Don’t try to tell “The Walking Dead” exec producer Greg Nicotero that Creative Arts Emmy nominees are candidates to be marginalized.

“I don’t think the words ‘second-class’ and ‘champion’ belong in the same sentence,” says Nicotero, a nominee as head of special makeup effects on the AMC horror drama.

The idea that Creative Arts nominees are somehow lower-tier is nonsense, maintains “Smash” choreographer Josh Bergasse, a first-time nominee.

“It’s certainly a first-class honor for me,” he says. “All the other nominees in this category are for reality shows, so I think that makes it even more special.”

Moreover, the impact of any nominations — including those that will be presented at the Creative Arts ceremony Sept. 15 — on crew morale cannot be understated, says James Flynn, exec producer on Showtime’s “The Borgias,” nominated in four creative categories.

“I place a huge value on these awards,” he says. “Neil Jordan (the show’s creator and exec producer) had a great vision, so all these people who were nominated in the creative areas have delivered on the vision very successfully and deserve great credit for that.”

More than 500 individual Primetime Emmy nominations are handed out each year, but most of the publicity is lavished on the small handful of program and acting awards. That leaves several programs each year with an impressive number of nominations but very little buzz.

So while programs like “Smash,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Once Upon a Time,” “The Borgias” and “The Walking Dead” each scored multiple nods from the television academy, Emmy watchers will hear far less about those accomplishments than shows earning fewer nominations but in higher-profile categories.

But such hierarchies matter little to the nominees themselves and to their colleagues on the shows they work for.

“We certainly are representing (the entire show),” says composer Marc Shaiman, who’s a co-nominee for score (with Christian Bacon) and song on NBC’s “Smash,” which earned four Creative Arts noms. “We’ve been put in that position and happily so.”

For “The Walking Dead,” the makeup work in particular stands out because Nicotero and his crew, who have worked for a quarter century on features with such directors as Quentin Tarantino, Sam Raimi and Steven Spielberg, deliver movie-quality work.

“There’s a level of attention to detail,” he says. “We approach every episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ like it’s a mini-movie, in eight days of shooting.”

Aiming for feature film quality is also a philosophy embraced by the show’s other two creative arts noms, headed up by vfx supervisors Victor Scalise and Jason Sterling and supervising sound editor Jerry Ross.

Meanwhile, though “The Borgias” takes some dramatic license, the creative elements — costumes by Oscar-winner Gabriella Pescucci and Uliva Pizzetti, hair by Stefano Ceccarelli, Claudia Catini and Sevlene Roddy, music by Emmy winner Trevor Morris and supporting visual effects from supervisor Doug Campbell — deliver a historically accurate vision of the period.

Flynn says getting Pescucci to do the series was a particular coup.

“Our line producer, Karen Richards, used all her powers of persuasion to get her, because we knew with Neil Jordan and Jeremy Irons that we needed someone of the highest quality,” he says.

As much as the Creative Arts honors are valued, nominees such as Nicotero still say it’s unfortunate that the writers and performers’ roles in making “The Walking Dead” were not nominated.

“The drama propels our show forward and the performances elevate this kind of material,” he says. “It’s a little baffling to us that it wasn’t recognized in those categories, but I can tell you that a nomination for us is a nomination for the show.”

Inevitably, some programs are going to be disappointed with their total Emmy haul. Scott Wittman, co-nominee with Shaiman for original song on “Smash,” says he hates to see the word “snubbed” when there are so many high-quality shows competing for the top spots.

“There are 3,000 shows, and cable has just become this incredible place where people can do shows that are more about real life and larger issues,” Wittman says. “It’s hard to be up against those shows.”

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Nominees
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