The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) The comedy legend didn’t exactly jump at the chance to join the hit CBS show as Arthur Jeffries, aka, Professor Proton, a key figure in Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard’s (Johnny Galecki) childhood. Despite being pursued for years by co-creator Chuck Lorre, the “Newhart” icon only agreed to the role on several conditions; it had to be “a recurring role” and it had to be shot “with a live audience.” The role ended up winning Newhart his first Emmy in this category in 2013 and his return this year — in which his beloved character passed away — was both touching and hilarious.
Jimmy Fallon – Guest Actor in a Comedy
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC) The new host of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” has been going steady with the Emmys for a while now. He has three noms this year alone, and won in 2012 for hosting “SNL.” As a returning “SNL” cast member, his hosting this year around Christmastime benefited from the Yuletide vibes and elevated material — including the viral video “(Do It on) My Twin Bed.” A pairing with fan Justin Timberlake in “The Barry Gibb Talk Show” featuring appearances by Gibb himself with Madonna as a extra bonus.
Nathan Lane – Guest Actor in a Comedy
“Modern Family” (ABC) The 58-year-old veteran of film, TV and stage describes his current recurring role in Emmy favorite “Modern Family” as “an embarrassment of riches.” Lane knows whereof he speaks; the star of “The Birdcage” plays “the gayest man in America,” the highly strung, flamboyant event-planner Pepper Saltzman. “It’s a great name, a great character — and great fun to play,” he says of the role that has won him two Emmy noms to date. “Pepper’s a real handful, and it’s all about the writing. There’s great comedy, but also real emotion there.”
Steve Buscemi – Guest Actor in a Comedy
“Portlandia” (IFC) The six-time nominee, best-known for playing heavies and paranoid neurotics in such movies and TV series as “Reservoir Dogs,” “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Big Lebowski,” channeled his lesser-seen inner comedic side for his character Marty, a down-on-his-luck salesman who pops up in “Portlandia,” the satirical sketch series. In “The Celery Incident” episode, Marty fights to promote the oft-ignored and under-appreciated vegetable, an idea sparked by the fact that the actor “was talking about how much he liked celery when we texted him” about doing the show, says co-creator Fred Armisen.
Louis C.K. – Guest Actor in a Comedy
<p>“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)<br />The comedian, who also scored three noms this year for his own show “Louie,” last hosted “SNL” in 2012, and once again the master of uncomfortable tension coupled with heartfelt sincerity tackled the big issues — atheism, gender equality, world hunger — in his opening monologue. And he also delivered some classic C.K. punch lines along the way, with hard-to-argue observations about the sexes such as, “I don’t think women are better than men, but I do think men are worse than women.” An appearance as a clueless contestant on “Black Jeopardy” was another highlight. </p>
Gary Cole – Guest Actor in a Comedy
“Veep” (HBO) As presidential adviser Kent Davison, Cole’s back in the White House again — he played VP Bob Russell in “The West Wing” a decade and a half ago — but he notes that “not just politics but the way it’s covered in the media has changed drastically” since then. He’s a big fan of the HBO show’s creator, Brit Armando Iannucci, and its “interesting tone,” saying, “the fact that the creators are from the U.K. and have a fresh eye on it means they can spin it in ways that people from here couldn’t.” In one memorable episode, “Signals,” Cole delivers his sharp dialogue all while doing pilates — talking strategy with his feet in stirrups.
Uzo Aduba – Guest Actress in a Comedy
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix) The American-Nigerian Aduba, who completely inhabits her character of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, says she knew the Netflix show, which snagged 12 noms, was special the moment she read the script; “It was one of those scripts that came alive,” she says of the acclaimed prison series, which was originally marketed as a drama before smartly being switched to the comedy category at the Critics Choice Awards, where it promptly scored an award for Aduba. Though her unrequited love for Piper is heartbreaking, it also results in several laugh-out loud moments, including her singing “chocolate and vanilla swirl” while lacing her fingers with Piper’s.
Laverne Cox – Guest Actress in a Comedy
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix) Cox, who plays transgender hairdresser Sophia Burset, sent to jail for credit-card fraud, made history by becoming the first openly transgender person to win an Emmy acting nom. The actress is also open about the fact that her multi-layered character has been a welcome change from the predictable and stereotypical parts usually offered to transgender actors. The episode detailing Sophia’s backstory, “Lesbian Request Denied,” was a highlight as we saw the pain her decision caused her family, particularly her young son.
