Emmys: Bill Hader on his nomination, 'Downton Abbey' obsession, and new season of 'SNL'

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Image Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

The Saturday Night Live cast will soon head back to work without Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, and possibly Jason Sudeikis. So is Bill Hader, who recently scored his first Emmy nomination for his seventh season on the show, nervous about the amount of sketches he might need to star in this fall? "No, and I don't know if it will affect it," he says. "If history serves, it's the time when people like Taran [Killam] and Vanessa [Bayer]

will start to break out. They’ve been on the show two seasons. I feel like that’s what happened with me, Kristen, Andy, and Jason: The first couple seasons, we did really well, and then in your third and fourth seasons, you’re really doing well. Jay, Bobby, Fred, and Kenan are gonna be there. So I think it will be a good, tight ensemble. I’m not too concerned about it. That said, I did buy a bed this summer and wedge it into our small office space at home and put blackout curtains in there so I can sleep.”

We recently caught up with Hader and talked about his Emmy nomination, him trying to convince South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone to watch Downtown Abbey, why he’s not on Twitter, and how he would have spoofed NBC’s Olympics coverage. (Spoiler alert for people who haven’t started Breaking Bad and intend to.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: According to your IMDB page, you’ve been a busy man over the summer.
BILL HADER:
I’m doing a lot of stuff, and I’m actually doing two movies that haven’t been announced during the season. It’s gonna be hectic, but I did that with Superbad, Adventureland, and parts of Tropic Thunder.

What are the movies?
I don’t want to say anything because I could get cut out of them because of the SNL season. They could replace me. [Laughs] I’ll go online and be like, “Oh, good job, Chris Pratt. Oh, wait a minute, that was the part I was gonna play.” He’s one of my favorite actors. I think that guy’s so good.

We were rooting for him to get an Emmy nomination.
Yeah. And Nick Offerman, too.

Now that you’ve had time to process your nod, why do you think it happened for your seventh season on the show?
I don’t know… It’s like every season I feel like I get a little bit better. Not better, but like, I suck a little less. [Laughs] I didn’t suck as bad as last season. But I will say season 6 was a season where I got really lucky: Julian Assange and Charlie Sheen, Stefon became a thing that people liked. I did Herb Welch, which some people seemed to like. And so, it just carried over maybe. We had nice little gifts for me, personally, like Rick Perry. You just aren’t expecting that, when people go, “Oh, you’re gonna do Rick Perry.” Or the Clint Eastwood commercial, and it’s like, “Hey, you can do Clint Eastwood.” When you’re here for seven years, the writers know what you’re good at, and also what you do around the office that makes them laugh and they want to showcase that. Like, Colin Jost, one of the writers, loves it when I do Alan Alda, but no one can figure out how to fit Alan Alda into a sketch. So, he will.

I feel like you and New Girl‘s Max Greenfield need to do a fun bit with the four Modern Family actors in your category on the Emmys telecast.
I love that show. I think my wife [writer-director Maggie Carey] is just excited she’ll get to see Ty Burrell. She met Ty Burrell at the Comedy Awards, and she was so starstruck. I think most of my Emmy experience will be watching my wife go crazy over people. She’ll be like, “Ohmygod, Claire Danes! Ohmygod, Homeland is the greatest show!” Or, “Aaron Paul, ohmygod!” If the guy who plays Shane from Walking Dead is there, she’s gonna lose her s—. I kept being like, “I worked with him on Night at the Museum 2,” and she’s like, “He’s so f—ing hot, still.” She’s just started Game of Thrones, so by the time she finishes that, it’s just gonna be on. She’s gonna be f—ing nuts.

What about Downton Abbey?
Oh yeah, Maggie and I love Downton Abbey. I tried to get people at South Park into Downton Abbey, and it didn’t work. I think they were like, “Downton Abbey? What?” And I kinda made a big plea in the writer’s room, like, “Guys, you should really watch it. It’s good. It’s addicting. My wife and I are obsessed with it.” But then Anne Garefino, who’s a longtime producer on South Park and a producer on Book of Mormon, when they were in New York doing Book of Mormon stuff, she would come over every Sunday and we would all three of us watch Downton Abbey and drink, uh, tea. [Laughs]

