If, as the cliché goes, it’s an honor just to be nominated, how does it feel to be part of a very elite Emmy group — actors who’ve scored double nominations in the guest star and series regular categories?
“It’s daunting and nerve-wracking, as it feels like you’re competing with yourself as well as all the other nominees,” says Allison Janney, who is joined by three other double nominees this year: Emmy veterans Jon Hamm (for Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and AMC’s “Mad Men”), Christine Baranski (for CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Good Wife”) and, Gaby Hoffmann (HBO’s “Girls” and Amazon’s “Transparent”). Janney, who “already went through this last year,” says, “It’s highly unlikely” that she’ll repeat her impressive double victory of 2014, when she took home two trophies — for supporting actress in CBS’ “Mom” and guest actress in Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” — the same shows for which she’s nominated this year.
But Emmy has its favorites, even if they’re nominees more often than winners, and Baranski, with 13 noms and one win (for “Cybill” in 1995) was also double-nominated in 2010 for “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Good Wife” — and lost both times. Likewise Hamm, who’s been Emmy-nominated 15 times now, was also nominated for guest actor in a comedy (“30 Rock”) and lead in a drama (‘Mad Men”) in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and never won. Janney has been nominated nine times and won six Emmys.
So do multiple nominations hurt actors’ chances of winning anything? “I really don’t think so,” Baranski says. “This is the second time it’s happened to me, and it’s a nice dilemma to be in. And to be honest, I think most people don’t even realize you’re up for two.”
“It’s all new to me, so I have no idea if it’ll help or hurt,” adds Hoffmann, who has never been nominated before and is suddenly a double nominee. “It is lovely, but so surprising. I definitely never expected to get nominated for anything, let alone a guest star nomination, so I was very confused the morning of.”
Janney also notes that “people shouldn’t be surprised” by the four double nominees’ abilities to span genres. “They ask, ‘How can you do comedy and drama too?’ But 99% of actors can do both, but don’t get the opportunity, for whatever reason. They get typecast in one or the other.” She cites her pal Hamm (“I’ve known him since our old New York theater days”), who is not only a contender for lead actor in a drama for his final turn as the suave Don Draper in “Mad Men,” but also got the chance to showcase his comedic chops in his guest-starring role in “Kimmy Schmidt.”
Baranski, Hoffmann and Janney are all quick to give credit to the writing on their shows and the depth of their roles. “With people like Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady on ‘Big Bang,’ and then Robert and Michelle King on ‘The Good Wife,’ I’m working for the gold standard,” Baranski says. “And if you’re a guest star on a show like ‘Big Bang,’ you can’t help but look good. They make you shine.”
“Actors are only as good as the material they’re given, and I’ve been given such a great guest role in ‘Masters of Sex,’” Janney concurs. “The writing is just so good.” She notes that as Margaret Scully, she had only one episode last season, “whereas in the previous season I was in six shows, with a much bigger story arc, so to get a guest star nomination again is quite a recognition — and overwhelming.”
Hoffmann, who guest-starred as the struggling Caroline in two episodes of “Girls,” calls her character “a great, rich role to play. She’s this outspoken, miserable-on-some-level person who’s desperately trying to figure out how to be loved, and that need expresses itself in a somewhat crazy, self-centered and less than generous fashion. So she’s living in a world of her own creation, which is both very entertaining and quite devastating.” But the actress, while “very happy and grateful” to be nominated for the guest-star role, adds, “I have complicated feelings about being nominated. There are just so many amazing performances and actors who didn’t get nominated and recognized, and it all seems so random and arbitrary to me.”
In terms of campaigning for either or both nominations, the nominees sound distinctly reluctant. “I don’t think you should have to,” Baranski says. “The work should speak for itself, and the idea that anyone could charm their way into an award through Twitter campaigns, Instagram and photo ops is rather repellent. Yes, Twitter and so on didn’t even exist a few years ago, but that shouldn’t matter. And I’m not going to hire a publicist and go out of my way to make my presence felt, just to drum up support and chase an award. I’d like to think that my performances stand on their own.”
Says Hoffmann: “I find the competitive nature of all this a bit troublesome when it comes to art-making. So I’m not campaigning — in fact, I’m not keen on trying to win at all. But I am so happy for all the shows, and especially ‘Transparent’ as it’s so new, whereas everyone already knows how great ‘Girls’ is. And I’m not ungrateful about the nominations, as I understand what it means for the shows. But personally, I just want to keep doing good work.”
Janney adds, “It’s amazing that network TV is even recognized anymore.” Baranski agrees. “It’s a far more crowded field now, with cable and streaming and so on. If you can eke out a nomination in any category, that’s a pretty privileged position.”