Emmy voters keep politics at the fore

From 'Game Change' to 'Veep,' awards night was rife with topicality

With the presidential election six weeks away, it’s no surprise that politics kept popping up backstage at the Emmys.

“Game Change,” HBO’s dramatic rendering of the 2008 presidential race, clearly struck a chord with Emmy voters, taking the trophies for telepic and longform writing and directing.

“Game Change” scribe Danny Strong said contempo political tales are are compelling “because the stories are extremely dramatic, the stakes are unbelievably high … You have fantastic characters and really important moments in American history that are worthy of being dramatized.”

And in spite of the inevitable criticism that the movie is biased against conservatives, Strong and “Game Change” helmer Jay Roach emphasized that they went to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy.

“We got historical notes on every single draft,” Strong said.

Roach and Strong also teamed a few years ago on HBO telepic “Recount,” about the 2000 election. At that time, Strong recalled, producer Sydney Pollack “told me I’d need a helmet and a cup” to survive the attacks.

Roach acknowledged that there is something of a political message to “Game Change” as well as “Recount,” because it allows them to pose the question “Is this how we want the country to be run?”

Julianne Moore, who picked up a trophy for her role as Sarah Palin, noted that the former Alaska governer gave her portrayal “a big thumbs down,” but that the pic at the end of the day was about the American “political process.”

Thesps and producers from “Homeland,” “Modern Family” and “Veep” also waded into political waters backstage.

“9/11 changed the world,” said Brit-born Damian Lewis after nabbing the best actor nod for his role in Showtime’s “Homeland.”

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Lewis said, led to people in the West to “behave badly” out of the fear provoked by the threat of terrorism striking again. “People have not been at their best … but on the whole, we’re doing the best we can,” he said, emphasizing that the U.S. and U.K. have made mistakes in the pursuit of security, echoing the themes of the show.

“TV is the great democratic art form,” said Lewis. “‘Homeland’ — it’s politically resonant, it’s politically current. It grounds it in a reality and people respond to it for that reason.”

Danes sees the show as not “particularly political,” but said that it talks about “big ideas” from an “unbiased position.” She credits its popularity the series not being “preachy.” Yet, “(‘Homeland’) does speak to our feelings of anxiety and unrest right now in that we’re in a new era where the enemy is not so clear.”

On a lighter note, “Veep’s” Julia Louis-Dreyfus said she’s enjoying the wealth of comedic potential in contemporary politics, even the wonky inner workings as portrayed in her HBO laffer, for which she scored a win for lead comedy actress.

“It’s a great time in politics,” Louis-Dreyfus said backstage. Modern political happenings “greatly influence” the thesp, who noted that she constantly tunes into shows like “The Colbert Report,” “Meet the Press” and “The Daily Show” to stay informed.

“And since (politics) seems front and center in our lives,” Louis-Dreyfus continued, “it’s got a lot of good, rich material not to parody, but little morsels we can take away.”

“Veep” cast members are also hopeful that the skein has legs that will take it into convention territory, since this year’s political confabs were ripe with potential comedic material.

“Modern Family’s” Steve Levitan avoided a lengthy comment on same-sex marriage in his backstage remarks (“I’m not going there,” he said) but did acknowledge that the show and its portrayal of gay parents have played a role in changing attitudes.

Fellow “Modern Family” Emmy winner Julie Bowen said she’s heartened by the fact that both Ann Romney, wife of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and first lady Michelle Obama are on record as fans of their show.

“It shows that comedy is a place where we can come together,” despite political and social differences, Bowen said.