My lasting memory of Monday's TV Academy cocktail reception for the performers peer group — featuring about a score of this year's Emmy acting nominees in attendance — will be the stream of folks who came to praise Ben Feldman — for his work on "Drop Dead Diva."
Just to show you can never judge an event by its cover, it didn't matter that Feldman was being celebrated for his drama guest actor nomination for his work on "Mad Men." One after another, every person I saw with Feldman wanted to talk about the Lifetime series that received zero Emmy noms in 2012.
Feldman was happy to oblige the others, though he seemed pleasantly surprised when I wanted to bring up "Mad Men" and what the nomination meant for him.
"I feel like a rookie," he said. "It’s a different level."
Feldman's character of Michael Ginsberg debuted in the most recent season of "Mad Men" in a kind of showcase kind of episode that portended big things, before being somewhat marginalized as the other subplots gained momentum. Whether his role will grow or shrink in next year's season six is, as is always the case with the Matthew Weiner show, to be revealed.
"I can never tell whether I’m never going to be on it again or it’s a one-man show starring just me.," Feldman said. "Seal Team 6 runs that show."
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On the festive night at the panoramic top-floor ballroom of the Sheraton Universal, thoughts did turn to Phyllis Diller, who had passed away that morning. In attendance were Jo Anne Worley and Lily Tomlin, the latter at her first event since being elected to TV Academy Board of Governors last week.
"Of course I was a fan when I was a teenager," Tomlin said. "Just the idea that she was so outrageous and bawdy – nothing that was conventional. It was totally new and wonderful and appealed to me.
"When you go to her house and have dinner, she’d make a martini for you this big," Tomlin said, gesturing wide with her hands. "And you know she was an artist. Jane (Wagner), my partner, we must have bought 40 paintings."
Tomlin also recalled one of her favorite Diller jokes: “I’m dressing a turkey for Thanksgiving – I’ve already finished the blouse.”
Diller wasn't the only performer being remembered at Monday's event. Tribute was also paid to Kathryn Joosten, nominated for comedy supporting actress honors weeks after passing away at the age of 72.
"She is here in spirit — and no doubt buying spirits," Academy Board of Governors member Bob Bergen said to the assembled.
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"It’s funny," Bialik said. "I took a very public step back from social media about a month ago, and I’m glad that I did, because I did not have any temptation to look and see. I (did see) there was one very funny doctored photo of me looking awesome, with my busted-up Volvo in the background, which I thought was cute."I’m glad that I got to my parents before the news did," she added.
Nominated in comedy supporting actress, Bialik has already gone back to work on the upcoming season of "The Big Bang Theory," which is in its second week of production.
"I think the first two episodes really hit the ground running for Amy and Sheldon," Bialik said, "in a very sweet, slow way, I promise– we’re not married by the second episode – but it’s sweet. As much as I love Kaley (Cuoco) and Melissa (Rauch) and what a heavy girls' year it was, there’s nothing better than working with Jim Parsons.Also back at work is Zooey Deschanel of "New Girl," a show now understood to be an ensemble, a year after all the press centered on Deschanel and her so-called "adorkability."
"It’s always been an ensemble," Deschanel said. "That’s what we wanted from the beginning. It has to be, because you’re making 22, 24 episodes a year. It has to be the best actors we could find in those parts. And I was in every casting session, I read with everybody who came in, and we found the best actors for those parts, and they’re incredible and I’m so thankful to work with them every day.
"There’d be no way to even think you could make a show that was just about one person. That’s lunacy."* * *
To say that Gunn didn't envision what would become of Skyler when the show first began is an understatement.
"Even though (showrunner Vince Gilligan) gave me a kind of broad idea that Skyler was a kind of Carmela Soprano but 'in on the crime,' as he put it, it gave me no glimpse of what’s unfolded, either for the show or for her," Gunn said. "Bryan (Cranston) and I sometimes in season one would say, 'I kind of want to know a few episodes in advance what’s going on, so I know how to arc my character.' Then we realized, no, we don’t need that. It’s not the way it is in real life — it’s actually better for us to be kind of blind, quite frankly, because that’s the way we are in our real lives."
There are a few candidates for Skyler's most memorable moment in 2012, but it would be hard to turn away from the exquisitely shot moment she just takes a walk into a swimming pool, a multi-faceted cry for escape — a moment Gunn knew would be indelible from the moment she read the script.
"The way that even the stage directions are written in the scripts is so evocative and so beautifully crafted and so beautifully written, so you do get a lot of images that are like reading an amazing novel," she said. "But there is absolutely no way that I could have imagined how that was going to visually turn out.
"People brought up (that) the swimming pool was the exact color of the meth, and I never even put that together. I had no idea how it was going to look for me to walk into the pool and then sort of disappear, and then all of a sudden of to be floating in the deep blue water."
Ten more "Breaking Bad" episodes remain: two this summer and the last eight in 2013.
"I’m totally in suspense," Gunn said. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I love that I don’t know. Sometimes I try to imagine how is all this going to be tied up, but (Vince) is so incredible.
"Certainly this is the kind of job that you wait for your whole life as an actor, and we all know how lucky we are and we know that it’s rare. So we’re loving every minute that we have, just savoring the last bit of it."