Emmy Roundtable: Party of Six
Alston, Joshua, Peyser, Marc, Newsweek
Byline: Joshua Alston and Marc Peyser
When Bryan Cranston, 54, was accepting the first of two Emmys he's won for Breaking Bad, the crowning achievement of a storied career, Chris Colfer (Glee) was an 18-year-old unknown. Yet here they are, laughing it up like old pals. If politics makes for strange bedfellows, Emmys make for strange tablemates. Especially when the nominations are as dynamic as this year's, which recognized fresh-faced newbies like Colfer, midcareer breakouts like Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), as well as first-time-nominated acting vets like Matthew Fox (Lost) and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights). They spent a recent Saturday chatting with NEWSWEEK's television critic, Joshua Alston, and culture editor, Marc Peyser. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
Eric, what was your first paying acting job?
Stonestreet: I was painted purple for Northwestern University in Chicago.
Britton: Was that hot?
Stonestreet: Which hot? I want to be clear, Connie, what it is you're asking.
Cranston: She loves purple men!
Stonestreet: I had just graduated from college and moved to Chicago to sort of see if I could be an actor, 'cause I had done a couple plays but hadn't really auditioned or gone to acting school or anything. I got an audition to play this crazy sports fan for Northwestern University. They had lost to Michigan in the Rose Bowl the year before, so they were pumping some money into the sports-marketing campaign. They came up with this concept of the purple man. My first audition literally was, "All right, Eric, mind popping off your shirt there?" I was like, "Really? The casting couch is real?"
Cranston: They painted your whole body, right?
Stonestreet: They painted my whole body purple, yeah. Well, in shorts.
Matthew, you did a zit commercial for your first job?
Fox: Yeah, but I wasn't the guy that got the zit. I was the bully friend that made fun of the guy with the zit.
Britton: It's important to make that clear.
Fox: Yes, I always make that distinction.
Hendricks: I was in one of those, too. I was in one of those things where you take the oil off your face. And I was with the girl in the photo booth and we go, "Eww, gross!"
Colfer: I think I remember that one!
Cranston: I was a skunk in a soap commercial. I get on a bus in New York, and I'm in full skunk, with the tail and the briefcase. And everybody's going, "Oooh, maaaaan, whaaat?"
Britton: Were you in a big furry outfit?
Cranston: I was in a big furry suit.
Britton: Was it hot?
Cranston: Oh, yeah.
Stonestreet: See, I got it that time.
When you got these early jobs did you think, "This is fantastic!" or "Oh, my God, I'm never going to get past being skunk guy"?
Britton: I was always thrilled. Every single thing.
Stonestreet: I couldn't believe somebody was going to get me Advil because I had a headache. I said, "I have a headache," and then somebody darted off to get me Advil. I remember telling my parents that.
Britton: I used to teach aerobics, like that's kind of what I did when I was pounding the pavement to make money. It was when they were first starting those ESPN on-the-beach aerobic TV things, and I thought it was my big break. And I put together an audition tape complete with my bandanna and my leg warmers. And they said, "We want you to do it!" And then I got a stress fracture, and I thought my career was over.
Christina, do people think you're just an overnight success?
Hendricks: Yes. I mean, people are like, "This must be crazy for you!" It is really crazy for me, but I've been plugging along, I've been working, and, as we were all saying before, it was always fun. You know, my dad would always go, "You're almost there!" and I'd go, "Almost where? …