Natasha Lyonne – Guest Actress in a Comedy
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix) The “American Pie” series actress has done TV before, including “Will and Grace” and Jenji Kohan’s “Weeds,” but her role as recovering drug addict and well-meaning but mischievous inmate Nicky Nichols marks her first show as a series regular (and a reunion with “Pie’s” Jason Biggs). Of her character, she says, “I think it’s interesting that how (Nicky) presents herself in prison is different from the way she grew up,” and notes of her own life experience, “I definitely have that to draw on.” Though she has yet to have a backstory episode, Lyonne shines with great one-liners, combined with powerful scenes, as when she confessed her drug addicted past.
Tina Fey – Guest Actress in a Comedy
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC) The “30 Rock” star won an Emmy in 2009 for channeling Sarah Palin on “SNL,” and kicked off its 39th season with co-host Aaron Paul and a series of pointed sketches, including a promo for Lena Dunham’s “Girls” featuring Fey as Blerta, an Albanian roommate with OCD (Old Cow Disease), and a very un-PC spoof of an early used car commercial with Fey playing the car-dealer’s deranged wife, prone to say appalling stuff like, “I think I killed that Navajo girl.”
Joan Cusack – Guest Actress in a Comedy
“Shameless” (Showtime) Playing the agoraphobic Sheila Jackson opposite William H. Macy’s drunken patriarch and boyfriend Frank Gallagher on the hit Showtime drama/comedy (adapted from a British hit show) has garnered the actress four consecutive Emmy noms. This season’s highlights included marrying Frank while he was unconscious following surgery and trying to adopt Native American children. “I’m someone who loves the ‘MASH’ model of comedy, which is, you’re in a tough situation, if you don’t make it funny, then you’re going to crumple,” she’s noted. “To me, that kind of humor’s much less cynical and mean-spirited. It’s more escapist/silly.”
Melissa McCarthy – Guest Actress in a Comedy
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC) The “Tammy,” “Bridesmaids,” “Mike & Molly” star, a three-time “SNL” host, helped bid farewell to head writer and Weekend Update co-anchor Seth Meyers with her usual go-for-broke physical comedy that included an elaborate aerial kung fu fight. And as P.J., the odd woman out in the shallow suburban women’s group who meet to show off their vision boards and feelings, she showed that a bloodthirsty quest to avenge her father’s death is far more interesting — if disturbing — than talk about yogurt.
Beau Bridges – Guest Actorin a Drama
“Masters of Sex” (Showtime) The oft-nominated, three-time Emmy winner plays closeted college provost Barton Scully — mentor to William Masters and Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s racy tale of the pioneering students of human sexuality. Bridges particularly shines in scenes with fellow nominee Allison Janney, who plays his wife. “It’s such an amazing story — and true,” says the actor, who was drawn to the series by both “its fine writing and really strong cast” and showrunner Michelle Ashford, “who developed the whole thing. And interestingly enough, most of the writers on it are women, which I’m told is purely coincidental.”
Joe Morton – Guest Actorin a Drama
“Scandal” (ABC) Now in his second season of “Scandal,” and armed with some mesmerizing monologues delivered with the power of a sledgehammer, Morton has been entertaining — and terrifying — fans and Gladiators alike as Rowan Pope, the icy head of a secret government agency, and father to D.C. fixer Olivia Pope. “He has two objectives,” he explains. “To protect the republic and his daughter — and he’ll basically go to any lengths necessary.” After a career “largely spent portraying good guys,” Morton has fully embraced his darker side. “Rowan’s a piece of work, but the biggest challenge has been learning all the monologues,” he admits. “Shonda (Rhimes, the creator) wants it word-perfect.”
Courtesy of ABC
Paul Giamatti – Guest Actorin a Drama
“Downton Abbey” (PBS) The veteran star of film, TV and stage, and proud Anglophile (“I grew up on ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’) joined the cast as wealthy New Yorker Harold Levinson, brother to the Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) — and son of Shirley MacLaine’s character — for the 2013 Christmas special, in which he commits a flagrant breach of protocol by attempting to shake the Prince of Wales’ hand. “I thought it was kind of interesting the way the character was written,” he notes. “He’s awkward and not terribly comfortable in these social situations.”
Reg E. Cathey – Guest Actorin a Drama
“House of Cards” (Netflix) It’s appropriate that Cathey’s popular turn as barbecue-meister (and confidant to rib-loving Frank Underwood) Freddy Hayes has been beefed up for season 2. But this being the show that it is, even the likeable and sympathetic Freddy turns out to be hiding secrets — jail time for murder and armed robbery. With his deep baritone and stoic demeanor, the 30-year vet thesp imbues his character with gravitas and dignity to spare, and gives a classy performance that scored him his first Emmy nom.
