The Best of Our 2017 Emmy Talks

Emmy season has officially begun. As nomination voting continues through June 26, here’s a look back at the performances and other contributions Yahoo TV has spotlighted because we feel they deserve recognition when nominees are announced July 13.

Scroll through the gallery for excerpts of the advocacy interviews we’ve published, and check out critic Ken Tucker’s own list of 14 performances voters shouldn’t overlook.

Milo Ventimiglia, ‘This is Us’

On Jack saving the day after young Kate has been body-shamed for wearing a bikini at the pool: “He’s giving his kid this magical moment where she has the confidence to be the princess, but it comes at an expense. As a parent, you can’t let it affect you like that, can’t let them see you hurt for them. [But] it is a completely soul-crushing moment at the end for him. His daughter is already feeling that bullying from other kids and that self-conscious sensitivity of ‘I want to cover up.'”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: NBC)

Lauren Graham, ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’

On Lorelai’s call to Emily: “It was the scariest thing I had to do. It was one of the last things we did. It meant a lot to me personally, because it is a memory that Lorelai has of her father — who, in real life, had passed, and in the show, his absence was a very big presence. … “It turns into really the first expression of true loss and anger and sadness between these two women, who, if they were different, would help each other through it. It’s how she says ‘I’m sorry’ to her mom, and I just thought it was so beautiful.”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: Netflix)

Jeffrey Wright, ‘Westworld’

On the big Bernard reveal: “There was an evolution to the performance. Coming from the theater, I tend to try and build on the previous take. It was really taking the time until it erupts physically. It was an opportunity to show the full range of this newly discovered Bernard — not solely this kind of Clark Kent, but also this Frankensteinian Superman as well.”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: HBO)

Aubrey Plaza, ‘Legion’

On Lenny’s showstopping dance number: “The direction in the script was something along the lines of ‘Lenny dances a dance of malevolent joy. She rubs her stink all over David’s memories.” That was it. I just kind of went from there and made it up. … I watched [Beyoncé’s “Haunted”] video a bunch. My wardrobe is a little bit inspired by that. I was truthfully just trying to act like Beyoncé in some of it!”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: FX)

Alexander Skarsgard, ‘Big Little Lies’

On Celeste and Perry’s therapy session: “Nicole [Kidman] and I didn’t rehearse this scene at all. All these pregnant pauses are not for dramatic effect — it’s us trying to figure out who has the next line! … Perry’s ready to talk, to Celeste’s surprise, and shares quite a lot. She tries to protect their secret, and he opens up more. In one way, this is genuine. This is him opening up and showing vulnerability. But he could potentially say these things because he knows it gives him leverage in their battle. After this [scene], he’s in control, because she feels he opened up and he’s really working on their issues.”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: HBO)

Laverne Cox, ‘Orange is the New Black’

On Sophia’s solitary confinement: “I was very aware when I got this episode that transgender people are mostly serving time in men’s prisons and are often placed in solitary confinement allegedly for our ‘protection.’ Knowing that, it was really important for me to try to convey a level of truth and authenticity to this experience of being in solitary. … I met with my acting coach, Brad Calcaterra. We looked at the episode, and these scenes, and tried to make specific choices about how we could convey what was going on with Sophia with a look, with her physicality. We see that she’s chosen not to eat much — she’s lost weight since the last season. She’s been stripped of the glamour she’s been able to approximate behind bars. Solitary is often referred to as ‘a prison within a prison,’ so we see that even within prison, this person that we’ve gotten to know over three seasons, [who was] kind of empowered in a way — all that’s been taken away from her. How does she react, what is her psychological state, and what does she do?”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: Netflix)

Rupert Friend, ‘Homeland’

