not up to me. Although my vote would be for genetically altered superweapon."

    If Tom could got own show it would be …

    "Probably a more laconic, restrained version of Kung Fu."

  • Bradley Whitford

    Transparent (Amazon)

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    How he ended up on season two of Transparent

    "After season one, I ran into Jill [Soloway] and she told me she had something interesting for me in season two. I was thrilled because playing Marcie was one of the greatest acting experiences. So she starts talking about this sex researcher in prewar Berlin, and it took me a while to realize she was talking about an entirely different part!"

    Life lesson from his limited time on set

    "The show is about very deep stuff: sex, family, identity, desire. I've been on a lot of sets, and there is a peculiar quality of emotional dilation and freedom here. It's a safe place to do dangerous things."

    Quality about Magnus he tapped into most

    “Magnus had a very familiar, contemporary feel to him. I admired him. He was heroic to me, but really human and warm. And really horny.”

    If Magnus could get his own show it would be …

    “I think Hirschfeld could be at the center of a great show. It’s a fascinating world that not a lot of people know about. And it has a lot of resonance with what is going on today. He was at the forefront of a cultural movement of frankness and exploration and radical inclusion of all sorts of issues surrounding gender and sexuality in Berlin before the rise of the Nazis. This is 70 or 80 years ago. In many ways they were way ahead of where we are now. Then Hitler came along and the queer community was one of his first targets for extermination, because of their otherness. And it’s taken us decades to make progress, let alone approach the kind of curiosity, acceptance and celebration of our deepest selves and desires that Magnus championed.”

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