In the Envelope: An Awards Podcast

By Backstage

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For over 50 years, Backstage has been the most trusted place for actors to find jobs and career advice, and for casting professionals to find the right performers for their projects. In the Envelope, Backstage’s podcast, features interviews with award-winning actors and other creatives. Join host Jack Smart for a front row seat to the industry’s biggest awards races.

Episode Date
Darren Criss
First a viral hit in a college “Harry Potter” parody musical, then a breakout triple threat on “Glee” and Broadway, and now Emmy-nominated for playing an assassin, Darren Criss is one of today’s most charismatic and versatile storytellers. Playing the lead role of 1990s spree killer Andrew Cunanan in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” the second season of Ryan Murphy’s anthologized FX hit “American Crime Story,” Darren dug deep into the darkest parts of his own psyche—and managed to find, as he always does, a common humanity.
Aug 23, 2018
Ron Cephas Jones
Ron Cephas Jones is proof that success in the entertainment biz, with patience, perseverance, and passion, can be achieved at age 60. After years of studying acting and jazz, scraping by with odd jobs in New York and Los Angeles, and balancing both fatherhood and downtown theater artistry, Ron is now Emmy-nominated a second time for NBC’s Dan Fogelman drama “This Is Us,” where he is beloved by fans as the poetic William Hill. The acting guru is looking back on an impressive career on both stage and screen—and is also clearly just getting started.
Aug 21, 2018
Betty Gilpin
Raised by actors and inspired by theater of the absurd at Fordham University in New York, Betty Gilpin is a performer full of surprises on both stage and screen. Her self-professed “gravitas Barbie clown” instincts are on full display in Debbie Eagan aka Liberty Belle, her character on Netflix’s 1980s female wrestling hit “GLOW,” a role that has earned Betty her first Emmy nomination for supporting actress in a comedy. For advice on how to manage expectations when a dream role is within reach, don’t miss this interview.
Aug 16, 2018
Tracee Ellis Ross
Tracee Ellis Ross is a vocal advocate for equality and representation in Hollywood, a three-time Primetime Emmy Award nominee for leading actress in a comedy series, and a role model who positively radiates inspiration. All combined, she makes an ideal guest on a podcast featuring awards contenders giving both life and career advice. She joins us to talk about Kenya Barris’ ABC family sitcom “Black-ish,” the importance of sending thank you notes, and the best advice she could give: work toward finding your own, truest self.
Aug 13, 2018
Sean Hayes
Chances are you know the final guest of this season of the podcast as the hilarious Jack McFarland on NBC’s hit sitcom “Will & Grace.” The beloved character not only earned Sean Hayes an Emmy and four SAG Awards, it put an out gay man on network TV, making inroads for LGBT media representation. After almost a decade off the air, “Will & Grace” has returned as funny and outrageous as ever, and Sean must rely on instincts homed in his native Chicago as a music director and comedian, during his Tony-nominated “Promises, Promises” run, and in countless other roles. Sean also develops entertainment as part of his company Hazy Mills Productions, meaning he has plenty of advice from both sides of the audition table.
Jun 20, 2018
Niecy Nash
Niecy Nash loves Backstage, and the feeling is mutual. With her background in theater and her years of pounding the pavement to carve a place for herself in Hollywood, the multi-hyphenate talent has all the audition advice an aspiring actor could ever need. Known for her hilarity on “Reno 911!” and “Scream Queens,” her Emmy-winning hosting gig on “Clean House,” and her quietly dramatic, Emmy-nominated tour de force on “Getting On,” Niecy now plays the leading role of Desna Simms in TNT’s fabulous crime dramedy “Claws,” which recently began its second season.
Jun 18, 2018
Cristin Milioti
You can’t pigeonhole Cristin Milioti as a performer—she’s made sure of it. Proving she can do everything from earning a Tony nomination for Broadway’s “Once” to taking on the title role in “How I Met Your Mother,” the actor-writer-musician has plenty of advice for artists trying to reconcile passion with what the industry requires. Now, after memorable turns in “Wolf of Wall Street,” “30 Rock,” “A to Z,” and more, Cristin leads a buzzy episode of Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi-horror anthology series, in the dream-come-true role of a kickass female hero.