On Quinn’s journey in Season 6: “Portraying a modern returning veteran, with modern injuries, truthfully was the top of my agenda. It’s something I will never understand, sacrifice in a way that veterans sacrifice. The only thing I can do is to try to pay tribute honestly, and that was a hugely important thing for me. I’m so grateful that we got a chance to tell the end of Quinn’s journey in this completely different way, to take this beloved action hero guy and make some realistic, circumstantial changes to his life. … I was in touch with veterans, with PTSD survivors and sufferers, with people who had strokes, with specialists in aphasia, with doctors from Veterans Administrative hospitals, doctors who specialize in chemical warfare. I also put on 20 pounds — I wanted [to show] that idea that if you sat in an institution, eating crappy food, you don’t exercise, you’ve just given up on life, and you’re just this kind of lump, you’re not the fit soldier that you used to be. There was a lot of stuff that I did to help that. It didn’t take any effort — wearing the hair, and not washing it, and just kind of being really quite gross, horribly scraggly beard and all of that stuff, just to really show that feeling of giving up that he had at the beginning of Season 6, that he has to overcome.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: JoJo Whilden/Showtime)

Susan Sarandon, ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’

On the moment when Bette debuted her garish, scary-clown look: “This was really fun because Bette really did come up with an entire look, and I continued to do my makeup because she did her makeup. That moment of walking down [to the stage] was the first time I really felt like Bette, and of course it was very dramatic with the lights coming on and trying to time it so that my head was going up just as the light was hitting me. And when you read all the various books, which I did, of this moment, they all pretty much agree that she took this big risk to do a very extreme character…”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: FX)

David Harbour, ‘Stranger Things’

On Sheriff Hopper’s drinking and smoking habits: “I drink… I think it’s tea. Unsweet tea. We don’t drink real alcohol. I don’t drink in life anyway. I smoke real cigarettes. When I’m with the kids, I smoke herbals. [But] I do like to be a smoker when I play a smoker, because it’s one of those things: When you see someone fake-smoking in a scene, and you can tell they don’t smoke in real life, that annoys me a lot.”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: Netflix)

Thandie Newton, ‘Westworld’

On the scene when Maeve “wakes up” in the Westworld lab and witnesses the way the hosts are treated there: “That was originally going to be in the pilot, but they decided that it was such a powerful set-piece that they could let it breathe and allow it to really take center stage in the second episode. I was thrilled about that. It was the first time that I was playing the nudity, which is a very powerful and important part of the season, to see these characters stripped naked. Because it was my first time doing that, all that fear and vulnerability I was feeling as Thandie the actress was really feeding beautifully into the fear experienced by the character. I became a lot more comfortable with being naked as the series progressed, but in the pilot it was very challenging. … It’s a nightmare-scape, because nothing makes sense. She’s seeing horrific images of bodies and carcasses of meat just being dumped on the ground. And she’s naked. She’s in a completely opposite scenario to Maeve in the saloon, where she takes command and is very self-assured. Suddenly, she’s inside this nightmare, and it’s the worst thing imaginable, to wake up in this alien world where you’re being treated with appalling depravity. I didn’t have to think about much other than what I was seeing and doing.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: HBO)

Ron Cephas Jones, ‘This is Us’

On filming William’s passing: “I have lost several important people from my life. One of my best friends is actually going through that process right now with stage IV stomach cancer. And it can be painful to think of those things. My daughter couldn’t watch that episode. I don’t know if she’s ever watched it in its totality because it affects her in a way. I’m getting older and not running around the way we used to run around. A lot of feelings come up there, too. We’ve had to sit down and have a talk about it. I, too, was very moved by it. It was hard to do that death scene [in the hospital]. It wasn’t easy. Emotionally, it was very, very difficult to get that scene across so I’m glad they did it the way that they did, that we didn’t have to stretch it out for a long time in multiple episodes. We got to the initial, difficult stuff right from the beginning. It made the day a lot easier to get through because that was a very difficult scene for me. It kicked up a lot of my own stuff in my personal life, too. I had to be able to trust that Sterling [K. Brown] and the people around us would treat me with gloved hands and share the experience with me. That’s what the result on the camera is, which I’m very proud of.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Carrie Coon, ‘Fargo’ and ‘The Leftovers’

On the resonance of The Leftovers: “I rarely get recognized, but when I do, it’s always a passionate Leftovers viewer, and it’s always somebody who has suffered some tragedy and the show came into their life at the right time. People are very vulnerable with me, and I’m so grateful for it because it’s very meaningful to know that your work is impactful and that it doesn’t feel trite. Because, of course, I haven’t suffered that kind of tragedy in my life, thank god, not yet. And so I’m so grateful when I hear the stories. It just resists any kind of trite conversation. People want to go right to the deep stuff and we talk about it, and I love that.”
Watch the full Facebook Live interview.

