Backstage Notes: The Emmys

Winners weigh in

Brad Grey came backstage with the producers of “The Sopranos” and said “The decade we’ve spent together has been the most glorious part of our show business careers.”

But mastermind David Chase was a bit philosophical, saying he didn’t think the show has influenced television that much. “I don’t think we’ve had that much of an impact. There’s something unique about it.”

Of winning the Emmy for the farewell season, Chase said, “The best part of it was the huge standing ovation that our cast got. That was really amazing, and it was really fitting.”

Moments later the cast came back en masse, save for James Gandolfini and Edie Falco. Many, of course, had been killed on the show, prompting Frank Vincent to tweak the questioner “because we’re sad that we’re dead.”

Though many agreed they were sad, Tony Sirico said the only constant in showbiz is “every show closes.”

* * *

Like most other folks, James Spader was surprised that he found himself up on stage as a winner for best actor in a drama.

James Gandolfini was touted by many as the favorite for the category.

“I really thought anybody but myself,” the “Boston Legal” thesp said. “To be fair, everyone who was nominated was deserving but with it being James’ last season on ‘Sopranos’ and Hugh Laurie is due for one of these. And I told Kiefer (Sutherland) that I use him as an example as the hardest worker of all of us. He’s in every scene and every frame. It could’ve been anybody but me.”

* * *

Conan O’Brien said he’ll keep his Emmy on “a giant Emmy shelf (I) built several years ago capable of holding 500 Emmys, but then they didn’t come. So this will sit on there and look very sad.”

The hot backstage topic for the winning comics was the arrest of O.J. Simpson in Las Vegas. “I think Mary Hart told me,” said O’Brien. “I’m not kidding. I’m getting my news from Mary Hart, which is a beautiful way to get your news but disturbing at the same time. When Pat O’Brien confirms this story I’ll be ready to discuss it with the press.”

* * *

“Ugly Betty”lead America Ferrara, beaming in a blue strapless gown, deflected talk that she had lost a lot of weight. “Just getting out of Betty’s clothes makes me look like I’ve lost 10 pounds,”she said.

Having dreamed of being an actress since she was five years old, she said, “Now I have to set my heights even higher.”

Noting that less-than-gorgeous men have long been able to star on TV, Ferrara said “It’s been a little more of a free ride for men than it has been for women. I’m in high heels and the men get to wear flat shoes.”

* * *

Jon Stewart was asked what, for his “Daily Show, “he would ask O.J. Simpson if he could land the first interview him from his Las Vegas jail.

“So this is what it’s like to be Capone? You kill two people and they get you for kicking down a door in Vegas.”

Then, shifting topics quickly, what would he do different this time as Oscar host, after emceeing the shindig in 2006?

“I’d probably lay off the ‘Brokeback Mountain’ jokes,” he quipped.

* * *

It was a love-fest backstage for Tony Bennett and director Rob Marshall. Bennett, winner for performance in a variety or music program, called Marshall “the best director I’ve ever met” while Marshall said “Tony is authentic through and through. Every second of this was an honor.”

Of the singers he sang with on the spesh, Bennett had special praise for k.d. lang. “She has a way of being so warm and so honest and so beautiful, she’s actually my favorite singer. There’s only one other singer that moved me like that and that’s the great Judy Garland.”

* * *

Dick Wolf, who has now won as many Emmys for HBO’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” as he has for his long-running “Law & Order” franchise,” said the win should give the pay cabler an incentive for continuing to produce TV movies.

“It’s a fabulous affirmation for HBO to remain in the business.”

And as for the similarities of American history between when the book came out in 1971 (during the heart of Vietnam War) and now, Wolf said, “Thirty-six years later, we seem to be in a similar situation.”

* * *

When a pressroom wag asked Al Gore what Britney Spears could learn from him about surviving media storms, the ex-veep deadpanned, “I kind of figured the first question would be about Britney Spears.”

Gore deflected questions about his political plans, saying only that he doesn’t plan to run for president and preferring to talk up his Emmy-winning Current TV.

“It sounds corny to say we trust in the people, but now that the technology has made it possible for them to participate, that’s what we’ve been aiming for.”