Jun 15, 2018
Edgar Ramirez
Star of “Carlos,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Hands of Stone,” and more, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Edgar Ramirez has worked as an activist and political journalist, both in his native Venezuela and abroad. This season on the small screen he starred in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” Ryan Murphy’s latest FX miniseries exploring the 1997 murder of the titular fashion mogul, a role to which Edgar brought his intellectual curiosity and nuance. His advice on transforming into a character? Do your homework.
Jun 13, 2018
Hayley Atwell
Thanks to her analytical approach to acting, Hayley Atwell inhabits characters brilliantly on both stage and screen. Training as a performer in her native London before breaking into Hollywood as Peggy Carter in Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” she’s worked with some of the best, in “Brideshead Revisited,” “The Duchess,” “Black Mirror,” “Conviction,” and more. She now stars as Margaret Schlegel in Kenneth Lonergan and Hettie Macdonald’s miniseries adaptation of “Howards End” on Starz, making E.M. Foster’s tale of class conflict in early 20th century England resonate in the 21st century. Brought to you by Starz’s “Howards End.”
Jun 11, 2018
Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood began working in theater before becoming a child star on screen, with a Golden Globe-nominated breakout in “Thirteen.” Starring in films ranging from “Across the Universe” to “The Wrestler,” and TV series including “Mildred Pierce,” Evan has now taken the lead in Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s hit sci-fi-western-thriller “Westworld” on HBO. Her multilayered performance as the awakened android Dolores Abernathy, which in Season 1 earned her recognition from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Emmy Awards, comes from embracing the unknown amid the show’s signature twists and turns.
Jun 08, 2018
Noah Schnapp
At only age 13, Noah Schnapp has already voiced Charlie Brown in “The Peanuts Movie,” worked with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg on “Bridge of Spies,” and, of course, starred in one of today’s biggest pop culture phenomenons: Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Season 2 of the Duffer brothers’ supernatural ’80s thriller featured Noah’s haunted Will Byers front and center, launching the SAG Award-winning actor into the spotlight—all while juggling self-taped auditions and homework.
Jun 06, 2018
Brandon Victor Dixon
Although well-known in the Broadway community for years of stage work—recently as Aaron Burr in “Hamilton” and for his Tony-nominated performances in “The Color Purple” and “Shuffle Along”—Brandon Victor Dixon became a breakout star in front of a much larger audience this Easter as Judas in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” on NBC. Brandon also created WalkRunFly Productions, making him a Tony-winning producer, as well as an ideal interviewee on this podcast.
Jun 04, 2018
Pamela Adlon
Pamela Adlon is an actor, producer, director, and screenwriter, and on her autobiographically inspired FX series “Better Things,” she does all that things and more, last year picking up the Emmy nomination for leading actress in a comedy. Known also for her work in “Californication,” Pamela is a six-time Emmy nominee and one-time winner for voiceover performance on the animated hit “King of the Hill.” And whether it’s on camera or in the recording studio, she’s as brilliant as she is hilarious.
Jun 01, 2018
Henry Winkler
One of the most beloved presences on and off the small screen for almost 50 years, Henry Winkler is a director, producer, and bestselling author as much as he is a performer. After achieving ubiquity thanks to “Happy Days,” where he for years he played “The Fonz,” the coolest guy on TV, Winkler had to reinvent himself, working hard to identify exactly what he wanted in Hollywood. He’s collaborated with the likes of Adam Sandler, Mitch Horowitz, and now, on HBO’s dark comedy “Barry,” with co-creators Alec Berg and Bill Hader. He stars opposite Hader as Gene Cousineau, a revered and borderline-fraudulent acting teacher—the perfect role for a comedic genius with decades of insight into this industry.
