Emmys: Alexis Arquette, 'Last Week Tonight's' Office Dog and More Inside References Explained

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Patricia Arquette

The Hollywood Reporter breaks down the shout-outs and jokes that may have left viewers scratching their heads.

Observers of the 2019 Emmy Awards on Sunday night may still be scratching their heads over this year's numerous surprise winners. But beyond the upsets, some of the inside references to various Hollywood phenomena might also have left viewers, particularly those who don't work in or closely follow the entertainment industry, with some questions. 

For example, Patricia Arquette honored her late sister, Alexis, while accepting her award, but the best supporting actress in a limited series winner did not elaborate on how her sister died. Additionally, the Last Week Tonight team gave a shout-out to their office dog Bruce during the acceptance speech for the outstanding writing for a variety series Emmy. 

Meanwhile, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bill Hader's jokes about the limited series category prompted viewers to ask what exactly makes something a limited series.

Read on for answers to four burning questions, prompted by what winners and presenters said onstage during the Emmy Awards ceremony.

What happened to Alexis Arquette, whom Patricia Arquette honored during her acceptance speech?

While accepting the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series for her role on The Act, Patricia Arquette brought attention to violence against the transgender community following the death of her sister. "In my heart, I am so sad I lost my sister Alexis," she said. "I'm in mourning the rest of my life."

Alexis Arquette died in September 2016 at the age of 47. The transgender actress died after battling health problems posed by her positive HIV status. She contracted the virus two decades before her death.

Throughout her battle, Alexis Arquette remained private about her struggles and ignored her friends' and family's recommendations to take life-saving AIDS drugs. She developed an infection in her liver that spread throughout her body just weeks before her death.

The late actress was considered a transgender pioneer.

Has Don Cheadle really lost out on nine Emmy Awards?

Kristen Bell mentioned that her co-presenter Don Cheadle has been nominated for nine Emmys over his career, but he has never won. After she asked if he was okay following his most recent loss, this year, in the outstanding lead actor in a comedy series category for his role on Black Monday, the actor tried to brush off his defeat.

Cheadle was a first-time nominee during the 1999 ceremony when he earned two nods. The actor was nominated for outstanding supporting actor for his role in The Rat Pack, as well as in the outstanding lead actor in a miniseries category for his work in A Lesson Before Dying.

He earned his third nomination in 2002 in the outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or movie category for his role in Things Behind the Sun. The following year, Cheadle earned a nod in the outstanding guest actor in a drama series category for his appearance on ER.

Cheadle's losing streak continued when he was nominated from 2012-2015 in the outstanding lead actor in a comedy series category for his role as Marty Kaan on House of Lies, on which he starred alongside Bell.

In continuing his banter with Bell, Cheadle may have made it seem as if he had won an Oscar, though he was instead just nominated for best actor for his role in 2004's Hotel Rwanda. Jamie Foxx won the best actor Oscar that year for his role in Ray.

Who is Bruce, Last Week Tonight's office dog, and why was he thanked during the John Oliver-hosted show's acceptance speech for the Emmy in the outstanding writing for a variety series category?

Last Week Tonight writer Seena Vali accepted the Award for outstanding writing for a variety series on behalf of his fellow writers. During his speech, Vali gave a special shout-out to the show's office dog, Bruce. "Bruce, we want to thank you for having big floppy ears and letting us give you belly rubs, and for you producing our piece on the Senate filibuster this year," he said.

While not much is known about Bruce, news producer Chris McDaniel took to Twitter shortly after the Emmys to share photos of the pooch. "Here’s Bruce sharing the office with my dog, Ampersand," he captioned a photo. McDaniel also shared another photo of Bruce "running out of my office with Amp’s bone." 

What makes a show a limited series?

While presenting the award for best actor in a limited series, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bill Hader joked that limited series were just shows that had been canceled.

But there's some truth behind their quip, as Regina King last year won an Emmy for best actress in a limited series for her role on Seven Seconds, which Netflix axed after its first season before King earned her nomination.

Other shows such as Big Little Lies and American Horror Story have previously received nominations and wins in the limited series categories.

Big Little Lies took home the Emmys for outstanding limited series and outstanding directing for a limited series, while Nicole Kidman won for outstanding lead actress, Alexander Skarsgard won for best supporting actor and Laura Dern earned the best supporting actress in a limited series award during the 2017 ceremony. But after the Emmys, the show was given a second season, which premiered this summer and will be eligible for drama series awards at next year's Emmys. 

Meanwhile, American Horror Story has won 16 Emmys in the limited series categories over the span of eight seasons.

In April, however, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced that it would no longer consider American Horror Story to be a limited series. The TV Academy explained in a statement that it and other shows previously considered to be "limited series" continue "story threads, characters and actors reprising those same character roles from previous seasons." The Academy clarified that a limited series "tells a complete, non-recurring story, and does not have an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons."

Hader joked that viewers would not want to see seven seasons of limited series Emmy winner Chernobyl, and creator and writer Craig Mazin confirmed backstage that the show would not return for another season.

"We told a story in a place in time. And we did it pretty darn well. And it's time to start talking about other places and other times, but the thing that's most important to me, is whatever we look at — whether it's fiction or it's based on history — that it is relevant to who we are now and what we're facing," Mazin said. "The good thing is history does repeat itself. It's just the trick is finding interesting history that is repeating itself an interesting way. So I think we closed the book on this chapter. We're very glad that people can watch this series ... and on to the next."