For TV's top departing series, is audience devotion enough? We say some Emmys would be cool too.
They are the series we loved throughout their runs for their enduring quality and game-changing mojo, even if the Television Academy has yet to shower them with the Emmys they so richly deserve. What’s up with that? Stars of The Americans, New Girl and Scandal help us say goodbye to some decidedly trophyworthy TV.
KERI RUSSELL: It’s by far one of my favorite marriage stories. In the guise of a spy show, it really was such a cool contemplation on a relationship, and how dark and messed up and complicated and weird it can be. It really allowed you to explore the underbelly of some of those issues.
MATTHEW RHYS: It wasn’t an easy show to follow—it really pushed the viewer, which I think our audience loved. Those [who] did follow it loved that element, and it also left room for debate because it wasn’t so definitive in its execution. It left it wide open for interpretation, which is always a good thing. Like any good piece of art.
KR: As dark and twisted as our show was, the thing I remember is just really laughing with Matthew on the set—being up shooting so late at night! The feeling of the show to me will always be 3AM, outside, New York winter, not wearing a warm enough coat but some ’80s pleather number, and just laughing really, really hard!
MR: In the first audition I did, the director told Keri to slap me as hard as she could in the scene. I was kind of in shock. From that day on, it was a joke that she would slap me at random moments just to see how I would react. So that’s always stuck with me!
MR: We were like The Little Engine That Could that kind of just slowly chipped away and did its job, and kept its head down and did its work… We were totally blindsided by the first Emmy nomination [in 2016]: All of a sudden, we became a small part of the radar.
KR: Smart people think your work’s great—to me that’s the best position to be in. And then, of course, when we were finally nominated: It’s just fun because you feel like you’re the little kids getting invited to the adult party for once.
There was no more ‘appointment TV’ because we have DVRs and busy lives. But Kerry [Washington] thought live-tweeting would be the best way [to engage the audience]—it was the first show to make viewing participatory, and we did it with such glee because we loved our Scandal family so much! … It also had a lot to do [with] moving the ball forward with gender politics, racial politics, sexual politics. There’s no reason we should’ve had to have wait so long to have a beautiful, strong black woman as a lead of a show. So thank heaven Scandal happened and broke the ice in that arena.
It changed me molecularly—like, it changed who I am. I’m not a hugely confident person, but playing Mellie really let me act as if I were a person who just had that thousand-yard stare, and every time I stumbled, I stood back up and kept walking. And it showed me that life is really about participating. Now I just say yes, and I try and I’m a part of things. That I have Mellie to thank for.
Of course, we all wanted it for Kerry very much and thought she was so deserving, but life is long and hopefully that will happen for her eventually. It doesn’t take away from the work you do day to day, and we all just loved the work so much and knew how lucky we were to get these scripts every week. That’s the best trophy of all.
Seven years ago, people like me weren’t on big mainstream American network TV shows. There wasn’t a lot of half-South Asian girls in those leading roles. The landscape has changed. It was really exciting to come out on the other end and see that there are such great roles and opportunities now for people who look like me.
It was the first time I got to live my dream as my profession and not as my hobby. The memory when I first spoke to [the New Girl producers] and when I shot the pilot are so crystal clear, because it was this powerful life-changing moment. I knew it at the time. I felt like that every day. I felt like that up until the last shot of the last episode. I just feel so lucky to be a part of the entire experience.
I don’t think I ever heard a conversation that happened on our set between the actors, or any writer or producer, about awards. I think we knew we were making a really great show and our fan base loved it. People kept showing up for it and we loved making it. Yeah, I think that was enough!
Photography by: KERRI RUSSELL AND MATTHEW RHYS PHOTO BY MARVIN JOSEPH/THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES; BELLAMY YOUNG PHOTO BY LEO DEVENEY; HANNAH SIMONE BY FOX VIA GETTY IMAGES