May 30, 2018
Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez is an actor, producer, and director, best known for her astonishing work as the titular role in The CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” Jennie Snyder Urman’s telenovela-inspired romantic roller coaster, one of today’s only series featuring a Latina lead, won Rodriguez a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a TV comedy. She’s also known for her film work in “Filly Brown” and “Annihilation,” her activism and philanthropy, and her aptly named company, I Can and I Will Productions.
May 28, 2018
DeWanda Wise
DeWanda Wise plays the singular Nola Darling in the Netflix hit “She’s Gotta Have It,” adapted for episodic TV by the one and only Spike Lee, whose 1986 film about this sexually woke Brooklynite artist put him on the map as a filmmaker. But Wise, whose approach to art combines studiousness with something more spiritual, wasn’t intimidated during her audition for the part; as she proved to Lee, she can more than roll with the punches.
May 25, 2018
Mandy Moore & Milo Ventimiglia
Kicking off our season of Emmy Award contenders are the leads of network TV’s biggest drama: Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia! When they first auditioned for Dan Fogelman’s “This Is Us,” neither could have predicted that the series would have millions reaching for their tissue boxes weekly. Two heart-tugging seasons in as Rebecca and Jack Pearson, Moore and Ventimiglia have worked to establish a real family—both onscreen and off. The SAG Award-winning actors each joined Backstage to chat about how to create a respectful environment on set, ground emotions fully in the moment, and navigate the biz.
May 23, 2018
Denise Gough
Denise Gough is one of the most exciting up-and-comers working on London and New York stages today. After a sensational breakout performance in Duncan MacMillan’s “People, Places & Things,” the Irish actress booked the role of Harper in the National Theatre’s timely revival of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” directed by Marianne Elliott. She earned Laurence Olivier Awards for both shows—now with a Tony nomination for the record-breaking Broadway transfer of “Angels,” will she follow that up with another big win...?
May 21, 2018
Alex Newell
Star of the Tony-nominated Broadway revival of “Once on This Island” and emerging LGBTQ pop icon Alex Newell joins Backstage to discuss music and acting, longevity and survival, and gratitude and humility. Newell got his start with a video audition for “The Glee Project,” winding up with both a recording contract and a recurring role on Ryan Murphy’s “Glee” as one of the first trans characters on network TV. Despite being ridiculously young for such success and such talent, Newell is also, as this fabulous interview suggests, wise beyond his years.
May 18, 2018
Lindsay Mendez
Tony Awards season is upon us! Theater’s highest honors will be handed out June 10, so Backstage has invited onto the podcast some of this Broadway season’s most exciting performers. Up first is Lindsay Mendez, Tony-nominated for her irresistible Carrie Pipperidge in the current revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” directed by Jack O’Brien. Along with her versatility as an actor and sensational singing voice, Mendez co-owns and runs Actor Therapy, a musical theater master-class series in New York—making her a fountain of actorly wisdom.
May 16, 2018
Willem Dafoe
Few actors’ résumés offer as much variety as Willem Dafoe, an on-screen presence who seems unclassifiable—it’s simply not enough to dub him “chameleonic” or “versatile.” Just look at his three Academy Award nominations, a triptych of deeply felt acting: 1986’s “Platoon,” 2000’s “Shadow of a Vampire,” and now this year’s “The Florida Project” from A24. Written and directed by Sean Baker, the critical darling stars Dafoe as the manager of a rundown motel in Florida, just out of reach of Walt Disney World. On this final leg of the 2018 Oscars race, we are thrilled to welcome a true cinematic legend to the podcast.
Feb 24, 2018
Betty Gabriel
Betty Gabriel is the brilliant star of Universal Pictures’ “Get Out,” the comedy-horror-satire hit from the now Academy Award-nominee Jordan Peele. As the mysterious maid Georgina, she blew audiences away with one particularly disturbing scene involving her repeating the word “no”—and established for the former delivery worker her big break as an actor. The game-changing “Get Out” has won its fair share of accolades throughout this film awards season, and is up for four Oscars, including Best Picture.
