TV guest roles bring acclaim, sometimes Emmys

Wed Jul 9, 2008 4:34am EDT
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By Dan Cox

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - They don't do it for the fanfare. And they certainly don't do it for the money. But guest-starring roles are one of the best ways for a non-TV actor to be discovered -- or a TV veteran to be rediscovered -- by a new audience.

A glance at the potential nominees for this year's Emmys in the guest-starring categories (best actor and actress awards are given out for episodic dramas and sitcoms) yields a virtual Who's Who of film and TV stars that reaches all the way back to the 1950s. The stories they helped tell range from medical mysteries to tense FBI sagas, and they're all hoping to burnish their resumes with that one special Emmy award.

Winners in the past decade have included Bruce Willis and Christine Applegate, both for "Friends," Ray Liotta and Sally Field, both for "ER," and Sharon Stone for "The Practice."

All nominees for this year's Emmys will be announced on July 17, and the guest-starring winners will be revealed during a ceremony on September 13, eight days before the Primetime Emmy Awards.

The "Law & Order" franchise, particularly "Special Victims Unit," has long been a haven for meaty roles for guest stars, particularly women. This past year, among others, Rhea Perlman and Erika Christensen created characters there, along with Sean Astin and Robin Williams.

"Most of the best writing is on television," says Perlman, who played a defense attorney on "Law & Order: SVU." "I like jobs that are well-written on shows that I like with good actors."

Perlman has four Emmy statuettes already for her supporting role as Carla the acerbic waitress on "Cheers," and says another for guesting would be a bonus. "It's nice to get awards," she says. "It makes you feel good, extra pats on the back. It brings notoriety to the show."

Meanwhile, Astin appeared on the original "Law & Order" as a fast-talking minister involved in murder. "They had written this part," he explains. "I think they must have been mulling around that (2006) documentary 'Jesus Camp.' I wanted to wrestle dramatically with those ideas. What's the point of being an actor if you're not going to take risks?"   Continued...

<p>Actor Sean Astin arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party at Morton's restaurant in West Hollywood, California, February 29, 2004. REUTERS/Ethan Miller</p>