‘Hollywood’ Star Dylan McDermott Talks Emmy Nod and His Next Chapter
It’s been just over two decades since Dylan McDermott’s first (and only other) Emmy nomination (for the legal drama The Practice), and his work in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix limited series, Hollywood, as Ernie West got him not only to the point in his career he wanted but also his second nod (for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie).
Like the rest of the drama’s characters, Ernie came to Hollywood with big dreams, only his were dashed—until David Corenswet’s aspiring actor Jack and Jeremy Pope’s screenwriter Archie made it and brought him along for the ride.
“So much of it was groundbreaking,” McDermott tells TV Insider of the series that, thanks to Murphy, is part of a “new chapter” for him.
Here, McDermott discusses the Emmy nomination, what he loves about Ernie, Hollywood, and more.
Congratulations on the Emmy nomination. How has your reaction changed, if at all, now that it’s been a few weeks?
Dylan McDermott: I don’t think it’s changed at all really. I’m just happy to be there. It’s great company. I think all the actors are tremendous in their roles, so to be a part of that list is pretty remarkable.
You’ve said Ernie is one of the highlights of your career. Was there anything about the character that made you suspect that would be the case as soon as you got the first information about him?
Yeah, Ryan had mentioned to me initially that he was writing me a part, which is always a great day. He said he wanted to reinvent me, which is even more exciting, and he did, so I’m so grateful to him because he saw something in me that I don’t even know if I saw in myself. Initially, I knew going into it that it was going to be a game-changer and it’s proved to be true.
Looking back at Ernie’s journey, from that gas station to being onscreen and his relationship with Ellen—and I have to say I loved The Practice reunion—what moments resonated with you for Ernie?
So many of them. All the gas station scenes were so great. The fact that he was sick. The scene with Ellen and me is just one of my favorite scenes of all time, not only because it was Holland [Taylor], but there was something also so tragic and loving about that scene that just has always resonated with me. Every scene felt important. My relationship with Jack was so important and Archie and Ellen. The one scene I had with Jim [Parsons], it felt like it had gravitas to it and meaning and worth. Going to work felt important.
Was there a scene or a line of dialogue you delivered that stood out to you from an acting standpoint?
The one line that really sticks out for me is, “I want to be a movie star, too,” and I think that’s true for many people who come to Hollywood and have dreams of being a movie star and having it not work out. That’s a big part of what the Boulevard of Broken Dreams is all about here. What do you become after you realize it’s not going to happen? Who do you become? What do you become? Where do you go? I really enjoyed saying that line and what proceeded it. There was just a real weight to it that just rang so true for me.
Something that stood out to me is how sweet Ernie’s friendship with Jack and Archie became, especially considering Ernie and Jack’s first conversation. When he meets them for dinner and they show him the script with him in it…
Again, it harkens back to he had dreams of being an actor and then suddenly he fell into the gas station and pimping out the guys. That’s a far cry from where he was. And then suddenly, to give them some money to make their movie and then to give him a part after 30 years of dreaming and wanting to be an actor was just so heartbreaking and beautiful. The fact that they actually thought of him for the part and he ended up getting it, and Ellen coaching him and falling in love with her, it seems like all the dots were connected somehow.
Going back to that one scene with Jim, watching it, it stood out to me that your characters hadn’t spoken before.
Yeah, it was such a great — I’m so glad we got to act together. I think Jim does such a wonderful job in the show and it was great for us to finally be on screen together. I really enjoyed that day we had together.
What do you think came next for Ernie after the finale? Did he and Ellen have as happily an ever after as they could?
I think so. Because every day is so precious because time is short for Ernie, they just enjoyed every moment they had, whatever was left. I think that’s the beauty of their relationship, that they get to have whatever time and they get to feel love because maybe they both never had it.
You’ve spoken about having to “fight being that guy from The Practice,” the last role for which you were nominated for an Emmy. How are you hoping Hollywood and the Emmy nod for it change people’s perceptions of you? That you’re versatile? Anything else?
That’s the most important thing, really. The good news about being an actor that people recognize is people get to know you, and the bad news is people get to know you, so you have to change people’s perspective of you, which is a very difficult thing. I always thought of myself as a character actor, really, so now I get to play those character roles that people didn’t think of me before, so I’m really, really excited about this new chapter of my career because this is exactly where I wanted to be all along.
Hollywood received 12 Emmy nominations, across a variety of categories. What do you think about the series resonated with people?
It just set the table for equality in many ways, this idea of equality is really attainable and that we will get there and we’re in a revolution now to get there, so I think Hollywood really came out at the most opportune time, perfect time. That’s why this series is important because it really is about something. It’s not just entertainment. There’s a message in there that I think is truly important.
And is that the same for what resonated with you, both as you were reading the scripts and filming it and looking back now?
Yeah, I would say that’s true. All along, we knew that’s what the show was and that we were making some important television.
The Emmys are virtual this year, and they’re still figuring things out. Is there anything you want to see from the ceremony or anything you want to do with this change?
I’m unclear on how it’s all going to work. Are there going to be musical numbers? I just don’t fully understand how it’s all going to work. I’m sure they’re figuring it out now to make it exciting and new and fresh, because this is really the first one out of the gate, right? … It’s live, so I think people will tune in because it’s the first and I’m hoping that it’s an exciting and fun night. A lot of great actors and writers and shows are up for awards, so I think people will tune in to hear the speeches. I still think it’s still going to be a great night. We’re adapting, clearly, and the show must go on.
Hollywood, Streaming Now, Netflix