Road to the Emmys 2012: The Guest Star Nominees

Not long ago the guest actor and actress categories were practically an homage to the “Law & Order” franchise.

While the NBC franchise still delivers standout parts for guest stars, others series are joining the kudo ranks. Multiple nominees “30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Good Wife” are just a handful of shows whose guest stars are garnering attention.

According to “The Good Wife” exec producers Robert King and Michelle King, several factors go into landing top-notch actors that garner kudos attention: A good casting director, characters that are integral to the story and a welcoming environment.

Location might play into it, too, considering “The Good Wife,” “30 Rock,” and “SNL” are all produced in New York.

“Brooke Kennedy, our executive producer in New York, and the production team have made really great efforts to accommodate people with difficult theater schedules,” Michelle King says. “When actors are so tremendous, sometimes one has to work a little harder to make sure they can be on the show, and production has been fantastic about that.”

Adds “30 Rock” exec producer Robert Carlock: “Being in New York opens you to another pool of people, whether it’s because they live here, are here working in theater or shooting a movie.”

Eric Deggans, TV critic of Tampa Bay Times, says the thrill of collaboration appeals to actors and viewers alike.

“It’s the fun of seeing big names do something different. You want to see what they do in Tina Fey’s world or on ‘SNL.’ They’re playing in a venue we never see them in and they’re having a really good time. It’s about these two creative forces coming together and seeing what happens.”

It’s equally true of comedic actors playing dramatic roles or dramatic actors showing their funny side, such as Jon Hamm generating laughs on “30 Rock” and “Raising Hope” star Martha Plimpton, nominated for her guest role as a hard-line attorney on “The Good Wife.”

“Who knew Jon Hamm would be one of the funniest people working in Hollywood? You’d never know that just based on ‘Mad Men,’ ” says Neal Justin, TV critic for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Then he goes on ‘SNL’ and ’30 Rock’ – it opened up his audience and options for the future.”

Glance at the guest actor and actress comedy nominees and it’s clear the “SNL”-”30 Rock” connection can’t be dismissed. There have been many actors, such as Hamm, who have appeared on both shows.

“It’s nice to have ‘SNL’ out there. We think of it as a farm league for our needs,” Carlock jokes. Like “SNL,” he says “30 Rock” cultivates a fun-but-challenging work environment. “We have all these silly parts that could have just been functional, but instead we like to put a little meat on the bone.

And “SNL” vets who come back to the show often are noticed by the TV Acad, such as current noms Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph — both of whom returned to host this past season.

As for “The Good Wife,” Robert King says they actively pursued Michael J. Fox — also nominated in the comedy category for his turn in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — upon learning he liked the show. Fox, in fact, has appeared on “The Good Wife” for several seasons.

“We love getting our hooks into an actor who develops and creates a character on the show,” King says. “Then we can bring them back like a long lost friend and see another side of that character.”

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Guest Star Nominees
Short stay, kudos play
Comedy | Drama
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