Hollywood Flashback: John Lithgow Won 3 Emmys Playing an Alien on '3rd Rock From the Sun'

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The actor says his role as Dick Solomon on the NBC sitcom in the '90s was a career highlight: "Six years of uninterrupted laughter and the most exhilarating collaboration I've ever been involved in between actors and writers."

Three of John Lithgow's six Emmy Awards have come from a single job: playing the lead role on the comedy series 3rd Rock From the Sun.

For an actor with a stunningly long career that spans everything from theater (he's won two Tonys) to film and even voicing Yoda in an NPR adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, playing the character Dick Solomon on Sun was a career favorite.

"Six years of uninterrupted laughter and the most exhilarating collaboration I've ever been involved in between actors and writers," is how Lithgow describes it to THR. "To me it was the perfect balance between smart and stupid — which, when you think about it, is at the very heart of comedy."

The sitcom's premise had a group of aliens being sent to Earth, where they'd pretend to be a family and observe human behavior. In its review, The Hollywood Reporter was so-so about the NBC midseason replacement in 1996. "Sun is a not-without-its-merits offering," said THR. "It is capable of showing a quirky bounce now and again."

Viewers were more enthusiastic. The show ran for 139 episodes over five years. Lithgow was so happy with the series that when he won his third Emmy in 1999, he said, "Many wonderful things have happened to me in my life, but truly two of the best have been 3rd Rock and my dear family."

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.