’90s Flashback: 16 Emmy Nominees Who Made Their Mark on 1990s TV

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It’s hard to forget that Danes got her start as the identity-struggling teen Angela Chase in the short-lived series MY SO-CALLED LIFE (1994-1995). Now, she’s bringing resident badass Carrie Mathison to life on Showtime’s HOMELAND, which has earned her another Emmy nomination this year for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Jeffrey Tambor in The Larry Sanders Show
HBO/Everett Collection


Perhaps one of the most striking changes, Tambor portrayed sidekick Hank, to Larry Sanders’ fictional talk show host, on THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (1992-1998). These days, Tambor’s carrying the transgender revolution on Amazon’s TRANSPARENT as Maura Pfefferman, a role that led to his nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Hang Time - Anthony Anderson
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Anthony Anderson, HANG TIME (NBC)

Before he was bringing the jokes to ABC’s BLACK-ISH, Anderson was shooting hoops on the late ’90s teen sitcom HANG TIME as Teddy Broadis, the son of a professional basketball player, for one season (1996-1997). These days, Anderson plays the father figure, not the son, which seems to suit him. And being on the family comedy as patriarch Andre Johnson, Sr. has earned him the nom for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus smoking a cigar as Elaine Benes in Seinfeld
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Julia Louis-Dreyfus, SEINFELD (NBC)

Dreyfus first charmed television viewers as Elaine Benes, a woman with curls almost as wild as her jokes, on SEINFELD (1989-1998). For her hilarious turn as President Selina Meyer on HBO’s VEEP, she’s recognized for the third time in a row as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. But she was also nominated a whopping seven years in a row for SEINFELD, with just one win in 1996. Who’s to say a win can’t happen again? We’d like to see her run the country (for real) some day.

Homicide: Life On The Streets - Andre Braugher
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Before Braugher was the lovable Captain Ray Holt on BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, he was playing the fuzz with a much more serious note as Frank Pembleton in HOMICIDE for 100 episodes (1993-1998). He’s also been nominated for a bunch of Emmys throughout his career, but has only won twice so far for HOMICIDE and for the mini-series THIEF.

ABC's Spin City starring Michael J. Fox
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Michael J. Fox, SPIN CITY (ABC)

The popular BACK TO THE FUTURE star was playing Michael Flaherty, the womanizing Deputy Mayor of New York, in SPIN CITY for the first four seasons of the series (1996-2000). Now, he’s raising the bar as Louis Canning in CBS’ THE GOOD WIFE, which has garnered him a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. He’s already won a few Emmys: three for FAMILY TIES, one for SPIN CITY, and one for RESCUE ME. Maybe this year’s Emmys will be GOOD to him again.

Newsradio - Khandi Alexander
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Khandi Alexander, NEWSRADIO (NBC)

For her portrayal as Olivia Pope’s mama, Maya Lewis, on ABC’s SCANDAL, Alexander is nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama. During the ’90s, her most notable roles included news anchor Catherine Duke on NEWSRADIO (1995-1998) and Jackie Robbins on ER (1995-2001).

Felicity Huffman and Robert Guillaume on Sports Night
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Felicity Huffman, SPORTS NIGHT (ABC)

Where was Huffman during the ’90s? On Aaron Sorkin’s SPORTS NIGHT (also ABC), playing executive producer, Dana Whitaker, for all two seasons (1998-2000). She also showed up in some (very) small stints on GOLDEN YEARS and LAW & ORDER. Now, she’s nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for portraying the (basically) racist Barb in AMERICAN CRIME.

