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Creative Arts Emmys: ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Bessie’ Make HBO Top Winner

This year’s Creative Arts Emmys proved there’s no sure thing in awards season. After a night that was full of surprises, awards pundits are going to have their work cut out for them ahead of next Sunday’s Primetime Emmy Awards.

There were, of course, the expected wins at the Sept. 12 ceremony honoring television’s creative and technical talent — such as the eight trophies handed to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” including for stunts and visual effects, and the five given to FX’s “American Horror Story: Freak Show” for its elaborate hairstyling, makeup, special effects and costume designs.

Overall, HBO emerged as the biggest network winner of the night with 29 wins (NBC was next in line, with 11; FX followed with 8). WGN America also won its first ever Emmy, for main title design for “Manhattan.”

But the bigger surprises came from the more marquee categories, particularly the guest actors.

Margo Martindale, who appears on FX’s critically-beloved spy drama “The Americans” was awarded guest actress in a drama — denying projected winner Allison Janney of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” a repeat win.

Backstage, Martindale said she was sad that she had to represent the cast. She also said she had no news about what this means for her character in the coming season.

“I’m there for more than this last year. And I’m not being coy,” she said. “[Executive producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields] promised me they’d never kill me. But it’s show business. I hope they can keep their promise.”

Showtime had good news of its own to celebrate: After four years as a bridesmaid, “Shameless” star Joan Cusack finally received the guest actress in a comedy series trophy — earning the show’s first ever Emmy. Unfortunately, she wasn’t at the ceremony to receive it.

The digital channels shared in the surprises as well: Bradley Whitford of Amazon’s “Transparent” took the trophy for guest actor in a comedy, despite predictions that Jon Hamm was a lock for Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” (Amazon won three trophies overall for Jill Soloway’s family dramedy, their first ever.)

But Hamm still has one more chance for a statue: He’s up for lead actor in a drama for the final season of AMC’s “Mad Men” at the Primetime Emmys — a category in which he’s been perennially nominated but never awarded.

Netflix also saw a win early in the night, when Reg. E. Cathey took home one of the first awards: guest actor in a drama for “House of Cards.” Honoring the TV Academy’s request to keep speeches under 30 seconds, he simply said “Thank you, I’m thrilled” before exiting offstage.

In the press room, he offered good vibes for his show and for costars Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Michael Kelly, whose categories are up at the Primetime Emmys. He also said his speech was short because he got “verklempt.”

There was one winner who did have a speech prepared: Spike Jones Jr., who usually produces the Creative Arts Emmys — except this time, he ceded control to Bob Bain so that his longtime friend Chuck Lorre could honor him with the Syd Cassyd Award.

“As a producer, I’ve handed out about 1600 of these. This is better,” he said onstage.

HBO’s Emmy haul included the top TV movie honor for “Bessie,” the decades-long gestating Bessie Smith biopic, along with wins for “Going Clear,” “The Jinx” and “Olive Kitteridge.”

“You’re very rarely rewarded after this amount of time,” said “Bessie” executive producer Lili Fini Zanuck backstage after her win. She joked that she didn’t know if she would live long enough for another project like this to get finished. Her next movie is a documentary about Eric Clapton.

The Creative Arts Emmys will air at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 on FXX. The Primetime Emmy Awards will air live starting at 8 p.m. ET on Sept. 20 on Fox.

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