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Emmys: 20 Supporting TV Actors on Their Characters, Pandemic Splurges and What They Miss From Set Life

Whether playing a best friend with a secret on 'I May Destroy You,' a potty-mouthed soccer player on 'Ted Lasso' or an imperfect mother on 'The Queen's Gambit,' these actors delivered memorable supporting turns on some of TV's hottest shows.

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NAOMI ACKIE (Master of None, Netflix)

Best note from my showrunner/director Aziz [Ansari] once told me “making a show is like jazz.” I’ll never forget that. There was a flexibility and willingness to change things around that made it a super creative environment to work in.

What I missed about being on set Having a routine. I enjoy working because it gives my life a structure that I otherwise struggle with. Routine also helps me to stay healthier and look after myself.

Pandemic splurge Definitely food. In particular, burgers.

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MOLLY BERNARD (Younger, Paramount+)

Best note from my showrunner/director In my callback, Darren Star told me that [Bernard’s character] Lauren looks at [Sutton Foster’s] Liza’s full bush with wonder, not judgment, which was my initial delivery. But this adjustment from that session seven years ago is what has carried me through this show.

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Favorite social media reaction Honestly, that the “Diva” and now “Baby Diva” catchphrase(s) have caught on. It makes me LOL every time.

Best Content You’ve Consumed During the Pandemic Still Processing, the podcast hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. It’s my salve.”

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MADELINE BREWER (The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu)

My character in a nutshell Janine is fire. She is fragile and raw and can roar wildly. She deeply loves her children, her friends and margaritas.

Best note from my showrunner/director Bruce [Miller] said to me early on something about Janine being loosely based on someone he knew in his past. I try to bring that to her every time I am with her.

Best Content You’ve Consumed During the Pandemic “Honestly … TikToks. I know so much about skin care now. Also, The Pisces by Melissa Broder ruined me for  a full week.”

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NICOLA COUGHLAN (Bridgerton, Netflix)

My character in a nutshell She’s not at all what you see on the surface. She’s both the lowest-status person in any room and also the highest-status person in any room.

Favorite social media reaction The fact that Kim Kardashian has taken the spot as the number one Bridgerton fan is quite crazy because I’ve watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians for the past 10, 11, 12 years.

Pandemic splurge I got a steam mop because I don’t like to actually mop floors.

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GABRIELLE DENNIS (A Black Lady Sketch Show, HBO)

Favorite social media reaction I play a very passionate leader of an all-pink-wearing girl gang called The Coral Reefs. This year we got to see them at their annual retreat, a retreat that focuses on health and wellness. Some fans really love what the gang has to offer by way of employee benefits and morale, so I have seen several requests and pitches for membership applications.

Pandemic splurge I got to remodel my home. Or at least start remodeling my home. The finished product is still pending.

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BRETT GOLDSTEIN (Ted Lasso, Apple TV+)

My character in a nutshell The angriest man in football. What his aging body lacks in mobility, he makes up for in rage. An incredibly emotional man who can only articulate his feelings through the medium of grunts.

Favorite social media reaction A 45-second supercut of all my swears made me feel strangely proud.

Best Content You’ve Consumed During the Pandemic I May Destroy You — a phenomenal work of empathetic art made by a true auteur. Extraordinary stuff.”

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MEREDITH HAGNER (Search Party, HBO Max)

My character in a nutshell A narcissist with a heart of gold, looking for acceptance in anyone or anything.

What I missed about being on set I’m chatty on set to the degree that’s most definitely annoying. I miss grilling everyone in the entire cast and crew about their dating life, dogs, where they grew up, what elementary school they went to, what meal they would pick as their last.

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MARIELLE HELLER (The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix)

Best note from my showrunner/ director Scott [Frank] gave me clues through the script and his direction about [her character] Alma’s past. Little lifelines to follow. Like the briefest mention of a child she once had. Then, when I would prod, he would purposefully not answer, so I was left to fill in the blanks. Which gave me a lot to work off of.

What I missed about being on set The creative thinking that gets sparked by things going wrong — when you have to think on your feet and figure out how to solve an unsolvable problem.

Best Content You’ve Consumed During the Pandemic “The most recent book that gave me a lot of peace and joy was a book called I Want to Thank You that was written by my dear friend Gina Hamadey. It tapped me into the deeper meaning behind gratitude and what it is to recognize the moment you’re in -— the good and the bad. It just made me feel connected to my heart and other people.”

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DOMINIQUE JACKSON (Pose, FX)

Best note from my showrunner/director Take your time — you don’t have to run through the lines at hyperspeed.

