Since its 2013 debut, HBO’s short-lived, passionately beloved, genre-defying emotional epic The Leftovers has been called everything from a “wild, beautiful, hurt-so-good” masterwork to beholder of “the best acting, directing and ephemeral atmosphere on television,” while racking up some of the highest-ever critic scores for a dramatic series in television history. As of its third and final season closer on June 4, though, the series had yet to receive a single Emmy nomination.
That all changed Thursday morning, however, as Ann Dowd, who’s played the Guilty Remnant-leader-turned-omnipresent-spirit Patti Levin since the series’ inaugural season, bagged The Leftovers its first and only notice from the Television Academy. It’s a prestigious honor Dowd doesn’t take lightly, but one she did experience, in part, while clad in bedtime attire.
“I’m still roaming around in my nightgown. I’m in my little place in North Carolina where we’re shooting [season 2 of Good Behavior], and I’ve not left the upstairs. I’m just roaming around saying thank you out loud,” Dowd tells EW, also noting that show creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta called her shortly after the announcement to offer heartfelt congratulations. “I would’ve needed the EMT if I were watching the nominations live. I got up this morning and I cleaned the house, moved the furniture – this is not even my house, might I say – and I changed the pictures on the wall, took a deep breath, and reminded myself of how fortunate I am to be working… Then I watched Serena Williams playing someone [in a Wimbledon match] and I pretended I was her, having courage!”
While she comes to terms with the excitement surrounding her nomination — her second overall, also recognized Thursday for her supporting performance in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale — as a guest actress on season 3‘s penultimate episode, Dowd says she won’t forget the profound experience of appearing in The Leftovers (about Kevin Garvey [Justin Theroux], a police officer navigating a fraying world in the wake of the unexplained disappearance of two percent of the world’s population) and that she’s eternally grateful for the role that altered the course of her life.
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“How do you thank people who have changed your life and taught you the point of life? To sit with what is uncomfortable, sit with what you’re afraid of losing, to sit with trust and learn to let go. How do you thank someone for teaching you those things?” she asks, referencing the show’s overwhelming (at times, abstract) treatment of life, death, and mourning. “A member of our cast lost someone she loved very much, and because of the experience of filming The Leftovers, she was able to have the conversation as this person was transitioning from this life. That knocked me out.”
She continues: “The Leftovers keeps dovetailing throughout all of our lives. To learn to let go of Patti [after her death] in season 1, I was so heartbroken, and to have her come back [in season 2 as a presence in Kevin’s mind] and know she’s there for a reason, it was so true to character, [but] I have been saying goodbye to her and the show since the beginning,” she explains. “That’s what grief is like, isn’t it? You let go of what you love and whom you love, you let go in waves. It takes time. And this is part of the process in letting go of The Leftovers, in the way Patti let go.”
While years of fan-backed campaigns to get the show on the Academy’s radar failed in the recent past, Dowd now finds herself proudly carrying the singular torch for a program she hails as the definitive example of artistic harmony.
“Without Damon, Tom, and Justin Theroux, there is no Patti whatsoever. I never would have had the courage or the insight to know her in any way without those men, period. I deserve the least amount of credit for who she is, and I mean that,” Dowd admits. “If I were the one choosing, they would all be nominated, as would the show. Living up to that material is the definition of collaboration. Without Justin, I never would have had the courage to do those scenes because he was always there. The scary thing about Leftovers is it hit us on so many levels, and many of them were unconscious. We couldn’t even name the things we were experiencing… to live in that space took tremendous trust, but on the other side of that, for me, were Justin, Damon, and Tom.”
All three seasons of The Leftovers are available now on HBO Go. Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale is streaming exclusively on Hulu. For EW’s full season 3 wrap-up with Dowd, click here. Check out a complete list of 2017 Emmy nominations here.