Backstage Notes: Emmys 2000

Mullally accepts with grace

In her win for supporting actress in a comedy, “Will & Grace’s” Megan Mullally may be vindicated for being the one “W&G” cast member not nommed for a Golden Globe, but it’s all good, as far as she’s concerned. The Globes were good for the show, as are the Emmys.

“The award’s great not just for me, but for the show — and that Sean (Hayes) won,” she said of “W&G’s” sweep of the supporting acting in a comedy category.

Also providing momentum is the show’s new timeslot on NBC this fall, moving from Tuesdays to Thursdays at 9 p.m. “The new timeslot is really going to be nice, judging from the past,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of good shows around us.”

* * *

Hayes, who plays the louder-than-life Jack on NBC’s “Will & Grace,” was definitely not in character backstage. Instead, the thesp seemed positively stunned to have picked up a statuette for his first-even nomination.

“This is the part you see on TV every year, and I’m standing here,” Hayes said. “How strange is that?” While he was relatively reserved, Hayes imagined Jack would have a slightly different reaction to winning an Emmy. “He’s scream so loud all the dogs around here would be running around.”

Meanwhile, there’s been buzz that NBC might eventually try to mount a “W&G” spinoff featuring Hayes and comic cohort Mullally. Hayes said he’d “cross that bridge when we get to it. … We’ve got seven-year contracts for ‘Will & Grace.’ ”

* * *

“As a gay man, I want to say I finally met a girl I want to sleep with,” “Will & Grace” exec producer Max Mutchnick said of the Emmy he was given for outstanding comedy series.

* * *

“The West Wing” may have brought added attention to politics this season, but it’s not meant to be good for you, said “West Wing” creator-exec producer Aaron Sorkin, who along with Rick Cleveland won for writing for a drama series.

“Obviously we’re all very proud that we get some attention for the way we raise the issues,” Sorkin said. “But we’re not asking anyone to eat their vegetables. We’re simply trying to captivate you for as long as we ask for your attention.”

* * *

Maybe Rob Lowe ought to be hosting E!’s “Fashion Emergency.”

As Sorkin was bounding out of his seat to accept his award for drama writing, Lowe stopped him for a bear hug — and at the same time quickly tried to readjust Sorkin’s hopelessly twisted bow tie.

Lowe managed to make things a bit better, but not enough: Sorkin’s tie was still a bit off-center when he gave his acceptance speech.

“The tie’s been a problem all night,” Sorkin admitted later. In his defense, he said he actually tied the tie himself rather than using a clip-on.

“When you do that you’re in for a little trouble,” he said. By the time Sorkin got backstage, the tie was simply draped around his neck.

“It’s fallen apart. And now I’m going for the Sammy Davis look,” Sorkin quipped.

* * *

‘Wing’s’ Richard Schiff, who won for supporting actor in a drama, was happy to pick up an Emmy. He was less thrilled about having to go through the 30-second hell just before his name was announced as a winner.

“If you’ve ever looked at the barrel of a gun, it’s kind of similar. Everything slows down and your mind kind of goes blank. … It’s not fun.”

Indeed, Schiff forgot to thank one very important person in his acceptance speech: His wife. She might not have noticed, however. “We have a 16-day-old baby who’s getting breast-fed somewhere in this building,” he said.

Fortunately, he had a chance to make up for it when the series took best drama Emmy and he got up on stage. “I get to finish my speech,” he said, before going on to thank his wife.

* * *

Sela Ward, winner for “Once and Again,” said: “I thought I don’t have a chance in hell, but I’m so glad I’m here.”

On whether the characters on the show will ultimately marry, Ward said she “honestly hasn’t asked.”

“What they told me is that we’ll have a rocky road this season. They’ll be finding out things about each other they don’t really like. I hope they’ll end up together. I think it would be interesting if they did (get married). Most people would think the show is over, but I think it would still be fresh, as this show always is.”

* * *

Halle Berry has won numerous kudos for playing Dorothy Dandridge, but with her Emmy win, she’s probably picked up her last statuette for the role.

“It’s the end of my Dorothy Dandridge journey,” she said backstage. “It’s filled with a kind of sadness because it’s the end. That emotion is sort of overriding my joy right now.”

Berry said the entire experience has been “sort of surreal. … Before this year, I hardly heard my name for anything.”

Next up for the thesp: The feature “Swordfish,” with John Travolta.

* * *

James Gandolfini was still choked up over his best actor win by the time he got backstage Sunday. But the joy over his win was tempered by the fact that his was the only win for “The Sopranos.”

