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For Guest Actors Like Wilson, Fox and Damon, Art Imitates Life

A-list thesps riff on their public and private personas on television

The Twitterverse burned bright after sexy Patrick Wilson portrayed a doctor getting physical with Lena Dunham’s schlumpy character Hannah on HBO’s “Girls.”

A typical fan tweeted “Patrick Wilson is so hot he would never do Lena Dunham” and critics blasted the two-day sensual affair episode as unrealistic.

Wilson’s wife, Dagmara Dominczyk, couldn’t help but jump into the fray:

“Funny, his wife is a size 10, muffin top & all, and he does her just fine.”

Wilson took his sex symbol image and allowed that even the sexiest of guys might go for a less-than-glamourous girl. And he’s just one of several Emmy-worthy actors who took their guest-star roles personally and turned it into the perfect fit for their characters.

Wilson lived in the Greenpoint neighborhood, where the episode was shot, for six years. He says he frequently felt like “the old guy in the neighborhood” and the role fit him despite social media comments.

“Do you know me so well you know exactly my type of girl?” Wilson says. “It was not a great stretch to be attracted to (Hannah/Lena). But (unlike Wilson), he’s a wreck inside with his own issues. Her issues are just more overt.”

Actors have always tried to work their own life experiences into a role. Michael J. Fox faced a particularly difficult task transitioning from his Emmy-winning comedy turns and popular film roles after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991.

Fox announced he was retiring from full-time acting in 2000, yet it wasn’t long before he popped up in three memorable guest starring roles, including his Emmy-nominated turn on “Boston Legal” and a prized part playing an odious paraplegic on “Rescue Me” in 2009.

That year, “Rescue Me” executive producer Denis Leary talked about how Fox could parlay his own experiences to get into the character.

“I had concern for him as a friend, like I hope he feels all right,” Leary said before hilariously commenting on just how well Fox settled into his role. “I fucking never won an Emmy and he’s gonna fucking win an Emmy.”

And Fox did.

Now Fox could potentially add to the Emmy pile with his portrayal of attorney Louis Canning on “The Good Wife.” Canning uses his medical condition to gain advantage in court. Last year, Fox was nominated for his guest-star role as Canning and in comedy for playing himself on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He returns to a series this fall in a comedy about a father of three who deals with family, career and Parkinson’s.

In Matt Damon’s case, he opted to parody his good-guy image in “House of Lies” to bring attention to his charity, Water.org. His goal of creating a higher awareness to his cause also resulted in some guest-star Emmy buzz for his spot-on performance as a narcissistic actor looking to boost his profile.

Don Cheadle, star of “House of Lies,” says it was important to Damon to use the show to further his cause, so Damon suggested “being the worst kind of me.” The result was a hysterical episode that sparked considerable interest in water.org, proving a perfect fit for Damon the actor and Damon the social activist.

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