* * *

“I call it my amazing year,” said Helen Mirren, collecting yet another statuette, this time for the final “Prime Suspect” skein, to go with a Golden Globe and an Oscar. “I don’t believe in astrology but I’ll be very interested to see what my astrology says about this year — ‘you will meet disappointment’ probably.”

Of the contretemps over her invitation to dinner with Queen Elizabeth, which she had to decline because she was on location in the U.S., Mirren said she and the Queen have never yet hooked up. “Which was sad for me but probably not so sad for her.”

* * *

“I bought a horse a year in advance to get ready for it,” said Robert Duvall of his winning lead actor role in miniseries “Broken Trail.” “For my work I like to be prepared.”

Duvall said he’s no cowboy in real life. “I ride mainly English saddle,” he demurred, “But I have a feel for the West.”

His advice for young actors? “For a Western, you get a horse months in advance and you learn to sit in the saddle, foxtrot and canter,” he said. Beyond that, “Get in a group, so you’re not isolated.”

* * *

Director Alan Taylor seemed genuinely touched by the amount of recognition “The Sopranos” was receiving: from the slew of awards to the “Jersey Boys” tribute about their Garden State brethren.

“I’m surprised how much this means to all of us,” said the helmer who won for the “Kennedy & Heidi” episode, where Michael Imperioli’s character is killed.

“We know our work is done and it’s nice to see how it has landed and registered with people.”

And his interpretation of the controversial final scene, where the screen goes black before something ominous might’ve happened to Tony? Well, no comment on his personal view but he said David Chase knew it would create a huge amount of post-series discussion.

“That ongoing conversation was intended to happen.”

* * *

“This thing is so pointy, it’s like a barbecue fork,” quipped Thomas Haden Church, supporting actor in a mini winner for cable oater “Broken Trail.” Church said that he stays grounded by living in Texas. “I’m a cattle rancher. I haven’t lived in L.A. for many years. I think it’s important to have that distance. Not that there’s anything wrong with L.A.”

Church was a bit sheepish about his perfect coif, “courtesy 20th Century Fox,” where he’s been doing a movie all summer with Sandra Bullock. “It’s nice to know there’s a bunch of people back in Texas cheering for me who have nothing to do with the movie business. I’m looking forward to going home.”

* * *

The cast of “Roots” — Cicely Tyson, Leslie Uggams, LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett Jr., Ben Vereen and John Amos — said they were a bit saddened that the book’s author, the late Alex Haley, couldn’t be present to celebrate the famed miniseries’ 30th anniversary.

“We wish he was here to see what he’s done for his country, not just for a race of people but for the entire world. He was a soft-spoken and low-key man who would just stand off to the side and appreciate all of this,” Tyson said.

And on the legacy of the program that set ratings records back when it aired on ABC in 1977.

” ‘Roots’ is much more important now than it was before. We have a generation of Americans who don’t know where they come from,” Gossett said.

* * *

Winning for the second year in a row, Jeremy Piven (supporting actor comedy, “Entourage”) said he had no awkwardness about accepting an award for material that aired a year ago.

“I would receive something for something I did in junior high school, and quite honestly take a victory lap and hold a press conference. Do you know what actors are?”

Piven says that unlike his “professional ball buster” character, “I’m just a kind of softie character actor from Chicago so I will bore you to tears.”

“The dream for me was getting up on stage in Chicago and being a working actor, not being celebrated like this so I’m having an otherworldly experience.”

* * *

Admitting she felt “pretty wobbly,” supporting actress in a comedy winner Jaime Pressly of “My Name Is Earl” said her Emmy was important because “it shows I finally changed everybody’s mind.”

She called her son her guiding light and was effusive talking about her managers. “They wouldn’t take no for an answer and got me in the door when no one else could. We’re like family. I can’t wait to see them.”

* * *

Terry O’Quinn, winner for supporting actor in a drama for “Lost,” is fully aware that fans of the show both love and hate him.

And he’s OK with that.

“They don’t know what to do with my character,” he said. “He’s a puzzle… full of frailty and an underdog.”

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