Resumes, craft and familiarity mean everything
At least among women, TV Academy voters apparently believe Emmys are wasted on the young.
This decade, just one thesp under the age of 35 — Drea de Matteo of “The Sopranos” — has won in the outstanding lead or supporting drama actress categories, and no under-30 actress has been honored since “The X-Files” star Gillian Anderson — 10 years ago.
In the supporting drama actress competish, four of the five past winners have been vets who have clocked decades in the biz: Blythe Danner (twice), Tyne Daly and Stockard Channing.
For all the talk of ageism in Hollywood, have TV Academy voters been perpetuating a sort of reverse ageism in their votes?
Fox casting exec VP Marcia Shulman believes the answer is more complicated than that. For one thing, actors continue to hone their craft through the years and are, quite simply, better as they get older.
“There’s nothing like experience,” Shulman says. “And just through the depths of experience, you probably just see more interesting performances.”
Shulman also points out that writers frequently write more specific roles for older thesps, who are usually better known. As a result, those tailor-made characters fit like a glove — and the actors can shine as a result.
“There does seem to be a specificity in writing for an older character,” she says. “When I’ve worked with people like David E. Kelley, he will really create a role for somebody whose work he’s very familiar with and who brings a voice to his vision.”
That’s especially true in the guest star category, adds NBC casting chief Marc Hirschfeld.
“A lot of these guest-star roles are crafted to attract an actor that might normally do an episode of a series,” he says. “Dick Van Dyke in ‘Scrubs,’ for example. They create a juicy role that an actor like him would be attracted to doing and one that’s almost Emmy worthy.”
On the flip side, younger thesps are frequently assigned to play broader, more everyman/everywoman characters. Because they’re more frequently leading the show, their characters are forced to be broader — while older actors can sink their teeth into more nuanced roles.
“There’s not a big emphasis on fantastic character actors anymore,” Shulman says.
Also, execs admit that these days younger actors are almost more famous for their antics as profiled on the pages of the gossip mags than what they do onscreen — which may distract Emmy voters.
“I think there’s a kind of sameness to a lot of young talent right now,” Shulman says. “How they look and what their personas are. The older (actresses) are much more distinctive. They’re bigger characters.”
Then there’s the ongoing rap that Emmy voters are older than the population at large and tend to gravitate toward the familiar. That’s why familiar faces and shows seem to hit the podium year after year.
It’s not only younger faces that get shut out at the Emmys, after all: It’s also the younger-skewing shows that feature those younger stars. Even at its creative height, the WB (which burst at the seams with young talent) failed to conjure up any TV Academy love. It remains to be seen whether successor net the CW will do much better.
“For some reason, Emmy voters want to recognize actors and actresses who have paid their dues in a way,” Hirschfeld says. “There’s a trend toward voting for the seasoned veteran, almost in the same way they do in Broadway for the Tonys. It’s almost like they’re recognizing a whole body of work.”
With an influx of slightly femme-centric sudsers continuing to hit the air, the drama actress roster could start to see a few more younger faces. But well-known 2006 nominee Candice Bergen of “Boston Legal” could still have an edge over someone like breakout “Grey’s Anatomy” cast member Katherine Heigl.