(Credit: FX/HBO)

Freddie Highmore and Showrunner Kerry Ehrin, ‘Bates Motel’

Highmore, on their shared sense of humor: “I would say that a lot of our humor you can see in Norman. I feel like he’s a character who makes us laugh maybe more than anyone else. We would watch the scenes back or read them through and they were just so funny. No one else would get it. They’d be like, ‘Well, this isn’t a funny scene, the guy’s murdering something.’ We both understood Norman and his idiosyncrasies and appreciated them. Sometimes you have those little secrets that — what was it, Kerry, that you’d said in terms of the writing, the piece of advice you gave?”

Ehrin: “Yeah, there are certain things you put in a script that mean a lot to you, but you’re going to die with that secret, because it’s not apparent to everyone. The thing is, I miss Norman so f**king much. He’s so dear to me and so funny. Nothing delighted me more than Norman being pissy and feeling like he really put someone in their place. He did it, actually, in a lame manner, but he would be very pleased with himself. That kind of idiosyncratic, precise humor is something that Freddie and I just share and delight in.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Cate Cameron/A&E Networks, LLC)

Pamela Adlon, ‘Better Things’

On how her three daughters reacted to the semi-autobiographical show: “My youngest daughter was in the editing room with me most of the summer, so she was seeing how everything played out. My two older daughters like to watch the show roll out in real time on television. They’re all incredibly proud of me and they’re proud that my show gives them a voice. It gives their friends a voice, because all of my daughters’ friends are like my children. They love it. They feel like they’re being represented. I don’t feel there are any negative things. It’s just telling stories.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Jennifer Clasen /FX)

Brian Tyree Henry, ‘Atlanta’

On his chemistry with Atlanta co-star Lakeith Stanfield: “What you see up there [onscreen] is him really being him. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. Alfred and Darius are me and Lakeith all the way. Sometimes we will talk about things in our own really philosophical way that really aren’t about s***. ‘How do you feel about 7-Eleven hot dogs?’ ‘Well, I feel like they are a scam. They are using them for mind control.’ And you know, I can see his point, man. That is how we are for real. He will get an app that puts cat faces over texts, and he will just send me all kinds of cat faces. And it’s cool — sometimes I deserve that cat face. That keeps us going. We just get each other, and when you meet people that just get you, you have to ride with them. He is one of those people for me, and I am glad if that comes through the screen. The connection happened so quickly. It’s good to have those kind of relationships showcased. I think it is so easy for people to get caught in a trap of what people think friendships between black men are like and that they are all the same. This is an honest portrayal of brotherhood, but it is important to us that people know this is also not a statement on all brotherhood. Not everyone knows all the sides of that.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Guy D’Alema/FX)

Mandy Moore, ‘This is Us’

On how she portrays Rebecca differently at ages 23 and 66: “As odd as it sounds, I thought about where my energy would emanate from as a mother in her 30s, and a lot of that felt like it came from my hands and it came from my heart. But as Rebecca transitions into later in life, I really imagined the energy emanating from the top of my head, and when I walk, I just imagine planting my feet on the ground, because there’s sort of a wisdom and clarity that comes with age and time and knowing who she is at that phase of her life.”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: NBC)