Robert Morse – Guest Actorin a Drama
“Mad Men” (AMC) The six-time nominee has played partner Bertram Cooper for seven years, and in a fitting tribute to his storied Broadway career (he won a Tony in 1962 for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) his final appearance this season took the form of a suitably retro song-and-dance send-off. Creator Matthew Weiner, who originally cast Morse because of his stage rep, told the actor, “You’re watching the moon landing, you say ‘Bravo,’ and you pass away. We’re not going to shoot you … you’re just going to die gracefully.”
Dylan Baker – Guest Actorin a Drama
“The Good Wife” (CBS) The actor nabs his third Emmy nom as Colin Sweeney, the difficult and creepy client endured by Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), who shows up at his house in the “Tying the Knot” episode, where a party is in full swing and a murder is committed. The show’s writers seem to excel in giving a lovable actor like Baker such a despicable character to play.
Allison Janney – Guest Actress in a Drama
“Masters of Sex” (Showtime) The Emmy winner (“The West Wing”), whose movie credits include “The Help” and “Juno,” says she “fell in love” with her character Margaret Scully, the quiet, lonely, distressed wife of a closeted college provost (Beau Bridges). Janney is a master of pathos, as shown by her reaction when she’s rejected from the sex study because of her lack of orgasms. Janney says that Margaret’s story line, emotional life and journey has been “challenging. I had no idea that our storyline was going to resonate as much as it did.”
Diana Rigg – Guest Actress in a Drama
“Game of Thrones” (HBO) When “The Avengers” icon was first approached about playing sharp-tongued grandmother Lady Olenna Tyrell, she was both “flattered and thrilled” says the real-life Dame, who was also nominated for the role last year. “She’s a fantastic character — a very powerful old woman, who’s led a very colorful life.” Never was that clearer than in the episode “Oathkeeper,” where she admitted to not only be in on Joffrey’s murder, but also coached her granddaughter Margaery on how to insinuate herself into her future husband’s life — revealing how she had stolen her husband from her own sister. With her third season of the brutal saga coming up, Rigg expects “to be knocked off at some point, but maybe I’ll outlive ’em all.”
Margo Martindale – Guest Actress in a Drama
“The Americans” (FX) The distinguished character actress and Emmy winner (for “Justified” in 2011) has appeared in three episodes of season 2 of FX’s twisty spy series about loyalty, love and betrayal set in the Cold War of the 1980s. As Claudia, the KGB supervisor of two Soviet spies living in America, Martindale delivers orders with an icy, contained performance and rich subtext. “Everything I do is internal,” she’s said. “It’s fascinating.”
Kate Mara – Guest Actress in a Drama
“House of Cards” (Netflix) The Beltway political thriller with heavy Shakespearean overtones from Netflix snagged Mara her first Emmy nom, as Zoe Barnes, a determined and ambitious D.C. political reporter who works for the deliciously named Slugline news blog, and a former lover of the scheming veep Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). A vital part of season 1, she had only one episode in season 2 — but it was a doozy as Frank deals with her nosey probing of a colleague’s suspicious death by coolly pushing her under a subway train — “a pretty shocking way to start season 2,” she says.
Kate Burton – Guest Actress in a Drama
“Scandal” (ABC) Richard Burton’s daughter, previously twice-nommed for “Grey’s Anatomy,” reunited with show creator Shonda Rhimes to play Sally Langston, the pious and murderous VP, a small but juicy role for the vet actress. In one memorable moment, she escapes a bombing attempt only to use it as a political opportunity — ripping her dress and smudging dirt on her face for the cameras. “She’s completely unhinged, and I’d sit at the table reads and literally howl with laughter,” says the actress, a huge fan of “Scandal’s” exec producer and head writer Rhimes.
Jane Fonda – Guest Actress in a Drama
“The Newsroom” (HBO) This marks the star’s second Emmy nom for the juicy recurring role of Leona Lansing, the unpitying boss of the cable news network, and a character wisely used sparingly by show creator Aaron Sorkin. Never was Lansing better than in “Red Team III,” where she refused to let Will and Mackenzie quit, delivering a passionate speech including the line, “You will resign when I fire you out of petty malice and not before.” Fonda knows the territory well, having been married to media tycoon Ted Turner for a decade, although she’s stated that he hasn’t given her any pointers on the accuracy of her portrayal of the fictional character.