Emmy Nominees Night 2018: Inside Hollywood Reporter and SAG-AFTRA's Star-Studded Bash

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From left: Dascha Polanco, Tichina Arnold, Tracee Ellis Ross, Samira Wiley and Megan Mullally

Tiffany Haddish, Trevor Noah and Tracee Ellis Ross joined executives Dana Walden, Bonnie Hammer and Casey Bloys and more at the kickoff to Emmy weekend Friday night at Avra Beverly Hills.

Television's biggest names gathered Friday evening to kick off another Emmy weekend.

Darren Criss, Tiffany Haddish, Trevor Noah and Tracee Ellis Ross were among the 2018 nominees who came out for The Hollywood Reporter and SAG-AFTRA's Emmy Nominees Night reception at Avra Beverly Hills. They were joined by other talent, including Samira Wiley, Judith Light, Louie Anderson, Mandy Patinkin, Lior Raz, Ricky Martin and Busy Philipps, as well as several of the industry’s top executives (Dana Walden, Bonnie Hammer, Casey Bloys, Chris Silbermann) and showrunners (Steve Levitan, Kenya Barris), the latter of whom exclaimed of being on THR's Emmy issue cover, "It changed everything!"

The second annual event, hosted by THR editorial director Matthew Belloni and SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, served as the unofficial launch of the Emmy weekend festivities ahead of Monday’s ceremony, which will be emceed by Saturday Night Live head writers Colin Jost and Michael Che. 

Conversation on the red carpet and inside the packed event, sponsored by Douglas Elliman and Heineken, focused on celebrating the nominees, with Henry Winkler constantly surrounded by well-wishers — even snapping a selfie with Carteris.

Though as soon as Noah walked through the door, Winkler made a beeline to greet the comedian. Noah then bolted toward Wiley (The Handmaid's Tale), and later told THR, "I'm excited to celebrate every single host that I'm nominated with because it's such a weird field where we all know each other." As for his hopes for Monday evening? "I wouldn't even dare to think that I would win because I've looked up to everyone else in the category for so long," he said.

The festivities turned into a dance party by DJ Myles Hendrik's table. Dascha Polanco grooved with Ross and Megan Mullally and friends to Beyonce's "Love on Top." The partying didn't stop later in the night, when Carteris broke it down with Haddish in another corner.

The buzz among the nominees was all about taking a trophy home. Ross, nominated for Black-ish, told THR, "I'm always hoping for a win. I'm not one of those people who will pretend I don't care. I care!" She added, "It would mean a lot. I've dreamt of an Emmy since I started acting, so it's been a long time."

Westworld's Angela Sarafyan also didn't hold back: "I want Westworld to win, period. It's the best show ever!" she said. "I want them to open that envelope and say, The Emmy goes to ... Westworld!"

But for FX exec Nick Grad, he noted, "It would be a real 'shanda' if we don't win [for Atlanta], but it's out of my control," adding, "I thought the second season topped an un-toppable first season." And while Grad didn't want to spell out exactly how he would celebrate a win, the exec quipped, "It's legal now in California." 

The stars enjoyed Greek delicacies, including a hot buffet station offering sirloin steak, Colorado lamp chops and grilled vegetables, among other items. Spouses Philipps and Marc Silverstein chatted with Criss and his fiancee Mia Swier — Philipps wished them well, saying, "I'm happy for you." 

Criss says he's still processing his nomination. "First and foremost, above being an actor, I'm a fan. I was a fan before I was an actor ... there are a lot of people here that I so enjoy getting to thank in person for their work." His co-star Martin said he was also "flying over the fact that I've been nominated. It's a beautiful story to tell, very intense." He added it was a "gift" to work on the show. 

Amid the celebration, stars touched on the need to discuss hard-hitting topics at upcoming parties, with Noah noting that politics and Trump will definitely be brought up on Monday night, while Handmaid's Tale's Madeline Brewer joined Nina Kiri in talking about the importance of the upcoming midterm elections. Noah added that another unavoidable topic will be sexual harassment in Hollywood, while Homeland's Patinkin declined to discuss Leslie Moonves' recent departure from CBS.

It was date night for other star couples including Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally and Stranger Things' Charlie Heaton and co-star Natalia Dyer, with Sarah Drew later telling them, "You guys are fantastic," as she admitted to binge-watching the nominated show.

Over at the raw bar, guests noshed on gulf shrimp, Littleneck and Cherrystone clams and Maine lobster, while roving servers provided guests with grilled haloumi cheese, tuna tartare, Chilean sea bass skewers and diced honey balsamic salmon for hors d’oeuvres. The dining concluded with almond baklava and Greek yogurt chocolate cheesecake.

A number of guests were already Emmy winners this year after taking home awards at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, including Haddish (Saturday Night Live), Wiley (Handmaid’s Tale), Ron Cephas Jones (This is Us) and Christina Pickles (for the web series Break a Hip). Other attendees included execs Paul Buccieri, Craig Erwich, Dave Howe, Kevin Kay, Chuck Saftler, Eric Schrier, as well as talent including Jeffrey Wright, Cheryl Hines, Jimmy O. Yang, Adam Pally, Bryan Fogel, Brandon Victor Dixon, Amanda Brugel, Britney Young, Thandie Newton, Jane Austin, Tichina Arnold and Melvin Jackson Jr., among others.