J. Smith-Cameron and Bruce McKinnon, ‘Rectify’

McKinnon, on their characters’ bathtub reunion: “I’ll tell you, when I was in that bathtub totally exposed, not necessarily just as the actor but as the character, that’s literally stripped of any kind of shield or anything — it’s almost like being a baby in the bath, you know? Getting that knock on the door, at that moment… boy, I’m starting to well up just thinking about it. At that moment, it’s like, Ted Sr. has already been through one marriage, and it didn’t work out, and it was really a tough situation. I really tried my best to do unconditional love in this marriage. And I’m a fixer, Ted’s a fixer, and everything’s just broken, and I can’t fix it. I mean, everything. So, as I’m sitting there, just pretty much in the moment, and then I get the knock on the bathroom door… I’m just done. I’m washed up on the bank, you know? Then Janet comes in, and when she scrubs my back, and then she says, ‘I love you, Ted,’ it was totally unexpected. It was a very raw feeling, and a beautiful thing. We shot it so many different ways, too. I mean, we shot it to where I ended up just crying at different levels, and heaving, and sobbing, and subtle. It was just a very exposed thing, and when you’re doing a scene like that, to have somebody [like J.] — we had such a trust in our give and take as actors, and in our relationship as actors and friends and characters that it helped me to just be open. So it was just a really beautiful, hard thing to do over and over and over again.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Sundance TV)

Lena Waithe, ‘Master of None’

On crafting Denise’s coming out story, inspired by her own, with Aziz Ansari: “When I write, I don’t necessarily think about making something universal. Whenever a thing is very specific to someone’s experience, it can’t help but be universal. The thing I hate the most is when people write up the middle, because when you do that no one can really relate to it. It feels like you’re actively trying to appeal to everybody, and it goes to that saying about ‘if you try to please everyone, you’ll please no one.’ This might make me some enemies out here in the world, but I don’t have a desire to please everybody. I just don’t. I’m an artist, and I want to make things that are specific, honest, and fresh that appeal to me and my senses. It’s my job as an artist to keep my finger on the pulse; that way if things that only appeal to me stop appealing to the world, it means I have to get out in the world and touch people. Writing something that is specific and makes me laugh is how comedians work. If they tell a joke that doesn’t make them laugh, how can they expect to make somebody else laugh?”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Netflix)

Hank Azaria, ‘Brockmire’

On the crushing moment when Brockmire intersperses play-by-play of the Kansas City Royals game he’s calling with explicit details of catching his “sexual astronaut” wife cheating: “I had the good sense and good fortune to hook up with [writer] Joel Church-Cooper and Tim Kirkby. They saw the humanity and what was sort of heartbreaking about it, while being also funny, even more than I did, and sort of encouraged me to take it that way in the performance. And I realized, ‘Wow, that actually is right.’ As funny as it is, if you also treat it honestly and realistically, it’s pretty sad — and an interesting comment on the weird digital times we live in, too, that it just gets captured and lives forever.”
Watch the full video interview.

(Credit: IFC)

Portia Doubleday, Grace Gummer and Carly Chaikin, ‘Mr. Robot’

Doubleday on Angela singing karaoke: “There’s a certain honesty that comes out when you sing that you can’t hide as an actor, even if you’re in character. I sing for fun, but I didn’t think that Angela was the singing type. It was a moment for her to finally break this veneer that she’s been holding together the entire show — this necessity for control. That moment was atypical of something that you would see her do, so I was really excited to see what would happen.”

Gummer on Dom: “What I think is so cool about her is that she’s aggressive and impulsive, tough and feminine. Deep down she’s incredibly lonely and isolated, and I think she uses her job as a cover-up for all of that. I think that’s how she’s related to every character on the show, because they all have that element to them. I thought of her as Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs or Frances McDormand in Fargo — that weirdo that somehow ends up being the one that gets the case and actually solves it. The one that cares the most, and the least likely person you would think would be able to do the job.”