“I wished we’d done a little better,” he admitted.

Gandolfini refused to blame the new more populist voting system for his show’s poor performance. In fact, he said he didn’t know much about the rule changes. “The less I know about that, the better,” he said.

* * *

“Malcolm in the Middle” is obviously funny — at least to Emmy voters — but not it’s not about obvious comedy, the show’s director and writer insist. “Malcolm” director Todd Holland, who won for directing in a comedy series, said he likes his job because the show isn’t about jokes, but rather about characters in outrageous situations.

One such situation in the new season will be when Malcolm and family have to dress up as clowns. “Everyone in the world hates clowns,” said “Malcolm’s” Linwood Boomer, who won the Emmy for writing in a comedy series. “No one has ever liked them. It’s a giant fraud.” Also coming up on “Malcolm”: the addition of grandparents to the show. “We’re looking for someone to play the ultimate mom’s mom,” Boomer said. “I’m terrified about that search.”

* * *

It’s not unusual for winners to give a shout out to their agents when accepting their awards. But Boomer gave special attention to his rep, making Endeavor’s Rick Rosen the first name out of his mouth when he got on stage.

Boomer gave big ups to several other execs, including Fox Entertainment prexy (and former Regency TV topper) Gail Berman and Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow, the latter for “making sure it was a hit.” Boomer even remembered ousted Fox Entertainment prexy Doug Herzog “for believing in the show” from the start.

* * *

Before every take during the filming of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” Jack Lemmon said the words “magic time,” according Hank Azaria, who won the Emmy for supporting actor in a movie or miniseries for “Morrie.” Working with Lemmon was “one of those times when the real person exceeds the legends” Azaria added. “(Winning the Emmy) is pretty excellent; working with Jack Lemmon was better.”

* * *

When it was his turn, Emmy recipient Lemmon said: “I can say the same thing about him. I meant it when I said I didn’t think I would be up here with this if it weren’t for him. He’s a very giving actor. Some actors act at you, they don’t act with you. … Hank is with you and goes into what you’re feeling. I think that was Mitch Album’s relationship with Morrie, and I think that’s what Hank brought across.”

Lemmon’s next project: Larry Gelbart’s film “Power Failure.” “Meg Tilly is going to play my wife, which is one of the reasons I cut the gray hair short.”

Lemmon has used the phrase “magic time” since he was in college and his old director friend Andy McCullough said the words at the end of the countdown to air. Lemmon blew his scene the first time that happened and he’s said those words ever since. “That’s what acting really is. When the curtain goes up or the camera goes live, it’s magic time if you can pull it off.”

Lemmon, who has been oft-referred to at awards shows, had something to say about the woman who handed him his statue Sunday night, Geena Davis. “She’s the tallest thing I’ve ever seen.”

* * *

Upon entering a backstage press room, Michael J. Fox looked out at the reporters and computers and said, “This is the deadline room. Will somebody check eBay and see whether I got the lamps?”

While this fall on “Spin City” will mark the first season without Fox in the lead role, he said he is open to making appearances on the series. He also said he’d like to be involved in the sequel to “Stuart Little,” although there is no deal yet.

“That was a fun project; I really loved that, as a result, I had children coming up to me and saying it’s OK to be different.”

As far as Fox’s kids following in his footsteps, he said he wouldn’t pick them to work in the world of non-profits yet. “As far as acting, kids act like crazy — ‘who did that,’ ‘I didn’t.’ All kids are brilliant actors. When they’re 18 and would like to do that, it’s great.”

On his health, Fox said he feels good. “I feel pretty good, although I’m a little tired at the moment. I’m at a place with the medication, fairly functional, I can hold this baby (Emmy statue) with either hand … 99% of it is mental in a way. It’s all about losing your brain without losing your mind.”

* * *

Louis J. Horvitz couldn’t come backstage after winning his Emmy for directing for a variety or music program because he was backstage doing just the type of thing that got him the award. Horvitz, who won for directing the 72nd Annual Academy Awards, thanked the crew around him as he continued to call the shots for the Emmy telecast. He said he was allowed to take his time with his speech. “I’m in the truck, so I’m kind of in control,” he said.

* * *

“The Corner” director Charles S. Dutton’s response to his win for directing the HBO mini was “There goes my acting career.” The thesp said he has had a hard time finding offers for acting roles since the entertainment business caught on that he could direct. “You know this industry, once you do something different, they forget what else you do.”

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