AwardsLine Editor Christy Grosz, Managing Editor Anthony D’Alessandro and contributors Paul Brownfield and Thomas J. McLean assist with Deadline’s TV coverage.
Lead acting comedy series nominee Don Cheadle (House Of Lies) and supporting acting hopefuls Mayim Bialik (Big Bang Theory), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) and Tony Hale (Veep) share thoughts on their characters, shows and nominations.
DON CHEADLE (House Of Lies, Showtime)
AwardsLine: You play a narcissist, Marty Kaan, who heads his own management consulting firm and is generally irresistible to women. That’s usually a recipe for playing a character over the top. And yet your performance is more subtly comedic.
Cheadle: Every season, I’ve been delightfully surprised by how far the writers and the creators want to push who he is and challenge the audience to still come along. For me, it’s still a discovery process. I don’t think he’s set, necessarily. I’m not ever thinking about playing it cool—he is a mess. People that have that much bravado, and enjoy lording it over, usually they’re scared of something.
AwardsLine: Before you were nominated last year, there were only six previous black performers to be cited for lead comedy actor. And only one of them won: Robert Guillaume for Benson in 1985. Shouldn’t the TV Academy be past this by now?
Cheadle: To me, it all still comes down to, at the end of the day if the product isn’t any good, I don’t know if the discussion matters. I just want to be in things that are good, and hopefully, me being in them will give black actors a shot. Not just black actors, but the whole multicultural diaspora of actors. And people will understand that it’s a commodity that can be monetized, just like anything else. I know that the real color that everyone’s concerned with is green. (But) is there a bias? For sure. This country started with a huge one, so I don’t think we’re past that.
Related: EMMYS: Comedy Lead Acting Handicap
AwardsLine: You have a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. Is it strange to now be answering questions like, “How does it feel to be nominated?”
Bialik: I’m also a mom, so I think women especially get into that practice of wearing different hats. For me, it’s just another facet of my personality. I identify primarily as a scientist, and that’s sort of how I see the world, and even the artistic parts of me are still very scientifically motivated.
AwardsLine: The Big Bang Theory is a commercially huge spoof on a broadcast network. Does that work against it in terms of critical reception or its hipness quotient?
Bialik: This year, we’ve seen places like The New York Times writing about us. Parts of the critical community have been very elitist about our four-camera sitcom, (but) the strength of our writing is really what we’re so proud of. Jim Parsons (who plays on-air love interest Sheldon Cooper) sort of broke it wide open with his Emmy wins before we even had broader critical acclaim.
AwardsLine: By the time you auditioned for Big Bang, you were Dr. Bialik. Did that help you get the part of Amy Farrah Fowler given the theme of the show?
Bialik: People joke, “Oh, do you talk about your degree with your other cast members?” No, no one cares. People care if you make what’s on the page funny. So when I went in to audition, I did my best impression of Jim Parsons, who I’d only learned existed the night before—I’d never seen the show.
AwardsLine: Had you stopped watching television before then?
Bialik: Yeah, I don’t watch television. (But) I watched Lost and Heroes.
BILL HADER (Saturday Night Live, NBC)
AwardsLine: What were the biggest takeaways from working on Saturday Night Live?
Hader: It taught me how to deal with show business. One has huge successes, huge failures and middle-of-the-road sketches that some people liked and others didn’t. It taught me that no one knows anything, but you keep working and creating. Anytime I would strategize the show, I would just fall flat on my face. Anytime I would say, “Ah, let’s just do this thing,” it would turn into Stefan. It would turn into a sketch people liked.
AwardsLine: What was your agenda for pushing your characters?
Hader: After a while, I didn’t know where I fit in. Andy (Samberg) had the shorts. Kristen (Wiig) and Jason (Sudeikis) were just geniuses. So I was like, “Where the heck do I fit in on this thing?” So I figured out on this A-Team ensemble that I would do impressions. That was a strategic thing. I’ll write impression pieces: The Vincent Price Show or I’ll do Vinny Vedecci, but he’ll do impressions within that. I would write a ton of impression sketches that never went on the air, but what happened out of that is a writer would announce to the room that I have a John Malkovich or an Al Pacino impression. And the writers would say, “Good to know.”
AwardsLine: Did you know this was going to be your last season?
Hader: Over Christmas, I decided I wanted to move to L.A. I told Lorne (Michaels) way early. A lot of people wait until the end of the season. I told him in February, and we had a chance to wear the season for a while.
Related: EMMYS: Comedy Series Overview
AwardsLine: Why has your role as Gary clicked with viewers?
Hale: He’s one of those guys that always sees the glass as half full. His identity is Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). He’s in a job he should have left in his 20s but he stayed into his 40s just because he doesn’t know anything else. And he’s just a sweet character. Selina could literally be screaming at him, cussing at him and just degrading him, and all he hears are unicorns and rainbows—he just worships her. And the political world is obviously very back-biting, and it’s a difficult world to be in, and he’s this vulnerable, gullible guy in the middle of it trying to make a better day.
AwardsLine: You submitted your role as Gary on Veep and not Buster from Arrested Development for Emmy consideration.
Why is that?
Hale: I did do that. It was out of my hands at little bit. I love both shows and to have a year where I’m doing two shows I love and I’m a fan of was just a dream. I’m pretty new to this. It kind of happened that way, and I’m grateful it turned out well.
Related: EMMYS: Drama Series Overview