From Australia to Hollywood: My surreal behind-the-scenes day at the 2017 Emmys and night with the stars [WATCH]

Attending the 2017 Emmys is surreal for someone who’s been an avid TV fan for practically their entire life. As a teenager growing up in Sydney I’d race home after school on Emmy Monday (in Australia we are one day ahead) to get ready for the delayed telecast. I would diligently enter a media blackout to remain unspoiled long before ‘spoiler alert’ had entered the vernacular. This year I didn’t have to worry about ‘spoilers,’ as I would see the behind-the-scenes events unfold from inside the Microsoft Theater. I would know the winners on announcement, assuming no envelope mix-ups.

Watch my exclusive video report above from Emmy day (along with our contributor Charles Bright, who was visiting for the week from Washington, D.C.). And here is my exclusive written report below.

For the first time this year the carpet was indoors with air conditioning to keep us cool from the September daytime heat in downtown Los Angeles. The red carpet at the 69th annual Emmy Awards was split in two by a hedge; the larger side is what you see on TV — where the nominees and Hollywood A-listers strolled to conduct interviews with “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood” and, of course, Gold Derby (where I work as a senior editor). Over the hedge was where people like me will walked the carpet. Because, hey, ET doesn’t have time for me in between Bob Odenkirk and Nicole Kidman. Although I did meet Kim Estes, who won the Best Short-Form Actor category for the web series “Dicks” the weekend before.

At the end of the carpet both sides converged as we entered the theater. There was no longer a hedge separating me from the nominees. There was a long queue at the bar and concession stand. There was an Emmy ice sculpture where they were selling champagne, so people can start celebrating before they have won (or lost).

Twenty minutes before the show starts, the bar closed so people could find seats. That was when I decided to go to the bathroom. Before I got in I bump into nominee and two-time past winner Jeffrey Tambor. I wished him all the best and reached out my hand. He looked down at it and then opted to give me a hug instead. He asked if I am nominated tonight. When I pointed out that I’m not, he says “It’s a fucking disgrace, I’m thinking of leaving” (thankfully he did not).

SEE Emmy Winners List: Who Won The 2017 Emmy Awards

As I entered to get my seat, the music of Jon Batiste and Stay Human welcomed us all in. To bring in his house band to entertain the audience while we’re waiting was a really nice touch from host Stephen Colbert. Before leaving, Batiste reminds the nominees to “keep those speeches short because we know you like to talk… If you forget, the band may play a little song to remind you.” Minutes later Colbert came out and wowed with his musical number and comedy. During a commercial break I bumped into a nominee and we agreed Colbert was knocking it out of the park.

During commercial breaks nominees stand up and mingle. On the screens, clips from the Creative Arts Emmys shows played. And of course, plenty of people ducked out to the restroom and bar. In a commercial break I saw “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels on the second floor. You don’t see many big names above the ground level. Perhaps he realized this was where there are less crowds and shorter queues.

Sitting in the audience you see it all unfold. When Sterling K Brown’s (“This is Us”) microphone was cut off the screens also go blank. He flicked the mic as the audience responded unfavorably to how he was being treated. When Elisabeth Moss (“Handmaid’s Tale”) won I heard her say her mother has “taught me to be kind and a fucking badass” without the censorship for TV viewers. This line was received very well in the room.

After the proceedings it was a 30-minute drive across town to the Pacific Design Center for the HBO Emmy after-party and a night with the stars. This year’s party had Asian-themed decor with Gold Lion statues prominently placed throughout the space. Overwhelmed by the number of nominees, winners and Hollywood figures surrounding me, I decided not to eat. However, from the dessert table I managed some chocolate chip cookies that were wonderfully chewy.

We arrived at the same time as Reese Witherspoon who, Emmy in hand, walked straight to the “Big Little Lies” tables where David E. Kelley was holding court. Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) was sitting with Ben Affleck at a table while Larry David congratulated Julia Louis-Dreyfus on her “Veep” wins. Moments later, Affleck told us he cherishes his Gold Derby Award from years ago. On his way back through I was able to get a photo with David, who jested that it ruined his evening.

Over at the “Veep” tables, we mused with Louis-Dreyfus if “Curb” could be a threat to finally win Best Comedy Series in 2018 and if she could win for the final season of “Veep.” The latter would give her a record-making perfect run for the performance. Tony Hale was nervously excited to have his parents at the Emmys for the first time. And Matt Walsh was pleased to hear I’m going to check out an “Upright Citizen’s Brigade” improv show later this week (he founded the company).

One of the final people I spoke to was double winner John Oliver. He was back stage when Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel made fun of the “Last Week Tonight” cocktail that was “so high quality, they can only make it once a week.” I relay the joke to Oliver who says “that’s a fair knock.”

So that was my afternoon and night at the Emmy Awards for 2017. Whenever I go to things like this it’s hard to shake the surreal feeling of being a small part of something that I’ve spent most of my life viewing from the window of a television screen. I wonder if that feeling will ever wear off, or if that’s just the magic of Hollywood.

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