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Matt LeBlanc, FRIENDS (NBC)

LeBlanc’s career as goofball Joey Tribbiani for all 236 episodes of FRIENDS (1994-2004) was so successful that he even earned himself a spin-off: JOEY. Currently, he’s generating laughs playing an alt-version of himself on Showtime’s EPISODES, which has given him recognition for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. He’s also been nominated for six Emmys between FRIENDS and EPISODES.
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Lisa Kudrow, FRIENDS (NBC)

Another FRIENDS vet, Kudrow is also nominated (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) for a show that holds its basis (somewhat) in reality. Her role as Valerie Cherish, on HBO’s THE COMEBACK, involves playing an actress whose career has flopped but who's trying to resurrect it on a reality show. Thankfully, Kudrow’s career has done anything but flop since her days as the happy-go-lucky Phoebe Buffay.
LIVING SINGLE, from left: Cress Williams, Queen Latifah, Adam Lazarre-White, 'What's Next?, (season
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Queen Latifah, LIVING SINGLE (Fox)

The Queen still reigns for her work on BESSIE, and she's been crowned with an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie nomination, a category in which she’s been recognized before (for 2007’s LIFE SUPPORT). But back in the '90s, Queen Latifah was starring as hard-working FLAVOR editor Khadijah James in the FOX series LIVING SINGLE (1993-1998).
Early Edition - Kyle Chandler
CBS/Everett Collection

Kyle Chandler, EARLY EDITION (CBS)

Before he starred in Netflix’s BLOODLINE as John Rayburn and got nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Chandler acted in fantasy series EARLY EDITION (1996-2000) as Gary Hobson, a man who received the Chicago Sun-Times paper one day before it was published, which led him to go on crazy adventures helping others.

OZ - Edie Falco, Kristin Rohde
HBO/Everett Collection

Edie Falco, OZ (HBO)

Her pill-popping Jackie Peyton on Showtime’s NURSE JACKIE has earned Falco another Emmy nom as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. But Falco wasn’t exactly making audiences laugh back in the ’90s. Instead, she was in HBO’s OZ, enforcing the rules and not breaking them (except for one pesky shooting) as Officer Diane Whittlesey, a struggling single mom.

Cybill - Cybill Shepherd and Christine Baranski
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Christine Baranski, CYBILL (CBS)

Baranski tops the recurring Emmy nominations list at 14, including her most recent one (Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series) as Leonard’s overly-intellectual mom, Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, on THE BIG BANG THEORY. Although she’s had just one win so far, for her work as crazy BFF Maryann Thorpe in CYBILL (1995-1998), we’re betting on a win for her memorable turn on this other CBS show.

THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS, (from left): Ms. Valerie Frizzle with Liz the chameleon, 1994-97. photo: ©
Nelvana/Everett Collection

One of the most-revered TV teachers was voiced by Lily Tomlin from 1994-1997: Science whiz Ms. Valerie Frizzle from THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS. Now, Tomlin’s cracking up audiences on Netflix’s GRACE & FRANKIE, for which she received a nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series as one half of the star duo (alongside Jane Fonda) . Funnily enough, 26 new episodes of the cartoon classic is premiering on Netflix in 2016, though with a “modernized” Ms. Frizzle. But we shouldn't abandon hope for a cameo of Tomlin, right?
RECESS, T.J. Detweiler (center, left), Ashley Spinelli (center, right), 1997-2001. © Walt Disney Tel
Walt Disney Television/Everett Collection
Pamela Adlon, RECESS (ABC)

Adlon was working the voice acting scene back in the '90s, playing some of your favorite characters, like the spunky pigtailed Spinelli on RECESS (1997-2001), and the misunderstood Bobby Hill on KING OF THE HILL (1997-2010). She also made short stops guest voicing on PEPPER ANN, as well as Nickelodeon favorites RUGRATS and ROCKET POWER. This year, Adlon’s been nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Pamela on FX’s LOUIE, where she’s also a Consulting Producer.
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This year’s Emmy nominations brought a surprising number of ’90s stars back into the competitive ring. Let’s take a look back at where some of our favorite actors were on TV in the decade when denim jackets got popular and procedurals were clogging TV (Oh, wait, maybe it’s not so different from today). Here are 16 stars who were on your small screen two decades ago—still are!

For More 2015 Emmy Nominations Coverage: