Kathy Bates won an Oscar in 1991, and then had to wait 21 years to win an Emmy. After nine nominations in categories ranging from director to lead actress, Bates finally landed the elusive TV trophy for a guest spot on “Two and a Half Men.” Then she won again last year for “American Horror Story: Coven.” She’s back in the running this year for the latest “Horror Story,” but, having finally felt the taste of victory, says she’s ready to see someone else shine.
I heard you weren’t at the Creative Arts ceremony when you won the guest Emmy.
No, you know what happened is that “Harry’s Law” had been cancelled. I decided we were gonna sit shiva for Harry at my house, since she was Jewish. Everybody came from the cast and crew, and one of the hair women came in and said, “You just won an Emmy!” I’d totally forgotten about it.
You had nine noms before that, much of it for very serious work, and then you won for playing the ghost of Charlie Sheen’s character on “Two and a Half Men.”
It was bizarre. The night I was supposed to shoot it I was hurrying to get out of my trailer and I broke my toe. I was supposed to go out and perform in front of the audience that night. I was like, “Oh, crap.” The whole time before I went on I was sitting in the dressing room backstage with my foot elevated and ice on it. Anyway, we did the show and it was so much fun. But it was so ironic to win for something like that. It was kind of a lark. I’d been nominated both years for “Harry’s Law.” I never even expected to get a nomination (for “Two and a Half Men”), let alone win.
And then last year you won for “American Horror Story.”
I was stunned. My friend Billy and I had just read this story about Nicki Minaj and her boa snake Rocky biting one of her dancers and we thought it was such a silly story because he was referred to as a “professional entertainment snake,” and so we were just laughing about this. We couldn’t get it out of our minds, just having a blast. Then all of a sudden (I won) and it was like, “What?” I had not put my mind to a speech at all. I got up and was just babbling. Totally forgot to thank Ryan (Murphy), Tim Minear, and all the other producers, writers, directors, actors. I had to do many mea culpas to Ryan. He worked so hard on that character. He gave me a renaissance.
This year you’re nominated with Angela Bassett and Sarah Paulson. What’s it like to be up against your co-stars?
I want both of them to win. I love seeing these actors who really have the training underneath them get recognized. To me it’s proof that training is your foundation. Actors who are well trained can really take that whole life of the character and transform themselves. That’s the kind of actor I’ve always wanted to be, a character actor. That’s what I’ve always aspired to.
Is it easier to “lose” awards when you’ve won an Oscar?
I know what you’re saying and there’s some grain of truth in that. It makes the bitter pills that follow a little easier to swallow. But I remember the year I was up for “About Schmidt,” and Meryl (Streep) was up, too. We both lost, and at the commercial break she sailed by and said, “Let’s go to the bar.” I could see in the moments that followed, we both really wanted that sucker. Anybody that tells you, it’s OK and they don’t care, there’s always that moment when you think, “I’m all aflutter, I wonder what’s gonna happen?” But this year, I think I’m gonna be rooting for a couple of other gals.