Feb 23, 2018
Gary Oldman
Although you are likely aware of Gary Oldman, you may not appreciate his astonishing range. His habit of disappearing completely into onscreen roles is evident in everything from the “Harry Potter” and “Dark Knight” film franchises, to his Oscar-nominated performance in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” to villainous turns in “Léon: The Professional,” “The Fifth Element,” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Now he’s winning awards for bringing to life Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Focus Features’ “Darkest Hour,” Joe Wright’s WWII thriller. Listen in for his advice on process, accent work, and recovering from rejection.
Jan 19, 2018
Kumail Nanjiani
Before last summer, Kumail Nanjiani was best known as the hilarious Dinesh on HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” But then his autobiographical comedy feature, Amazon’s “The Big Sick,” became a commercial and critical smash. Co-written alongside his wife Emily Gordon and retelling the story of her medically induced coma amid their early courtship, “The Big Sick” stars Kumail as an earlier version of himself—a struggling comedian from an overbearing Pakistani family—and somehow blends elements of cultural and generational conflict, hospital drama, and romantic comedy. Kumail joins Backstage to discuss his writing process and the role entertainment plays in today’s political climate.
Jan 10, 2018
Patrick Stewart
In addition to being one of the industry’s most powerful and prolific actors, Patrick Stewart has a voice of pure gold. Listen to the Olivier-, Emmy-, Golden Globe-, and SAG Award-nominated knight, best known for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the “X-Men” film franchise—including last year’s 20th Century Fox awards contender “Logan”—chat about audition advice, giving characters life, and the similarities between the Royal Shakespeare Company and science fiction. We are honored to welcome the one and only Sir Patrick Stewart.
Jan 05, 2018
Tatiana Maslany
All of Tatiana Maslany’s creativity comes from leaning into the unlikeliest or most challenging of circumstances and simply responding, “Yes.” The 2016 Emmy winner for BBC America’s sci-fi thriller “Orphan Black,” in which she portrays around a dozen different clones, often acting and reacting opposite herself, rises to every challenge by turning fear and uncertainty into inspiration. After this summer’s series finale, Tatiana is in high demand; she stars opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions feature “Stronger,” David Gordon Green’s Boston Marathon bombing biopic. Listen to the actor’s thoughts on nerdiness, taking classes, and roller skating to auditions.
Dec 08, 2017
James Franco
Whether you know James Franco from his comedic collaborations with Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, his Oscar-nominated work in “127 Hours,” or even his poems and paintings, chances are your impression is only a piece of the overall puzzle of his artistry. The multi-hyphenate has zipped from Broadway to the director’s chair to the classroom, and it wasn’t until recently he slowed down to focus on a select few current projects: HBO’s 1970s New York drama “The Deuce,” and A24’s “The Disaster Artist,” directed by and starring James as eccentric auteur Tommy Wiseau of “The Room,” one of the most notoriously bad films in Hollywood history. In the midst a promising awards season, James gives us a glimpse at his artistic process and his mind-blowing work ethic. Brought to you by A24’s “The Disaster Artist,” in theaters December 8.
Dec 05, 2017
Keala Settle
For some, the acting profession is a calling that can’t be avoided. Keala Settle, beloved Broadway star of “Waitress,” “Les Misérables,” and her Tony Award-nominated “Hands on a Hardbody,” is one such performer; ever since a fortuitous road trip to a “Hairspray” tour’s open call, her stunning voice and magnetic presence have illuminated a series of intricately soulful stage roles. Now with a big-screen breakthrough as the Bearded Lady in 20th Century Fox’s upcoming “The Greatest Showman,” a movie musical starring Hugh Jackman as P. T. Barnum, Keala is about to win over film audiences as well.
Dec 01, 2017
Allison Janney
There’s a reason Allison Janney has more acting statuettes than she knows what to do with. The seven-time Emmy winner—for “The West Wing,” “Masters of Sex,” and CBS’ current hit comedy “Mom”—possesses a natural intelligence, curiosity, and wicked sense of humor that have lent themselves to a staggering variety of stage and screen roles. Her astonishing career now includes an Oscar-contending performance in Neon’s “I, Tonya,” the Craig Gillespie- and Steven Rogers-helmed biopic in which she plays Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding’s eccentric mother LaVona.
