Road to the Emmys 2012: The Supporting Actor & Actress

“Richard Schiff taking a shit in Don (Cheadle’s) briefcase will forever be one of the greatest moments in my life,” says Kristen Bell, referring to just one of the tartly perverse moments that regularly occurred during the first season of Showtime’s savage social satire “House of Lies.” “Everyone seems so normal on the set, but the dark things that come out of the writers’ heads are amazing.”

“House of Lies” stars Cheadle as Marty Kaan, an ace management consultant specializing in spinning corporate crises and scandals; he can make that briefcase of his smell like a rose in no time. Bell plays Jeannie, Marty’s most capable and ambitious team member, someone who will do anything to surmount her ignominious past.

“Jeannie was cracked open” during season one, Bell says. “She became more disturbingly glorious than I thought she would be. When you do pilots, usually, the creator or director will say, ‘You’ll have a great story, and that’s usually not quite true. But in taking this job, I didn’t care. I loved this world so much, I would’ve been satisfied with just a couple of scenes per episode.”

She got much more than that, of course, and the show, as much as any series on TV, tapped into the zeitgeist and American anxiety about the direction of the culture in its arch depiction of the triumph of corporate malfeasance.

“When Marty breaks the fourth wall and addresses the viewer, it’s partially calling out the audience as much as he’s calling out the characters,” Bell says. “(Series creator) Matt Carnahan created an angry world but it holds a mirror up to good people with demons and how you can lose your humanity when you succumb to greed.”

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