I’ve seen friends win Emmy Awards before. Writer friends. Producer friends. Even director friends. I’ve seen actor friends win, too, and that’s always fun, as it’s a celebration of people doing what they love at the top of their game and being rewarded for it, publicly. That’s cool.
Well, my dear friend Kim Estes sent out an email a few weeks back, letting everyone know that he was in the Emmy race this year. I’ve cast Kim several times and I’ve always counted myself among his fans. He’s a brilliant actor and an exceptionally genuine, kind, and delightful human being. He’s the kind of person I wish I could be all the time: just really good at the core. So, when I found out about his journey on the road to Emmy, I was more excited than I have ever been for friends previously on this ride. (No offense to my Emmy Award-winning and nominated friends who came before Kim. I love you all. Truly.)
When Kim and I went to dinner last week, his first words about this whole Emmy thing — outside of the initial comment about being the luckiest person on the planet — were about how he was excited to bring hope to his fellow actors who might never have thought an Emmy nomination was possible. He couldn’t wait for others to be inspired to get themselves on the ballot in the years to come. He was truly grateful for this experience not for the shiny gold lady it could lead to, but for what it could teach his peers about what we all are capable of accomplishing. And for that reason, I knew that a deeper conversation with Kim was required. Here’s our interview.
What was your process in putting all of this together?
The acquisition of a guest-star role in this show, nobody puts you there. You go and you earn it in front of the casting director and the producers and the director and the writers. You earn that right to be on their show by performing and you win the room and you get the part. I was very fortunate to get that and am very thankful. Only after it aired did someone say to me, “Kim, y’know, this is really Emmy-worthy, this performance.” As a performer, I know I did my job. I wasn’t looking for any accolades other than to be respected by my peers. Hearing, “That was a really good performance. You transformed. You took me to another place,” that’s the kind of things that actors love. To me, that’s my mini-Emmy. Earning that respect amongst my peers was enough for me. Then someone in the Emmy organization — the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences — said, “Kim, this needs to be submitted for Emmy consideration.” Because there’s a guest-star category that producers and studios cannot get into but actors can get into it if they’re members of the Academy — studio backing is fine, but studios cannot submit; individuals can — actors have to do the legwork themselves in this category. This friend stayed on me, stayed on me, stayed on me.
I had previously had lunch with — well, not lunch with her, but I met her — Shari Rosenblum; I ran into her at lunch. She’s the executive director of publicity and media for Fox. I was lunching at El Paseo on Cañon with a friend I used to work with in a past life at ARCO and she’s now the publicity and media director for the city of Beverly Hills. We sat next to each other and started talking about my martini — I offered a sip to her date — and we got to chatting and I said, “I was just over at your lot.” Well, then my friend started talking. You know your friends are your greatest pushers. Well, she started listing all I’ve done. And Shari remembered my part in House. We all exchanged cards.
When this Emmy conversation started happening, I emailed Shari to ask the politics of this; I didn’t want to step on the studio’s toes. She said, “By all means, you should send this over to the Academy. And get this in front of these people.” She got the email chain going to the right people. She got me in contact with NBC Universal, and within 20 minutes I had an email saying, “We’d be happy to produce your scene from the episode for the nomination reel. Where do you want it delivered? We’re happy you’re submitting because we can’t do it.” In this category, the studio can’t be involved. The onus is on me to get these discs, get ’em over to the Academy, and then follow the steps to have them edited and submitted to the online site. I had to do all that myself. They gave me a list of approved editors and I took it in to Dave at Edit Plus as he’s on the list of people to edit and submit to the Academy site. But he didn’t have to edit a thing, which made me feel real good. He said he was moved. It was ready. I took everything to the Academy. Submitted. They put it all up online and then I officially entered the race.
That’s the process. That takes work on the actor’s part to be diligent, to be sure all the paperwork’s filled out. But once you’re in it, you’re in it. And hopefully you’ve got a scene that holds up.
What has the campaign been like thus far?
We started the viral campaign at this point: Facebook, Twitter, emails. Getting in front of people who were very interested in one of their own stepping up and getting into the Emmy race. We made sure all of the language was correct when I said, “I’m being considered for an Emmy nomination.” We sent postcards out to casting directors, which is a nice side bonus because people know you’re in the business and working and you have something meaningful going and they can pass it on. And if they have access to the “For Your Consideration” site, they can see it. But I also included my website which has the clip as well, in case they didn’t have access.
Lisa Edelstein — the star who was in the scene with me — was giving a talk at the SAG Foundation. I went to see Lisa give that chat and we reconnected and it was so nice to have her support because she was very, very happy that I would set that up for consideration because it was a very good scene in her eyes as well. So it’s nice to have her support and of course to have her vote.
