Road to the Emmys: Down to the Wire

Winning an Emmy is a rewarding personal achievement for actors, but the business benefits are not as clear-cut.

“I think with any award, it’s like a fried egg: It’s hot for a while and then it’s cold,” says Felicity Huffman, an Emmy winner for “Desperate Housewives” in 2005. “When it’s hot, it’s really good. And when it’s cold, you go, ‘I don’t know what to do with that?’ ”

Hank Azaria says an Emmy ultimately means less business-wise than people may think.

“It’s lovely on the night, and it’s nice to be acknowledged, but beyond that I think it’s a mistake to think it’s going to change your career in some of kind of a big way,” he explains. “You better be careful if you’re thinking that.”

An Emmy can, however, sometimes be used as a bargaining chip. “Sometimes you can demand more money and get bigger roles, but it depends,” he says. “I’ve won four, and they’ve all done different things.”

Kelsey Grammer, a five-time Emmy winner, says awards do “more for a show than they do for an actor, but they’re a great feather in the cap, and they can bump up the price a little bit in syndication. The personal kudos are great, but it’s just window dressing.”

Adds Kathy Baker, a three-time winner for “Picket Fences”: “I think you could win 10, and it wouldn’t necessarily matter. It isn’t the number of Emmys; it’s the fact that you’ve won the Emmy. It’s something you always have no matter what. They can’t ever take that away from you.”

Jean Smart, who won two Emmys for her guest role on “Frasier” and a third for “Samantha Who?,” says she worries that a win may lead producers to think, Oh, now she’s probably more expensive.

“That’s not good, but I suppose if someone was not familiar with your work it might not hurt. It might help to say, ‘She won three Emmys,’ ” says Smart, who adds she was only disappointed that she didn’t win for her role as the first lady on “24.” “I will be honest that was like, aw, shucks. I’ll give you one of the ‘Frasiers’ back.’ ”

Talent agency reps say the business benefits of winning an Emmy vary depending on the category: A lead actor award means more than a supporting or guest actor nod.

When it comes time to renegotiate an actor’s deal, an Emmy win can be used to justify a request for a larger paycheck. Some actors even get an Emmy bonus written into their contracts: If they win an award, they receive a financial benefit.

An Oscar carries more weight than an Emmy, and the value of an Emmy is greater in TV than in the film world, agency representatives say. It also doesn’t take an Emmy to help a film career: Jon Hamm has none, but his film career has been on the rise since the debut of “Mad Men.”

Emmy winners say there are intangible benefits to a win.

“As an actor, it’s great to get validated because there’s that part of you that’s always going, ‘I’m a fraud, I’m not really an actor,’ ” Huffman explains. “It’s self-validating, which actually translates into you’ve got more self-esteem when you walk into the room for the audition, which is good.”

She says immediately after an Emmy win, “People take your calls a little easier. People are a little more eager to meet you.”

Kim Delaney, a 1997 Emmy winner for “NYPD Blue,” says an Emmy win can mitigate the need to “go in for as many meetings. People are aware of your work.”

She said it also benefits a future employer who wants to trade on the promotional value of having an Emmy-winning actor in his project.

Jeremy Piven, a three-time Emmy winner for “Entourage,” says he never heard from his agents that his victories made a business difference. But the actor said it brought him more respect closer to home.

“I think I impressed my niece, Pearl,” he said. “She asked why Uncle Jeremy won a surprise on television, so I think I may have gained a bit of ground with Pearl. But with the industry, I’m not sure.”

ROAD TO THE EMMYS: DOWN TO THE WIRE:
Doors of perception | Burnett preps for Emmy kudocast | Lynch readies for Emmy host duties | No shortage of high end Emmy parties

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more