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Paris Barclay Thought He Would Never Find Out if He Won an Emmy

Variety logo Variety 6/8/2017 Addie Morfoot
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Paris Barclay began his prolific TV career in 1992. Six years later, with only 20 episodes under his belt, Barclay won his first Emmy for his direction of “NYPD Blue: Lost Israel, Part 2.’’ The following year, he took home his second statue. Since then Barclay, president of the DGA, has directed more than 150 TV episodes for series including “ER,” “Sons of Anarchy” and, most recently, “Pitch,” for which he also served as an executive producer. Since his first win, Barclay has received three noms for “Glee.”

What stands out about your first Emmy win?

I didn’t expect to win because I was so new [to the field] and because of the other very talented nominees. Also, “Lost Israel” was an unusual episode all around, and “NYPD Blue” had never done a two-part episode. So I thought, “OK. Well this [ceremony] will be fun,” but I figured my chances of winning were less than 50-50.

What did you think when presenter Roma Downey announced a category tie?

I immediately did the math and because I’m an optimist figured my chances had just doubled. She read the first name, which was Mark Tinker [“Brooklyn South”], who is my friend. He was the executive producer on “NYPD Blue” and one of the people who promoted me to be on that show. So Mark gets up and talks forever. It felt like he was up there for seven years. The music starts playing and he just kept on talking. Meanwhile I’m sweating it out sitting next to my mom. Eventually Tinker gets off the stage and Roma comes back to the podium and announces my name and we got a huge reaction from the “NYPD Blue” posse.

Had you written a speech or did you wing it?

I didn’t want to bring up paper, so I made a sort of a mnemonic of the actual Emmy so I’d remember what to talk about. The actors were the body [of the statue]. The crew was the legs and I remember thinking that David [Milch] and Steven [Bochco] were the base. They were the people who held me up. That’s how I remembered it.

Do you feel that that win launched your career?

After that the jobs started to change. I got offered different kinds of shows and different kinds of work was suddenly available to me, which was huge.

You won in the same category for the same show the following year. Were you more relaxed?

No, I wasn’t. That was the year David Chase was nominated for “The Sopranos” pilot. It was a huge show and it was great. I thought, how can you win against that?

Have your feelings on attending the Emmy Awards changed?

Before I became president of the DGA [in 2013] it was more fun, because now I have an official capacity of being there. I want to make the rounds and want to see the directors who were nominated and give them love and be impartial. So generally it’s become more work.

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