Kenan Thompson, host of the 74th Emmy Awards, at the press preview event
74th Emmy Awards executive producers Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart and host Kenan Thompson at the press preview event
Governors Gala Committee chairs Keiren Fisher and Halina Siwolop
After scaled-down ceremonies in recent years, the Emmys are ready to bust out a bit. At a pre-telecast press event on September 8, held on the Television Academy plaza, executive producers Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart — who are guiding the show for the third time — told guests that they plan to draw from everything they've learned about the event to make this one better than ever.
"The last three years, we called them the Covid Period," Stewart said.
This year, their aim is to deliver a glamorous — and fun — night, period.
"The first year was very difficult; last year was a bit freer," Stewart added. "What we did last year was, we created a party, put in tables, and got rid of that formal seating. The great thing was that people loved it. And we went, 'Wait, we might be on to something here.' So, what we've done this year is the same — but on steroids."
Those watching the show on NBC — or streaming it on Peacock — will see multiple stages, immersive screens, nominees and their guests seated at tables and some laid-back but upbeat hosting from the unflappable Kenan Thompson.
Thompson, the longest-tenured cast member of Saturday Night Live , who joined the producers and Academy chairman and CEO Frank Scherma at the event, said he was still working on material for the big night. "There's gonna be stuff, and it'll be funny, probably," he said, smiling. "We'll be having fun, right? Tune in and watch!"
The versatile comedy veteran won't be the only entertainer bringing his talents to the table. Music superstar John Legend will also be performing a new song, "Pieces," during the In Memoriam segment. Also adding flair to the festivities will be DJ Zedd, who will keep the energy up between awards and during breaks, and comedian Sam Jay, of HBO's Max's Pause with Sam Jay, will bring her distinctive vibe as the evening's announcer.
Thompson, said Hudlin, "will be flanked by these other amazing talents, so again, we're bringing the best every moment of the show."
Even the Emmys afterparty is getting a makeover, with the traditional Governors Ball moniker replaced by the alliterative Governors Gala. Co-chairs of the Gala committee, Halina Siwolop and Keiren Fisher — governors of the Academy's Art Directors/Set Decorators and Production Executives peer groups, respectively — have moved the event outside on the plaza of the Los Angeles Convention Center, for views of the downtown lights.
"We felt like a ball was very traditional, and we needed to change it and make it modern," said Fisher.
"We'll be celebrating under the stars, and it just made sense," added Siwolop. "This is a gala, not really a ball. We're not doing the cotillion."
Nominees can expect to look good throughout the evening, as Drybar will be offering hair touch-ups before they hit the red carpet, before they speak with the media and, for those whose names are announced on stage, before they take their official winner's photo.
"We had an opportunity to partner with the Emmys, and we felt it was a great opportunity," said Anna Kimble, senior director of global education and events for the hair and beauty brand. "We'll also be at the Governors Gala with free products. So, everyone can also retouch their hair throughout the night, as they party on."
One thing that won't change about the Gala: food and drink will be abundant. Franciacorta Wines is back for its second year, providing sparkling wine to Emmy revelers and to those attending pre-Emmys events. "We believe in long relations that bring happiness and visibility," said Franciacorta's Gianmario Villa, who also emphasized Franciacorta's respect for nature and commitment to responsible production, noting that 66 percent of the vineyards in the Italian region where the company's products originate are sustainable and organic.
Serving a variety of red and white wines to Gala guests will be Justin Vineyards. "We think it's great exposure for what Justin brings to the table," master sommelier Joe Spelman explained.
For those savoring spirits, Ketel One will be offering four cocktails, one of which will be non-alcoholic and made with Seedlip. "It's so great to be back live and in person with everyone to celebrate," said mixologist Charles Joly, who noted he and fellow mixologist Lauren Paylor will be batching up 10,000 cocktails over the course of the Emmy celebrations. "These are people who worked their entire lives," Joly continued, "and this is a moment to celebrate with them, so we're proud to be here."
There will also be plenty of delicious foods to enjoy, including those of chef Adam Perry Lang, formerly of the barbecue outpost APL, who will be cooking 2,000 pounds of meat. And not just any kind of meat, but short rib burnt ends. "It's gonna be a barbecue brisket that's cooked for fourteen hours," Lang said. Those slow-cooking hours were a pleasure, he added. "[Being here] is such a fantastic opportunity," he said. "I've always wanted to do it like this, and the Gala, it's just such an opportunity and a privilege."
Meanwhile, dessert dynamo Sherry Yard will be enticing guests with a banana beignet, an affogato featuring vanilla gelato and a cold brew infusion, and gluten-free chocolate cake pops. But the sweet part for Yard is simply being part of the festivities. "Oh, my goodness," she enthused. "It's such a tradition. And I think there's been a whole rejuvenation of television over the last five years. And to be a part of it is just an honor, just to add my sweet touch to it."
The Emmys also have an official car this year, the Telluride from Kia, rebranded and updated — and not available until October. "It's a perennial favorite," said Jeff Jablansky, product and technology communications manager for Kia America. "It's fantastic, and it's been remade as an off-road vehicle, too."
Attendees at the Emmys will also enjoy the Giving Suite, back for its ninth year in support of the Television Academy Foundation. "It's a great opportunity for us," said the Foundation's executive director, Jodi Delaney. "It's a little different than other gifting suites in that the proceeds go to the Foundation and support our education programs, bringing the next generation a pathway into the industry," she added, noting the class of 2022 was 69 percent women, 62 percent people of color, and 27 percent first-generation college students. "It's just a thrill to be back in person and to see our students and all be together again."
Students from the Foundation's renowned summer internship program will also participate in this year's Emmys as trophy presenters during the telecast. Two of the interns — Dara Adedara, who is studying at USC, and Manuel Diaz, from Pasadena City College — were at the press event.
Clearly, there will be no shortage of food, drinks and fun on Emmy night, but through it all, the producers and planners will keep the focus on the medium that means so much to all of us — television.
"Let's be honest," said Hudlin, "television is so central to our lives right now. It got us through the pandemic. We're still in there. We're still home. We're still watching. So, let's get together and watch some great television about great television."