These three ladies — Ellen Abrams, Diane Lansleen, and Gloria Childs — all got on board really quick. They all said, “What can we do to help?” I got them together on a conference call. “Let’s figure out what we can do.” Viral is huge and important. So there’s the use of Twitter. They told me to dump my address book, whether they could be any true connection to Emmy voters or not because we might not know who the voters are. The worst that could happen, they say, “We’re not voters, but we do know people who may be,” or, “I’m not a voter, but you have my support if I’m in a conversation with somebody who is a voter.” The heartfelt support from people is more than you can ask for. Their undying support and love? That’s the best. This support from all my friends and family — they’ve been sharing the word and if they have friends who may have contact with voters, they all know I’m in the race and any support they can give is awesome. So I can’t ask for more than that.
Then you came along, Bonnie, and now I’m off to meet with a publicist. A really wonderful publicist who is really taking good care of me because of you. Now I really feel good. I feel really good and feel like I’m ready to take this to the next level. I’m happy.
Do you need a publicist before you’re on the actual Emmy ballot?
I think, if an actor can afford it and you know you’ve got a piece of material that has been called “so damn good” and you know they’re not blowing smoke up your butt, and you know you’ve got something you don’t mind showing to casting directors and to agents and to managers and you know it’s going to show you in a good light, by all means, do it. It can’t hurt you one iota. You will spend the money, get it done, get your name out there. Being in the race, to me, that’s the winning.
You know sometimes as actors, you won’t win the role, but you’ll win the room. This is part and parcel to that. Everything else is somebody else’s decision. It is truly, “I’m going to win the room on this one.” The more this piece gets out there and the more people pay attention, I got ’em. That’s the weight that the actor has to throw on this. If you’ve got something that’s meaningful and if you believe in it and you can make it work, by all means hire a publicist. If I could back up, probably at the start of it, I would’ve done it then. I don’t know. If you can afford it you should do it because it’s just going to get your name out there and it’s just going to get you more opportunities to win the room.
Now, if you can’t afford the publicist, then you have to go viral. This is a wonderful opportunity to use PR, which I’ve never done before. At a minimum, you have to get a team together of creative people who will come up with ideas in their sleep and call you in the middle of the night and go, “You’ve gotta do this.” I got those phone calls from Diana late and from Ellen late, saying, “Are you going to this Academy event?” “You need to go and shake some hands and kiss some babies.” All these ideas just keep flowin’ in from people who are really engaged in a little guy campaign. This is a little guy who doesn’t have the power machine. We’re all engaged in the little guy campaign.
You’ve gotta have people who love you and who would do anything for you and know you’re a great person and that you share and give to others, so they have no problem sharing and giving to you. Take those ideas and run with every single damn one of them because you’re gonna need them all.
Let’s talk about politicking as it relates to the Emmy race.
The more I’m engaged, the more it is politicking. You move forward because of the fact that you really don’t know who votes. You hope people open the damn ballot and vote, period. When they do vote, they may have shaken your hand and may have looked at your face. When they look in category 63, under Outstanding Guest-Star Actor in a Television Drama, they remember, “Oh, I met this person at…” or, “That guy. I remember him. Nice guy.” That’s what you hope takes place. Or that a friend of a friend was in the performer group and recommended this guy they met because he’s a good guy and the scene is wonderful and it holds weight.
I’m not saying you have to go to every event. Should you? You should go to the events that you know you may be able to get in front of a large number of Academy members who you want to get to know anyway. Because you want to run for the board someday, you may want to talk about governance, you may want a vote, you may want to judge the college Emmy Awards like I do every year. You never know. Some of the people — especially staff — they already know who I am. That never hurts you! There is no telling what type of information gets disseminated, who gets the information on the inside, who gets it on the outside. It does not hurt to be active in the organization. Being a volunteer. Being nice. Being a judge. Being a friend. It doesn’t hurt. Be cognizant of that next level of where you want to be. But starting at that point — establishing and nurturing those relationships by volunteering, by being there, by being nice, by being somebody who gets a hug when you walk in the room or attend an event — that to me is about being a nice person. Sometimes that’s rare in this town. Being nice to individuals and giving people the time of day, giving them a pleasant smile, being there to volunteer for any of their activities as well — it doesn’t hurt.
What about the politics of the celebrity-level guest-star on the ballot?
When I got The Hollywood Reporter last week via email, the article was, “Why is John Lithgow running in the contention for guest-star when he was in every episode of Dexter in season four as the villain? How does that happen?” That was my little dose of reality. That was my slap. My very brief shudder of doubt in this. He went on to explain in the article that he didn’t want to take any limelight away from the supporting actors or the actors inside the Dexter family, so he decided to drop down to the guest-star category. And my little brain says, “Are you kidding me? They’re gonna let him do this? He was in every frickin’ episode!”
So, the little guy gets slapped across the head with this reality of, “a star is coming down to play in the guest-star category.” And it’s so easy to say, “Aw, shit. I’m up against this?” But then it adds more resolve: “I’m going to give this guy a run for his money.” It’s not about winning. It’s that people in those little guest-star categories need hope. They need to know they can go up against the big guys and the studio and whoever else put him there. When I heard that he was in it, it just strengthened me.
