Goodbye, Seated Dinner: Emmys Shake Up Governors Ball (First Look)

The post-telecast celebration is moving to the roof of L.A. Live for the awards' 70th anniversary, and assigned tables are giving way to a "mix-and-mingle" free-for-all.

There's a big change happening on one of Hollywood's major awards nights. Nope, not the "popular" Oscar. Rather, it's the Television Academy taking a gamble on L.A.'s weather by moving its Governors Ball — following the 70th Primetime Emmys on Sept. 17 at Microsoft Theater — from the L.A. Convention Center to a ?partially tented outdoor space atop L.A. Live next door. Easily accessible by stairs or elevators, the L.A. Live Event Deck space (which will also host Creative Arts balls Sept. 8 and Sept. 9) won't offer the seated dinner of past years ?but instead will be designed as an ?"interactive, mix-and-mingle format" allowing guests to move through interior and outdoor spaces, says Cheryl Cecchetto, who has produced the balls with her Sequoia Productions team for 21 years.

Guests will be directed not to ?tables but rather to one of 11 numbered areas, each with its ?own staff and beverage and food stations (featuring increased vegan options from returning chef Joachim Splichal and Patina Catering). But ?no worries about getting trapped in a C-list zone; partiers are encouraged to wander and explore. Cecchetto says the tented space should feel “synergistic” with the “inside and outside feeling as one space.” The new layout will also feature an open area surrounding the “Winner’s Circle” where Emmy winners will be able to get their trophies engraved.

There’s a new theme to go with the outdoor party, too, fittingly called “Emmys Under the Stars” and complemented by LED-powered stars that are being created specifically for the event, where they will be suspended from a tent constructed on the deck. Cecchetto says the plans for this year got kicked up because Hayma Washington, chairman and CEO of the TV Academy, said this year must be “epic.” So, “that’s really what we’re looking for” with this year’s changes, she says. “It was time for a surprise, and we’ve rewritten the script,” Cecchetto explains of the changes. “The expansion of the thought process behind this event is similar to the expansion of the thought process behind the great evolution of what’s on television. We have tried to come up with something that respects the growth.” 

The ball is a must-stop (though often a brief stop) on the post-show circuit, and 2018 attendees are likely to see hosts and SNL stars Colin Jost and Michael Che along with nominees (and possible winners) Claire Foy, Sterling K. Brown, Donald Glover, Keri Russell, Issa Rae and Jessica Biel, among others. Cecchetto says the move to Monday shouldn’t affect how late revelers will stay out. “I don’t care if it's on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any day,” she says. “This is the one big shindig for the television industry to celebrate the industry. When they are in the theater they are celebrating excellence, but when they come out, they are celebrating the entire industry, and that happens only once a year. You’re still going to lose folks obligated to go to other events, but what we’re finding more and more is that people are staying later and it's becoming more difficult to get a ticket.”

Cecchetto credits Governors Ball chairs Tammy Glover and Halina Siwolop for their vision while also being quick to point out how difficult it is to name-check anyone. “It’s so collaborative,” she says. “Every department of the Television Academy is involved and there is such an amazing amount of work that you can’t give any one person credit.”

It’s a massive production. The balls employ 250 chefs, 600 servers and 50 bartenders per night. Over the course of the three nights, more than 8,300 guests will party on the new space, which is covered by 62,000 square feet of carpeting. Placed on top will be 1,080 chairs, 650 barstools and 78 sofas where guests can sit and relax instead of being confined to typical table settings. Performers at the event will include Midnight Special (Creative Arts house band), Scott Mayo Collective (Primetime Emmys house band), Sheléa, Sy Smith, Will Champlin, One Voice, Reverb Tap Company, Simply Three, Sharna Burgess and Artem Chigvintsev from Dancing With the Stars, Jason Williams and hip-hop dancers.  

The Splichal-created menu this year, the largest and most extensive one yet, is inspired by Michelin-starred restaurant Patina and L.A. steakhouse Nick & Stef’s. Brown butter potato gnocchi, hand-carved flat-iron steak with red wine bordelaise, cave-aged Emmi gruyere popovers, Nashville hot chicken sliders, Angus beef sliders, Filipino barbecue chicken skewers and gooey grilled cheese with heirloom tomato soup are just a few of the menu options. They’re boosting the vegan and vegetarian options this year, too, with such dishes as cashew “ceviche,” sweet corn agnolotti, truffle-scented French fries and a farmer’s market edible garden of five featured salads. There will also be tasting stations where partygoers can check out the variety of beverages including wine from Sterling Vineyards, Ferrari Trento sparkling wine, cocktails by Ketel One and Fiji Water, the official water partner of the 70th Emmys and Governors Ball.

Also on offer: Lindt Chocolate, which will have various stations throughout. Premium chocolatier Lindt is making its Primetime Emmy Awards debut as the official chocolate confectionery of the Green Room which is being renamed The Lindt Chocolate Lounge under the partnership. In the lounge, Emmy nominees, presenters and guests will be invited to discover a moment with Lindor, which will be brought to life in the room with red décor and bold gold accents. The Lindt Chocolate Master Chocolatier will be onsite as well. After the show, Lindt Chocolate’s presence will continue at the Governors Ball, serving more than 20,000 assorted Lindor chocolate truffles. 

FX president John Landgraf, ?who has Atlanta and The Americans in the hunt, gives the plan a provisional thumbs-up. "We'll be able ?to see the whole of Los Angeles on ?a rooftop — and if the weather ?is good," he cautions, "it's going to ?be beautiful."

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.