Canadian Luke Kirby wins Emmy for guest role on ‘Mrs. Maisel’

LOS ANGELES — An Emmy Awards newcomer from Canada upset a category of comedy veterans while a trio of established stage and screen actors were honoured for guest TV performances at Sunday’s creative arts Emmys.

Bradley Whitford and Cherry Jones received trophies for their roles on the Toronto-shot drama “The Handmaid’s Tale” at the ceremony, a precursor to the main bash airing Sept. 22 on CTV and Fox.

Jane Lynch and Hamilton-born Luke Kirby won on the comedy side, both for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The Amazon Prime Video series was the top comedy series winner, with six awards.

“Game of Thrones” led with 10 Emmys in technical and other categories, including a trophy for Halifax’s Paula Fairfield in the sound editing category as part of the team on the HBO drama. It’s Fairfield’s second win after nabbing a trophy for the same series in 2015. She’s been nominated for ”Game of Thrones” in four other years, and received three previous nominations for work on ABC/CTV’s “Lost.”

Meanwhile, Montreal-based Elisabeth Williams was among the team of winners for best production design for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which airs on Crave. She also won last year for the series, and earned a nomination in 2016 for FX’s “Fargo.”

Kirby won for his turn as Lenny Bruce on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” in which the late New York comedian is reimagined as a mentor to housewife-turned-emerging comic Midge Maisel, played by Rachel Brosnahan.

Following his nomination earlier this summer, Bruce spoke about the first time he learned about the envelope-pushing standup.

“I think it was a copy of his book in my grandparents’ attic in Ontario,” said Kirby, who grew up in Guelph, Ont., but now lives in New York.

“They kept all of my Uncle Peter’s old stuff and there was a copy of ‘How to Talk Dirty and Influence People.’ I don’t think I read it at the time but I sort of flipped through it. It was intriguing. And then over the years I delved a little deeper in my research.”

The first-time nominee upset some serious heavyweights in the category, including fellow “Maisel” actor Rufus Sewell, “Veep” actor Peter MacNicol, and “Saturday Night Live” performers Adam Sandler, Robert De Niro, Matt Damon, and John Mulaney.

Kirby’s win follows a diverse list of credits that include TV series “The Deuce,” “Rectify” and “Tell Me You Love Me,” as well as Canadian features “Take This Waltz” and “The Stone Angel.”

Lynch, who added to her four previous Emmys for series including “Glee” and “Hollywood Game Night,” said she based her portrayal of a 1950s comic on the women she grew up watching.

“I went right to the source: Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields, Moms Mabley,” Lynch said. “Back then, in order for a woman to be in comedy, she had to have a gimmick. Usually that meant cracking wise about her own looks, her bad body, how she can’t hold on to a man. But these women did it with such panache and style and such self-possession, and they inspire me.”

Jones, who previously won for “24,” heaped praise backstage on fellow nominee Phylicia Rashad (“This Is Us”), calling it “absurd” that Rashad has yet to win an Emmy despite four nominations, and saluted Cicely Tyson, nominated for “How to Get Away with Murder.”

“I got to tell Ms. Tyson tonight that watching the ‘Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ is one of the things that made me want to be an actress, and I tell her that every time I see her and she always rolls her eyes,” Jones said.

Whitford has an Emmy for “The West Wing” and one for “Transparent” — the latter for guest actor in a comedy, making him the first actor to win comedy and drama guest star Emmys.

In his acceptance speech, Whitford struck a political note as he thanked Toronto author Margaret Atwood for the titular novel that is the basis of the dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Atwood is “giving us perspective in this disorienting moment as we are inundated and undermined by a misogynistic, radical, right-wing ideology,” he said. “She understands three things: Despair is not an option. Our children can’t afford it. Action is the antidote to despair.”

The British marital comedy “State of the Union” won the Emmy for best short-form comedy or drama series, with short-form acting honours going to its stars, Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike.

“Leaving Neverland,” which details two men’s allegations that pop star Michael Jackson sexually abused them as children, was honoured at Saturday’s ceremony as best documentary or nonfiction special. Before his 2009 death, Jackson denied repeated, similar allegations against him, and his estate has denounced the documentary.

Among other awards presented:

— Animated program: “The Simpsons: Mad About the Toy.”

— Character voice-over performance: Seth MacFarlane, “Family Guy: Con Heiress.”

— Host for a reality or competition program: RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

— Unstructured reality program: “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.”

— Documentary or nonfiction series: “Our Planet.”

— Commercial: “Dream Crazy,” Nike.

— Music composition for a limited series, movie or special (original dramatic score): Hildur Gudnadottir, “Chornobyl: Please Remain Calm.”

— Music composition for a series (original dramatic score): Ramin Djawadi, “Game of Thrones: The Long Night.”

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