Canadian producer scores 17 nominations for two series

The upcoming Emmy bash is putting Canadian TV producer Michael Prupas in a quandary — which of his nominated miniseries will he root for when the hardware is handed out?

TORONTO — The upcoming Emmy bash is putting Canadian TV producer Michael Prupas in a quandary — which of his nominated miniseries will he root for when the hardware is handed out?

Two sprawling dramas from his Montreal-based production house have a combined 17 nods heading into September’s award ceremony, including 10 for The Kennedys and seven for Pillars of the Earth.

They’ll each be vying for best miniseries.

“It’s going to be very difficult for me to be sitting there when the winners are announced, to have my loyalties divided between two of my projects,” an elated Prupas said by phone moments after nominations were revealed Thursday in Los Angeles.

The historical dramas are among a slew of Canadian series and stars vying for Emmy glory, including celebs Michael J. Fox, Christopher Plummer, Will Arnett and Barry Pepper.

Other Canuck projects in the race include the papal co-production “The Borgias,” which racked up six nominations, and the long-running teen series “Degrassi,” competing for best children’s program.

The Kennedys and Pillars face off in several categories, including best miniseries against Cinema Verite, Downton Abbey, Too Big To Fail and Mildred Pierce, which leads the pack overall with 21 nominations.

The kudos come after a particularly difficult run for The Kennedys in the United States.

History Channel commissioned and partially financed the $30-million drama to be its first scripted program. But the network dropped the Toronto-shot venture from its schedule in January amid suggestions that Kennedy supporters were unhappy with the project.

“There’s been a lot of very, very negative comment about the show that has come from people who had an axe to grind as far as I’m concerned,” Prupas said of the behind-the-scenes saga.

“Getting these nominations is a tremendous vindication.”

Prupas praised Global and History Television for sticking with the miniseries north of the border. The debut drew more than one million viewers to History Television, making it the specialty channel’s second highest-rated series premiere of all-time, according to Shaw Media.

Prupas also credited the lesser known digital outlet Reelz Channel for ultimately broadcasting it in the United States.

“If it wasn’t for them that we wouldn’t have gotten these Emmy nominations,” he said.

“Kennedys” stars Greg Kinnear, who played John F. Kennedy, and the B.C.-born Pepper, who played Bobby Kennedy, will face off for best actor in a miniseries or movie. Tom Wilkinson, who played Joe Kennedy, was nominated for best supporting actor.

Other Canadians with performing nods include Fox, who is up for best guest actor in a drama for “The Good Wife.”

Plummer is up for best voice-over for “Moguls & Movie Stars” while Arnett got the nod for best guest actor in a comedy for “30 Rock.”

Lady Gaga’s creative collaborator Laurieann Gibson, from Toronto, earned a nomination for best direction of a variety, music or comedy special. Gibson helmed “Lady Gaga Presents The Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden,” which is also up for best variety, music or comedy special.

Other leading nominees include the period drama “Mad Men,” which captured 19 nominations, the sitcom “Modern Family” with 17 bids, the Prohibition-era drama “Boardwalk Empire” with 18 nominations, and the sketch series “Saturday Night Live” with 16.

Prupas said Muse Entertainment was a junior producer on “Pillars,” which was led by Germany’s Tandem Communications with post-production was handled in Montreal.

The sprawling eight-part series, based on the Ken Follett novel, starred Brit actors Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane but featured a strong Canadian supporting cast including Donald Sutherland, Alison Pill and Gordon Pinsent.

Prupas said he was “over the moon” that both “Pillars” and “The Kennedys” earned accolades, and was especially pleased to see Canadians honoured in key departments including cinematography, makeup, and hair.

“It’s a great feather in the cap for Canadians,” Prupas said.

“It’s been an incredible year for us and our company to be involved in two such spectacular projects and have gotten this kind of recognition at this stage gives us a tremendous lift.”

The awards will be handed out Sept. 18.