Chaikin on Darlene’s act of murder: “One of the things that I really held on to while doing that scene was thinking about Darlene saying, ‘Nobody else saw but me.’ That lonely isolated feeling of seeing this woman [laugh], and everyone else being like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Having that be embedded in her, and with all of the s**t that has happened to her family as a result of E Corp. She has a face to put to that, which is Susan’s face. Susan encompasses all the evil that happened, and being able to put a face to that incident helps her. It provides a feeling that getting revenge on this one person would somehow make everything better.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: USA)

David Cross, ‘David Cross: Making America Great Again!’

On filming the Netflix comedy special before Trump was named the Republican nominee: “It was simpler and perhaps more innocent in the fact that most thinking people thought, ‘Well, there’s no way he’ll become president, much less even get the Republican nomination.’ It was easier to talk about the things I was talking about, and it’s almost cringe-worthy now when there’s a point where I go, ‘We don’t know who the Republican nominee is gonna be,’ and then I cross my fingers and go, ‘Trump please.’ It’s hard to watch. And even then you thought even if he was the Republican nominee, he surely couldn’t be voted into office. He’s such a blatantly reprehensible con artist. But there are a lot of suckers in America, and this country was built on suckering people. But the special is even more relevant because of the shooting [on June 14] with the congressmen. And of course, it won’t accomplish anything. The core idea in the [‘Making America Great Again!’] bit is that there would only be change enacted when something happened to them personally. But even then, it’s probably not going to. It won’t result in any change. But yeah, there’s little bits and pieces that become more relevant every day, unfortunately.”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Netflix)

Reid Scott, ‘Veep’

On learning that an Australian politician laughed so hard he choked and knocked himself unconscious while watching the Season 6 premiere sequence in which Dan busts cancer survivor Jonah (Timothy C. Simons) shaving his head for sympathy before goading the freshman congressman into an on-air meltdown: “The fact that we almost killed a guy, that’s so heartwarming. I’ve always wanted to almost kill a member of Australian Parliament. And I feel like now, to break through that glass ceiling, I don’t know what we could do from here.”
Watch the full Facebook Live interview.

(Credit: Justin Lubin/HBO)

‘The New Edition Story’ Writer Abdul Williams

On the group’s reaction after granting him incredibly open interviews: “When we were about to go into production, we were a few months out, and all that time we had never let the group actually read the script, until we — me and the producers and the director and the network — were all on the same page, and we felt strong about it. Because we just anticipated they’d want to pick it apart. We wanted to get it into that fighting shape. Then we went on a retreat, where we gave [the script] to them on a Friday night, all the guys got it, including [manager/choreographer] Brooke [Payne]. Everybody gets it at the same time. They’re all staying at the same place, and they get two nights to read it, digest it, and then we would all come [together] on Sunday. I’m anticipating they’re going to tell me how much it stunk, how I got their lives completely wrong. I was just prepared for the worst, right? We got there, and we all met in this big room, and I’ll never forget: Johnny [Gill] said something like, because this was a long script, like over 200 pages, he goes, ‘I had only planned to read [a little] the first night, and I figured I’d pick it back up the next day and get through the rest. I couldn’t put it down.’ They were all reading it, and then they all got together in somebody’s room. They said there were things that they read in the script that they didn’t even know, that another person had said or thought. All these years — 25, 30 years knowing each other — and they were like, tears were shed and hugs. You know, just really talking things out. It was very emotional for them, and it was emotional for me to hear that coming from them, because at that point, this wasn’t just like any other project for me. I’m emotionally invested in it, and for whatever reason, I got tapped to do this. And if nothing else had come of it, then I was one small tool to kind of help them heal some of their old wounds or understand each other better. That really kind of separated this project in my mind.”
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(Credit: BET)

‘The OA’ Choreographer Ryan Heffington

On creating “The Movements,” a series of dance moves that ultimately helps prevent a tragedy: “It took months to determine would what would be realistic or what could work. What would take someone off guard? What would make someone empathetic about what they were seeing, even if it might be a little abstract and strange? What would be a distraction? We thought about all those questions, because if someone just did a modern dance routine, they would have shot in two seconds — for good reason!”
Read the full interview.

(Credit: Netflix)