THR Emmy Roundtable: Kevin Bacon, 'Mad Men's' John Slattery and More on Aging, Worst Auditions and 'Jerk' Pasts
Jeff Daniels, Mandy Patinkin, Dennis Quaid and newcomer Corey Stoll dish on the season's top contenders, embarrassing moments and the lines ("My name is Inigo Montoya") and gags (six degrees of who?) that they'll never escape.
THR: What were your biggest challenges transitioning from film to TV?
Bacon: I think for me, part of it was switching directors. I had a great experience watching Kyra on The Closer and then directing The Closer. I saw that sometimes she would get a little bit shaken by the idea of somebody new directing. I didn't realize that would affect me in the way that it did, especially since I had directed television.
Patinkin: I was very defensive in the beginning of my TV career because I didn't let myself trust the directors. I felt they're just coming in as guests -- not part of the process from the beginning. I was arrogant, distrustful and pretty f--ing insecure. When I was doing Chicago Hope, I literally said, "Tell these people not to talk to me." And I really can't get over that I had the nerve to do that. And it's a blessing to survive, being 60 years old now, and getting some wisdom from guys like you. I've learned I didn't have to be perfect. Stop trying to be Superman, you know? And it takes the shit off my shoulders that I lived long enough to not be such a jerk.
Slattery: I've been directing my show for the last couple years, and there's a burden that you feel, not to be Superman but, "I don't want to screw this up." You put pressure on yourself. But it's so disseminated through the ranks. The DP, designers, all the other actors. … It really took that burden away.
Patinkin: I've seen [co-star] Claire Danes work with such a freedom, it's encouraged me to take more chances. It's funny, somebody sent me the first episode of Newsroom where you [to Daniels] made that long speech about the country. I brought it to my wife, I sent it to my sons. I thought it was one of the singularly finest pieces of television on every single level I've seen. The writing, the way you delivered it, the way it was shot, the way it was directed, the other actors, what the editors did.
Daniels: The editing on our show is amazing.
Patinkin: It's extraordinary. And I just thought, "God, I'm working at a time when this kind of stuff is being done." It's pretty humbling, you know? And it wasn't just you. It was the time that that editor chose to let you sit there and stew. And it also said to me "It's not all on my shoulders" when I do a scene like that.
Daniels: Yes. But I don't watch the dailies, I don't go to video village. I wait six months and see how they assemble this, and that's when I learned that it's OK not to do the perfect take because they're going to use this and that and that, and they're going to be over here, they're going to go way behind the 500 people in the auditorium where you thought you had that brilliant moment, and … you just give it to them. The thing about the series thing is there's no time, there's no rehearsal, none of that.
Patinkin: That's our job, to give them as many choices …
Bacon: Yeah, it's so instant, you know?
Daniels: Do you find with TV that you forget what the last episode was?
Quaid: I forget what the last day was. I can't tell you what we shot yesterday, and I don't know what we're doing tomorrow. All I know is what we're doing today.
Daniels: It's scary.
Quaid: I kind of like the present. It's not good to have too much on my mind.
Patinkin: I also tell the writers, "I don't want to know." I ask them not to tell me what's happening or what they have in mind. I mean, I have to know seven to 10 days in advance because it takes me forever to learn the words. But I really don't want to know, and that keeps me on edge. I don't know what's going to happen in the next five seconds of my life, why should this guy Saul know?
Daniels: I embrace that.
Patinkin: I'm having fun, and I never used to be that way.
Quaid: And everybody is there to help you. That's one of the good things about doing a series; it really basically is a family.
THR: Corey, House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon has said the character who was supposed to run for governor wasn't yours, but they liked you as Peter Russo so much, they said, "Let's have this guy do it." At what point did they communicate this change to you?
Stoll: I don't want to be all spoiler-y! But it was still the same basic arc. It was just fuller. My character was still supposed to have this incredible sort of journey, but they just gave me more to lose as I went along; made my peak higher on my way down. In my experience, House of Cards was closer to theater than film because I had six-and-a-half months to marinate in this character. I knew my scene partners, and that was an incredible opportunity. They had all 13 episodes pretty much written before we started, but I felt more capable during this than I ever had on a film set.
THR: Are the rest of you good at predicting the reaction to your work?
Daniels: I don't really care. I don't! I think we all walk away from the set knowing that what we did was good. I don't need anyone to tell me whether it's good or not. I already know. Some are going to hate it, whether it's political -- like Aaron Sorkin's show -- or not. I invest no effort into it emotionally at all.
Slattery: I feel the same way. That there are people that would go, "Oh, this is going to … make a big splash," and it doesn't matter, and it never really is, no one ever gets it really right.