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July 21, 2011

Inside Emmy Nominations Day: Surprises, New Faces for 2011

Early rise leads to happy surprise nomination for actress Melissa McCarthy of Mike & Molly, as she and Fringe star Joshua Jackson reveal this year's 63rd Primetime Emmy Award nominees. The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards will air live September 18 on FOX.


Actress Melissa McCarthy

As a former member of the Groundlings, the famous Los Angeles improv company, Melissa McCarthy has handled plenty of unexpected on-stage moments.

But she was a bit startled at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards announcement when her cohost, Joshua Jackson, read her name among the nominees for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.

“Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie; Tina Fey, 30 Rock; Laura Linney, The Big C; Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly…,” Jackson said, placing a congratulatory hand on McCarthy’s shoulder before continuing: “Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope; and Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation.”

McCarthy took some deep breaths. “Oh, keep it together,” she said quietly, then after another breath resumed her hosting job: “The nominees for lead actor in a comedy series are….”

McCarthy, who stars as teacher Molly Flynn in the freshman CBS comedy, and Jackson, a star of the Fox thriller Fringe, did the honors at this year’s announcement, always an early-morning affair — going live at 5:40 a.m. PDT to coincide with the East Coast morning shows. The pair joined Television Academy chairman and CEO John Shaffner July 14 at the Academy’s Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood.

After the six-minute ceremony, in which Shaffner and the actors revealed the nominees in eleven major Emmy categories, McCarthy told reporters she’d been completely surprised.

“I’m trying to process it,” she said. “I didn’t quite know what was going on. I’m not sure what I said. When I saw my name [on the Teleprompter], I thought it meant that I should be talking. I started shaking. Everything started humming.”

But onlookers couldn’t tell. “She’s a cool customer,” Jackson said. “If somebody would have called my name, I would have had a show-me-the-money freak-out!”

McCarthy said a good cry was coming — “when I go to my car and call my husband and my parents.”

The nomination is a first for McCarthy, who has gotten rave reviews of late — for the comedy feature Bridesmaids as well as her series. “Mike & Molly is the best experience,” she said. “To love your job so much and get recognized — it’s overwhelming. In this business, you hope to work — and you hope someone other than your parents sees it. When it happens to you, you can’t believe it.

“It’s a good morning,” added the actress, who was dressed in an outfit she’d designed herself: a pintucked blue-flowered skirt and a melon blouse with three-quarter sleeves. “I should get up this early more often.”

For Jackson, the “presenting part was really good — getting out of bed at three-fifteen, not so much.” Though, the Emmy gig did get him a day off. Production on the fourth season of Fringe was due to start in Vancouver — “in about three-and-a-half hours,” Jackson noted, adding that a seventeen-hour day on the set is not unusual.

Shaffner thanked both stars for accepting the early-morning duty and explained how McCarthy had been sheltered from the big news.

“We set it up in rehearsal,” he said. “We read other names. When we finished the rehearsal, she assumed that those were the nominees. Then we took out a couple of the names, put up the real list and she was blown away.”

Of course, many others got good news that morning, including additional Emmy newbies.

This year’s comedy series performer categories include actors recognized with a first-time nomination or for the first time in a particular role. Besides McCarthy, they include leads Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope; Laura Linney, The Big C; Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory; Matt LeBlanc, Episodes; and Louis C.K., Louie; and supporting performers Betty White, Hot in Cleveland; and Ed O’Neill, Modern Family.

In the drama series performer categories, new entrants include: leads Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law; Mireille Enos, The Killing; Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire; and Timothy Olyphant, Justified; and supporting performers Margo Martindale and Walton Goggins, Justified; Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire; Michelle Forbes, The Killing; Josh Charles and Alan Cumming, The Good Wife; and Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones.

Overall, television industry members are competing in ninety-nine categories this year, with Emmys in twenty-six categories to be given out Sunday, September 18, during the Fox telecast form NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE. The show, which will air live coast-to-coast, will be hosted by Glee’s Jane Lynch and executive produced by Mark Burnett. Emmys in seventy-three categories, mostly for behind-the-scenes artistry will be awarded September 10 at the Creative Arts Awards, also at the NOKIA.

HBO topped the competition with 104 nominations; twenty-one of those went to its period miniseries Mildred Pierce, making it the most-nominated program. AMC’s Mad Men, a perennial Emmy favorite, took nineteen; HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire followed with eighteen. Rounding out the double digits were: Saturday Night Live, sixteen; Game of Thrones and 30 Rock, thirteen each; Glee, twelve; Masterpiece’s Downton Abbey and Too Big to Fail, eleven each; and American Idol and The Kennedys, ten each.

“I’m thrilled with all the nominations,” Shaffner said. “It’s a really great mix this year. We’re seeing a nice blend of shows that continue to be recognized and new product that is coming up. We’re here to celebrate television and let America and our audience around the world know what great TV there is.”

That audience will tune in September 18 “to see who will take home the Emmy,” he added, but the event is more celebration than competition. “Every year we gather together to celebrate the previous year of TV and think about all the good things we shared — or sometimes the things we missed. We have the opportunity to catch up with our friends and see who’s doing what in the television universe.”

Ordering that Emmy universe will be Burnett, who brings worldwide experience to his producing role: his credits include CBS’s long-running Survivor, NBC’s The Voice and The Apprentice and ABC’s Expedition: Impossible. But the creator who brought tribal councils and island expulsions to primetime promises: “No canoes. We’re not going to do any bonfires. No odd rites or rituals. No one gets kicked off.”

Burnett’s approach to the Emmycast? If it ain’t broke….

“Last year’s show was really good. You’d have to be an idiot to completely change something that’s really working. But you can have fun with it.”

The fun for Burnett started with his choice of a host.

“Mike Darnell [Fox president of alternative entertainment] told me, ‘You can have any host you want — it does not need to be someone from Fox.’”

But Burnett wanted Lynch, and all agreed. “She’s irreverent, funny, experienced, an improv expert, beautiful and a lot of fun,” he said. “The way I produce, I always want to involve the host, their vision and their personality. I’ve done that very much with Jeff Probst on Survivor.”

Lynch’s sharp improv skills will definitely come into play, Shaffner noted. “It’s live television, and things are going to be taking place that we can’t anticipate. So there’s a lot of opportunity for commentary. Jane is like our Greek chorus. She’s going to give us some of the reactions that people may be having at home on the sofa.”

Burnett predicts that Emmy viewers will enjoy “a lot of laughs,” but also “genuine emotion — that’s what you hope for as a producer.”

The nominations announcement ceremony was produced by Doug Stewart and streamed live on here at Watch the 2011 Primetime Emmy Nominations webcast here on demand.

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