We call them the overachievers.
They’re the Emmy nominees who have earned not just one Emmy nod, but multiple — because they’re the TV version of a triple threat.
Joining EW for a multi-nominee Emmy roundtable are Brendan Hunt, nominated for writing, acting, and producing Ted Lasso; Maya Rudolph, nominated for Saturday Night Live and Big Mouth; Steven Canals, nominated for producing, writing, and directing Pose; and Ashley Nicole Black, nominated for writing on A Black Lady Sketch Show and The Amber Ruffin Show.
Now, it’s clear from their wealth of nominations they’re abundantly talented. But when did they first know they had an aptitude for what they do? We asked, and they opened up about the moments that made them realize this was a good career for them.
Black cites the moment she got a job writing for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee as affirming something she’d always believed about herself. “You’re getting this email because you made Samantha laugh,” she recounts of learning she got the gig and finally feeling like everyone else saw in her what she knew was there all along.
Similarly, Rudolph cites being able to make “her people” laugh. “Just finding your people,” she says. “Once I found my people that spoke the same language with or I felt I was myself in how I perform, getting to make them laugh, feeling some symbiotic connection, that made me feel like I’m part of something and that felt good…I’m doing something because I’m making someone I admire laugh.”
Hunt points to an earlier moment in his life, his first-ever improv class after his freshman year of high school. “When you first encounter teachers who lock in on you, that can be a very powerful thing,” he says. “It’s not even a specific memory of anything [the teacher] said. Just the way that I felt by the end of that workshop.”
In contrast, Canals says he vacillates between thinking he’s terrible or great at his job, blaming his “Virgo” nature. “It really just depends on the day,” he muses. “When I was directing the finale, there were days when I was like that’s going to be the perfect shot I composed, and then I don’t get it, and I’m like, ‘That’s why I’m not supposed to do this,’ and then, I get an Emmy nomination, and I’m like, ‘See? I am great.”
Canals, who co-created Pose and directed the series finale, had to be convinced to helm the show’s conclusion by Ryan Murphy. He first had the kernel for the idea in 2004 as an undergrad student and then wrote a first draft in 2014, but he didn’t have a notion of bringing the series home. “To be the person to metaphorically land the series plane, I didn’t even know it was something I needed, to be honest,” he reflects. “Ryan was the one who was like, ‘It makes sense to me and it feels right that you should be the person to direct this series finale.’ He really had to convince me.”
Black is now collaborating with fellow multi-nominee Hunt, having written a season 2 episode of Ted Lasso. Elsewhere, she talks about why she wanted to write for the show, and Hunt explains what made her a great addition to the writing staff. Maya confesses what her Big Mouth character Connie the Hormone Monstress has in common with her SNL “characters” Beyoncé and Kamala Harris, and they reveal if they subscribe to Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes approach or prefer to manifest things à la The Secret.