Nov 28, 2017
Leslie Odom Jr.
This week we get to be in the room where it happens. Leslie Odom Jr. helped launch the Broadway production of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s record-breaking musical sensation, winning last year’s Tony Award for Leading Actor in the process. A triple threat with roots that can be traced back to an open call for “Rent” listed in Backstage, Leslie is now a bona fide movie star, appearing in the buzzy big-screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” from Kenneth Branagh.
Nov 22, 2017
Richard Jenkins
Ready for more interviews from the frontlines of Hollywood’s acting races? We kick off Season 2—and an exciting film awards season—with an in-depth chat with Academy Award nominee and Primetime Emmy winner Richard Jenkins. Steadily working his way into audiences’ hearts with decades of fascinating, empathetic performances, the stage and screen legend now utilizes his organic approach to acting in Fox Searchlight Pictures’ “The Shape of Water,” the new sci-fi period piece from Guillermo del Toro.
Nov 15, 2017
Julia Louis-Dreyfus & Anthony Anderson
On this season finale episode, we are joined by TV comedy royalty. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has just about every conceivable award for her astounding work, including seven acting Emmys for “Seinfeld,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” and of course the hit HBO political comedy “Veep,” in which she stars as the hapless, foul-mouthed Selina Meyer. Anthony Anderson, nominated for this third consecutive Emmy as patriarch Dre Johnson in ABC’s family sitcom “Black-ish,” grew into the comedy legend he is today thanks to his working actor mother and a philosophy of single-minded determination. Jack and Jamie (and a surprise special guest!) bid farewell to the 2017 Emmy season.
Aug 28, 2017
Brian Tyree Henry
Up-and-coming actor Brian Tyree Henry is perhaps best known for playing an up-and-coming rapper on Donald Glover’s award-winning FX comedy “Atlanta.” His first Emmy nomination is for his guest role as a Memphis crooner on Dan Fogelman’s NBC hit family drama “This Is Us.” The rising star chats about how to maintain a sense of self, handle loss, and find the joy. Bonus: Emmys trivia!
Aug 25, 2017
Regina King
Backstage’s favorite Emmy-winning acting guru, Regina King is one of the greatest on-camera performers working today. She traces her trajectory from child star to actor-director with serious chops, and reveals the intricacies of the techniques that led to her three consecutive Emmy nominations (and two wins) for John Ridley’s ABC anthology drama “American Crime.”
Aug 22, 2017
Judith Light & Kathryn Hahn
In this extra-special, extra-long episode, we are joined by two Emmy-nominated stars from Jill Soloway’s groundbreaking Amazon dramedy “Transparent.” Judith Light, a Tony- and Daytime Emmy-winning legend who keeps breaking our hearts as Shelly Pfefferman, draws inspiration from the LGBTQ community and advises actors to seize the opportunity to serve. Kathryn Hahn, a longtime scene-stealer whose shattering performance as Rabbi Raquel Fein differs from her work on Soloway’s other Amazon series, “I Love Dick,” gives a hilarious interview covering everything from the nuances of religion to survival jobs.
Aug 18, 2017
Carrie Coon
This interview with Carrie Coon covers both how to act in the present moment and the practicalities of budgeting and cooking. The star of HBO’s “The Leftovers,” now receiving her first (of many!) Emmy nominations for Season 3 of FX’s “Fargo,” shares the techniques and philosophies that launched her from regional repertory theater to Broadway to critical darling.
Aug 15, 2017
Jeffrey Wright
Jeffrey Wright—Emmy and Tony winner for “Angels in America,” currently Emmy-nominated for HBO’s sci-fi western “Westworld,” and guru of stage and screen techniques—stops by the studio to share his wisdom on auditioning, stage fright, the importance of listening, loss, and more.
Aug 11, 2017
Bob Odenkirk
Bob Odenkirk, the renowned writer, producer, comedian, and 12-time Emmy nominee, stars in AMC’s drama “Better Call Saul,” Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan’s sequel to “Breaking Bad.” He joined us to shed light on his many successes, various influences, and how writing inspires his transformation into Saul.