Pandemic splurge A vacation in Hawaii. Playing Elektra and reliving trauma plus the pandemic had me losing my mind, so I took a page from her and went all out on a healing excursion in Hawaii.

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TATIANA MASLANY (Perry Mason, HBO)

My character in a nutshell Sister Alice is an evangelical preacher who can maybe talk to God and can definitely rock a sea captain’s hat.

What I missed about being on set Craft service and catering because I love food, especially when it’s free.

Pandemic splurge Buying myself a bunch of wigs to keep me company.

Best Content You’ve Consumed During the Pandemic “My favorite show was called How to With John Wilson. I don’t even want to spoil it by explaining it, just go watch.”

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WERUCHE OPIA (I May Destroy You, HBO)

Best note from my showrunner/director Paraphrased Michaela Coel: “Nobody is a villain in this story. Everyone is human, flaws and all.”

Favorite social media reaction I took a screenshot of this tweet: “I May Destroy You is an excellent show! I absolutely love it. But [Opia’s character] Terry’s wig and I have issues with each other. And it’s always popping ish to me and arguing with me. But it’s still wrong.”

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ASHLEY PARK (Emily in Paris, Netflix)

Best note from my showrunner/director “Sparkle! We are ready for ASHLEY sPARKles”

Pandemic splurge A Peloton. I bought it on a Black Friday sale while drunk and didn’t remember buying it until I got the delivery memo. … It was worth it.

Best Content You’ve Consumed During the Pandemic “I finally got myself a membership to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC! I went to the ‘About Time: Fashion and Duration’ exhibit a few times and scoured the period wings.”

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RANDALL PARK (WandaVision, Disney+)

My character in a nutshell The most sincere, down-to-earth FBI agent in the Marvel Universe. Great at his job. Loves sleight-of-hand magic.

Favorite social media reaction From Woo-niverse memes to calls for a spinoff show, the social media response to Jimmy Woo was amazing. I’d say the most surprising was when they had me blowing up on TikTok by posting all the bit parts I had done over my career. So many bit parts.

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ROSIE PEREZ (The Flight Attendant, HBO Max)

Best note from my showrunner/director Megan is not what she may seem to be.

Favorite social media reaction “Rosie Perez speaks Korean?!”

What I missed about being on set Watching the crew work.

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EDGAR RAMIREZ (The Undoing, HBO)

My character in a nutshell Detective Joe Mendoza is a tough guy with a heart of gold and a monthly budget for hairstyling.

Favorite social media reaction Ava DuVernay tweeted: “I think it’s Detective Joe Mendoza. I have the slightest theory on why it’s him that no one around me is buying. That’s fine. I am basically just trying to see more Édgar Ramírez.” That made my 2020!

Pandemic splurge Compulsively ordering in Sugarfish sushi.

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WYATT RUSSELL (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Disney+ and The Good Lord Bird, Showtime)

Best note from my showrunner/director For Good Lord Bird: Let the horse do most of the acting.

Favorite social media reaction Death threats [for Falcon].

Pandemic splurge A jet 14-inch band saw and Supermax 19-38 drum sander for instrument making.

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MAURA TIERNEY (Your Honor, Showtime)

My character in a nutshell If Patti Smith became a lawyer.

Best note from my showrunner/director Bryan [Cranston] said to me and Wayne [Pére], “Just talk all over each other! Chaos. I like it.”

Pandemic splurge Fixing up my house. To sell it.

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COURTNEY B. VANCE (Lovecraft Country, HBO and Genius: Aretha, Nat Geo)

My character in a nutshell [Lovecraft Country‘s] Uncle George is your favorite uncle who, if you were a young lady, you’d want him to give you away at your wedding. If you were a young man, you’d be asking him the coolest/classiest way to ask your girl to marry you.

Best note from my showrunner/director From Aretha director Anthony Hemingway: “Just take the mic and preach, Courtney!”

Pandemic splurge Spending time with my family.

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MICHEAL WARD (Small Axe, Amazon)

Best note from my showrunner/director Steve McQueen said to commit to the choices that I make and to not second-guess myself unless I’m told otherwise to do so.

Favorite social media reaction People talking about the dance scenes and my bum. It was just so weird because Steve McQueen had done an extreme close-up on our waist area, and people were just loving it really.

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LYDIA WEST (It’s a Sin, HBO Max)

My character in a nutshell The selfless friend, the brave ally and the loving caregiver.

Favorite social media reaction The hashtag #BeMoreJill and people tagging their respective Jills was most touching after each episode. It highlighted that we all have and are a Jill to someone.

This story first appeared in the June 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.