Given her theater training, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Carol Kane seemed completely cool when she took the stage in 1982 to accept the Emmy for lead actress in a comedy for her work in ABC’s “Taxi” (she’d win the supporting actress in a comedy trophy the next year, even though the show had been cancelled by then). In a period-appropriate puffy-sleeved dress that matched her trademark voluminous blonde curls, Kane dutifully thanked her “incredibly generous” co-stars as well as series creator Jim Brooks, her parents and other luminaries before politely exiting the stage in a timely manner. Looking back on it, Kane — this year a contender in the supporting actress in a comedy category for Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — tells Variety that the poise was an act.
Were you feeling as confident as you looked when you accepted your award?
Part of that togetherness was just fear. I’d never really done comedy before that, except for “The World’s Greatest Lover,” a movie I did with Gene Wilder. I’d always been a dramatic actress. I think I was still in that vein.
I think I was completely shocked to win, which I think you can also sort of see. I was also lucky because my oldest friend in the world, Doug Chapin, who I’d went to high school with — he used to be an actor and then became a manager and produced “When a Stranger Calls,” which I was in, and produced “What’s Love Got to Do With It” — was with me. Somebody I’d known since I was 13 years old [was there], so that was an anchoring factor.
I just felt admiration for the quality of the writing; and I mean the writers [of “Taxi”]. Thank God I wrote them down. It was Jim Brooks and Ed Weinberger, Stan Daniels, Ken Estin and Sam Simon, who passed away very recently.
Even though I was very young, I had been working for a very long time because I’d started very young in movies and theater. I was old enough, in terms of years put in, to understand how lucky I was to be where I was. I knew how lucky I was to have that writing. I will never forget them because they’re brilliant and it’s very unusual to have that scaffolding under you. I feel I have it again with Tina [Fey] and Robert [Carlock, “Kimmy Schmidt” creators].
Did you have an inkling that you might win?
No! Are you kidding? I’d never done any television before and I was in the running with fantastic actors.
But you had a speech prepared.
I didn’t have a speech; I had the names. I wanted them just in case, because I knew that if I’d won, I’d panic. I’m one of those people that if I go to a party, I can’t remember my mother’s name because I’m so nervous in a social situation.
Where did you get your gown?
I got it at Barneys in New York, where I lived. It was extravagant. It was probably like $500.
“MASH’s” Alan Alda won for lead actor in a comedy series that year and there’s a photo of you both with your awards. Do you remember if you talked that night?
I did watch “MASH” and I’d seen so many movies with Alan Alda in them, so that was thrilling to me. I just remember that I was excited to be standing next to him.