Aug 08, 2017
Jackie Hoffman
Jackie Hoffman is a theater and comedy legend (and hilarious interview)! Now TV fans are appreciating her talents too: On FX’s fabulous limited series “Feud: Bette and Joan,” the Emmy nominee plays Mamacita, housekeeper to Jessica Lange’s Joan Crawford. You’ll never guess what inspires her acting....
Aug 04, 2017
Ann Dowd
Backstage has returned with another run of episodes featuring contenders in the 2017 Emmy race! Ann Dowd, a first-time—and two-time—Emmy nominee for her roles on eerie, disturbing, but wildly imaginative TV dramas, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and HBO’s “The Leftovers,” has wisdom to spare for early-career actors.
Aug 01, 2017
BONUS: How to Become an Emmy-Winning Actor
This extra special bonus episode of Backstage’s “In the Envelope” gathers never-before-heard career advice from Bryan Cranston, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, casting director Amanda Lenker Doyle, and more. It’s the podcast version of a how-to guide on becoming a better, more successful actor!
Jul 11, 2017
Freida Pinto, Amy Brenneman, & Jay Duplass
As Emmy nomination voting closes, Backstage interviews three of this year’s talented awards contenders: Freida Pinto of Showtime’s politically charged mini-series “Guerilla,” Amy Brenneman of HBO’s masterfully mysterious drama “The Leftovers,” and Jay Duplass of Amazon’s revelatory comedy “Transparent.” Brought to you by HBO.
Jun 24, 2017
Carly Chaikin & Thandie Newton
This week’s (extra fabulous) episode features actors from two of the grittiest and most riveting series on the small screen. Thandie Newton is an award-winning actor and activist, always on the lookout for on-camera roles that enable her to merge those two identities. Little did she know HBO’s cowboys-and-robots drama “Westworld” would provide such an opportunity. Carly Chaikin of USA’s award-winning “Mr. Robot” also joins us for a candid discussion of the nuances of casting, auditioning, and navigating the TV industry. Brought to you by HBO.
Jun 22, 2017
Bryan Cranston & Alan Yang
On a special behind-the-scenes episode of “In the Envelope,” we are joined by none other than Walter White! With 14 Emmy nominations and 6 wins, Bryan Cranston knows a thing or two about navigating the craft and business of acting. In fact, the new drama he co-created and produced, Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete,” was inspired by his last acceptance speech. Backstage also sat with Alan Yang, who with Aziz Ansari creates and produces the wonderful Netflix comedy “Master of None,” last year’s winner of the comedy series writing Emmy. Brought to you by HBO.
Jun 19, 2017
Elisabeth Moss & Hank Azaria
What does it take to win an Emmy? This week we ask a six-time nominee and six-time winner! Elisabeth Moss is as talented as she is prolific, from AMC’s “Mad Men” to Sundance Channel mini-series “Top of the Lake,” and now the producer-star of Hulu’s dystopian drama “The Handmaid’s Tale.” And the revered Hank Azaria, longtime star of Fox’s “The Simpsons” and the new IFC comedy “Brockmire,” has plenty of wisdom for working actors. Brought to you by HBO.
Jun 12, 2017
Andrew Rannells & Aubrey Plaza
The first time Andrew Rannells worked in television was a scene-stealing guest appearance on Lena Dunham’s HBO comedy “Girls.” Now upgraded to series regular and campaigning for an Emmy, Rannells tells Backstage how he approaches acting on stage and screen. Meanwhile, the equally charming Aubrey Plaza joins us to chat about her insane supervillain role in the FX superhero drama “Legion.” Brought to you by HBO.
Jun 05, 2017
Claire Danes & David Harbour
Claire Danes is a three-time Emmy-winning actor and star of Showtime’s long-running “Homeland.” David Harbour stars in last year’s Netflix hit “Stranger Things.” We chatted with both about their best acting advice, how they build their characters, and all things awards. Brought to you by HBO.
May 30, 2017