But the first jolt is what we don’t know and the politics of being in that race is enough to shake you at the moment. When you’re going up against big names, it may shake you. But now I’m not shaken. I am even more determined to do whatever it is I can do to stay inside this fight. I got it and then I said, “I’m not giving up. I’m in this. And I’m gonna fight until the ballots are in. I don’t give a shit who else is in this race. I’m really going to make an effort. I’m in it. I’m committed.”
So, for people reading who don’t already know you, talk about how you got into acting.
I have a corporate background. After graduation from the Maritime Academy, I sailed on oil tankers for 14 years. I became involved in the environmental health and safety group at an oil company for ten years. We got bought by a larger company I won’t mention today (because it won’t help your article), and I stayed on for a year to help with the transition when they bought us. Then I left because I wanted to pursue Hollywood. I wanted to give me a chance to tackle Hollywood to see how well I fit in and if I could do this job. That was in ’92, ’93.
I met some really wonderful people. TheSpyAnts Theatre Company took me in. That gave me a nice base of friendly people in town. Even though I grew up in Los Angeles — right in the neighborhood in the Crenshaw District, Jefferson Park — even though I’m a ‘hood kid, I didn’t know about Hollywood. There was nothing I would do in Hollywood that would drive me to say, “I want to be a star,” except for the fact that I was on Art Linkletter at six years old. Other than that, I didn’t have an idea. Then I gained these relationships in the theatre group. Those grew. My network expanded and I started nosing around in all facets. I was in AIA. I was at Act Now. I had my nose in a lot of workshops in a lot of places where I needed to be. I ended up with agents in Orange County, San Diego County, and LA. I was involved in print work, and theatrical, and commercial, and just kept every facet open, said no to nothing and maintained that I would explore every avenue, and I have.
To me, every actor needs to be so open and so receptive to the many facets of Hollywood. Now it’s motion capture and it’s voiceover stuff I’m exploring. It gives me so much more breadth and depth, which I didn’t have before and I love exploring that way.
I’m one of the most fortunate guys on the planet. And one of the reasons why is because of people like you, Bonnie. That is entirely correct. Your network is vast. You can’t go anywhere without hearing your name, without people knowing who you are. If you are associated with Bonnie Gillespie, things just go forward. How wonderful is that!
Different theatre companies, different plays, different friends, different opportunities, meeting different people. I’ve just been the luckiest guy on the face of the planet because my friends have no problem pimping me out. I have no problem giving to any of my friends, pimping them out at every opportunity because I know the people I know are friendly and true and loyal and dedicated and will do the job.
Well, my philosophy is always: Surround myself with the best people on the planet and then make sure they all know one another. They’ll do magical things. That’s all introducing you to my favorite publicist is about.
It’s connecting the dots. And you’re good at it. I am too. I love connecting those dots. When you, as an actor or as a person — as a being on this planet — can connect the dots without reservation, and without believing there’s something in it for you, that’s when you’ve made it not only as an actor, but also as a human being. When you have given that — connecting people for the good of them, not you, when you have given that — there’s nothing more gratifying than hearing the result of that dot connection. I’m so grateful to the people who connect the dots for me. Those connections come back to you 100-fold.
Okay, so what’s the Emmy timeline, now?
On June 21st, the ballot shuts down online for the first round. They’ll go into a calculating phase for the next round. And on the 8th of July, Emmy nominations will be announced on television — early in the morning — for the categories. From that point, the deadline for Emmy Awards telecast voting is the 17th of August, where people from their peer groups (1500 members for performers, 1200 members for daytime, and so forth) within each telecast group will vote. From there, the Emmys take place on the 29th of August, broadcast live on the air.
It is truly, truly exciting. There will be fallout from this I think well beyond the 21st of June. It will just continue, even all the way to the announcement, because no one will know who has made it to the final ballot until the 8th of July. I think I’ve got the timing right on the riding of the wave. There’s nothing that beats timing. We’ve got a month of good strong PR to push this forward. From a personal standpoint, getting casting directors and managers a good look at what I’m capable of, this is a great time for that. From a standpoint of furthering one’s career, I’m sure there’s some things that will pop out naturally. And my relationships continue to bloom and blossom due to all the shaking hands and kissing babies.
Let’s wrap up with more about that whole hope thing we talked about at dinner the other night.
It is enough sometimes to drive someone forward when they believe all is lost and gone. Hang in there! There’s a small person out there who is driving a train right towards that big land of the unknown. Somebody you know is out there and they’re pressing it. And lo and behold, stranger things in life have happened. There’s no telling what will happen, but whatever does, it will be a good thing. It will be good.
I do believe it will be good. Thank you to Kim Estes for this interview. If you’d like to see the clip for which Kim is in the running as Outstanding Guest Star Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Mr. Hall in House, MD (ep. 6014), it’s at http://bit.ly/KimEstesDemo and of course at http://primetimeemmys.com for the voters of the Academy of Television Arts and Science.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001198.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.