I did that, too! I would make myself a cup of Earl Grey and put on a godd— shawl.
Yes. My wife also pantomimes the opening theme music. She plays all the strings and the piano, and it’s hilarious. We have this whole ritual. Speaking of Downton Abbey, are you ready? I’m gonna do a crazy name-dropping episode here. Me, Judd Apatow, Ed Norton, his girlfriend Shauna Robertson, Leslie Mann, Lena Dunham, and Jenni Konner, who is a producer on Girls, were having dinner at a restaurant in the West Village, and we were sitting next to all three sisters from Downton Abbey. It was like an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot and me. [Laughs] I want to say it was Jenni Konner and I who spotted them and were like, “Holy s—, those are the sisters from Downton Abbey. HOLY S—.” We all left at the same time and outside we all met each other. My wife was invited to that dinner, but she was tired because she was pregnant. So I immediately texted her, like, “Guess who we sat next to?” My wife doesn’t curse, so her text was, “Shut the front door.”

That’s a moment made for Twitter, which you’re still not on. Why?
I can’t do Twitter or Facebook, mostly because I feel like I’m the type of person who has to regiment the amount of time I spend doing certain things or I’ll just wade in it, and then I’ll never come out. It’s why I never did, like, I don’t know, cocaine or something. [Laughs] I’m just like, oh, I’ll never come back. You’re like, “You shouldn’t do drugs.” And I’m like, “Yeah, no, I shouldn’t do drugs, because I’ll probably love that s— if I tried it.” [Laughs] Also, I have a problem if I send out a mass email to people. Even if it’s four lines — like we just had a [second] daughter, so that email of “Here’s when Harper was born, and here’s how much she weighs, mom and baby are doing great” — that takes me, like, four hours. I’m just like, should it be this, or should it be that? I don’t know. I also don’t like it when I’m hanging with someone and something funny happens and they go, “Alright!” and they start tweeting it. I’m like, let’s just let it happen. No one needs to know that we just saw a funny-looking dog.

You start back to work at SNL in a few weeks. Are there any characters you’re already looking forward to introducing this season? (Note: We talked with Hader before Paul Ryan was named Mitt Romney’s running mate.)
[Laughs] No. I’ve learned that any time over the summer I go, “Ooh, I got something really good,” I’ll give it to the writers, and they’ll go, “No.” Actually, the diplomatic thing is to say, “That’s funny… Um, what if… we do the opposite.” One writer, when he doesn’t like something you pitch, he’ll go, “That’s interesting… Um…” and then he moves on. It has to be in the moment. Herb Welch came from rehearsing a sketch with Emma Stone the first time she hosted. I kept hitting her in the face with the microphone. John [Mulaney] and I would watch that video of those two old reporters yelling at each other, and we’re like, “Oh, let’s do that.” When we were writing it, the character came out really funny: the fact that he’s really Catholic, he’s maybe 120 years old, and he’s racist and sexist. Old guys are just kinda that way. You do that around the office and everybody starts laughing, and then you go, “Oh, let’s try that.”

Was there any time during the Olympics when you wished you’d been in season?
It’s funny how NBC was showing you things in the promo for the Olympics, like footage of Michael Phelps waving after his final race before they showed his final race.

And that promo for Missy Franklin saying she reunited with her parents after winning her first gold before the race aired.
I was like, oh, that could be the opening credits of some NBC Revenge-type show. So in the opening credits, you see who the killer is. [Laughs] You see how everybody’s gonna die. It’s like a promo for Lost, and you see them off the island. That was one idea I had. Like it’s a promo for Breaking Bad, and you see Gus blowing up, with half a face falling down, and it’s like, “Tonight on Breaking Bad, Gus blows up.” And you’re like, “Come on!”

Is there a character you’re going to pull back on this season?
Maybe Stefon. Actually, we don’t do that many Stefon’s, which I like. I remember growing up and you would come into the lunchroom, and people would go, “They did an Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer on Saturday night!” and you’re like, “What?! I missed it?! No!” I guess that doesn’t happen anymore because of the Internet and s—, but you kinda want to have that, “Ohmygod, we’re getting to see it!” — especially for the live audience. Kristen was good at spacing out things. When she would do something, you felt excited that you got to be there when that happened.

Read more:
Bill Hader: The EW Pop Culture Personality Test
Emmys 2012 coverage: More nominee interviews
More ‘SNL’ coverage

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