Nearly four years ago, Golden Globes voters stunned awards watchers by naming the original BBC version of “The Office” the season’s best comedy — and star Ricky Gervais as the top TV comedy thesp.
In collecting the win, the U.K. “Office” (seen here on BBC America) beat out U.S. faves like “Sex and the City,” “Will & Grace” and “Arrested Development” for the top prize. And in the process, the surprise victory reminded everyone that it is indeed a group of foreign journalists who pick the Golden Globe winners.
Meanwhile, nominees with an international flair also appeared to have a leg up during last year’s Golden Globes ceremony, at least on the TV side.
For starters, Brit star Hugh Laurie scored his second consecutive Golden Globe for his starring role in Fox’s “House,” while “Ugly Betty” — the English-language U.S. version of popular telenovela “Yo soy Betty, la fea” — won the top comedy series trophy.
What’s more, British thesps — including Helen Mirren, Bill Nighy, Jeremy Irons and Emily Blunt — dominated the longform category.
“They are a global organization,” says one TV studio publicist, who, like everyone else contacted for this article, preferred to remain nameless for fear of offending the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. “It’s helpful to have international actors, as they’re more familiar.”
The question of whether or not international appeal plays into a Globes nom is more relevant this year, as the nets cast many of this year’s top roles with non-American thesps – most of whom are now, like Laurie, affecting an American accent for the show.
The casting is across the board: Michelle Ryan in “Bionic Woman,” Anna Friel in “Pushing Daisies,” Kevin McKidd on “Journeyman,” Sophia Myles on “Moonlight” are among the U.K. dwellers starring in new series this season. Then there’s the format translations, including “Viva Laughlin” (now canceled) and “Life Is Wild.”
Other international-flavored entries include “Aliens in America,” which touches on global themes and even features a Pakistani teen as a main character; and “Cane,” which boasts a virtually all-Latino cast and hits on outside-world issues as they impact the show’s Miami family.
But does all of that across-the-Pond and around-the-globe casting and storytelling really mean anything to Golden Globes voters?
“The HFPA are huge fans of Hugh – but it’s hard to know if it’s because he’s an international star or if it’s because they adore the show so much and he’s a great interview,” one studio exec says.
Another exec points out that because most of the overseas actors here in the U.S. play Americans, Golden Globes voters may not even be aware that they’re voting for or against an international star.
“I have to always tell them where people are from,” she says.
What’s more, “knowing the HFPA members really well, they all live here, and they all watch U.S. shows,” she says. “Because they’re so Americanized, they’re less attached to their own countries than we’d like to believe. They’re also so varied, it’s not like everyone’s from the U.K. or Australia.”
Ultimately, Globes voters appear more interested in awarding fresh faces and series first (and in front of the Emmys, which doesn’t telecast until eight months later).
Indeed, last year’s win for “Ugly Betty” and star America Ferrera was more a chance for the Golden Globes to recognize the hit show first than it was a factor of “Betty” flowing from Colombia.
And indeed, the Emmy Awards eventually named Ferrera best comedy actress as well.
Of course, this year, there’s a good chance that (coincidentally) one of the new faces honored by the Globes could hail from overseas, just by the sheer fact that so many TV thesps this year are foreign-born.
“If there’s a standout from the beginning of the season, they want to be the first to say it,” says one studio exec. “They’re journalists, after all, and so the shows with critical acclaim sometimes are more honored by them versus the shows that are popular from the get-go. That’s where their sensibilities lie.”