"The fact that this silly-ass character got noticed and appreciated is actually really sweet."

It was the sweetest kind of Emmy nomination: Paul Reiser (Mad About You) had zero expectations that his work on the Netflix comedy The Kominsky Method would garner attention among Academy voters. But come Sept. 19, he will vie for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series opposite Carl Clemons-Hopkins (Hacks), Saturday Night Live's Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang, and Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso).

"This was a total surprise," Reiser tells EW of his seventh Emmy nomination. His previous six were for Mad About You, but he's never won. "I've long since stopped following, so I literally didn't even know [they were coming]. With last year's in-person Emmy Awards being canceled because of COVID, it just wasn't on my mind."

Here, Reiser, 65, talks about the joy of working with his pal Chuck Lorre, wearing a ponytail, and whether he'll finally break his losing spell and earn some Emmy gold.

Michael Douglas and Paul Reiser in 'The Kominsky Method'
| Credit: Michael Yarish/Netflix

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY How did your role on The Kominsky Method come about?

PAUL REISER: It started with a call from me. I've known creator Chuck Lorre for a million years, and in the last maybe 10 years, we'd floated the idea of doing something together. When I saw the first season of The Kaminsky Method, I just was so happy for him. I thought it was something new and unique. I literally emailed him to tell him what a great job he did. And then I said, "Let's do something like that. Two guys sitting in a car complaining about their body ailments? I could do that all day." In fact, I already am. He said, "How would you feel about maybe coming on board this show? You don't have to tell me now." I said, "I'm going to tell you now. Yes, please."

He had the idea for this character Martin, an old guy who dates Mindy [Sarah Baker], the daughter of Sandy [Michael Douglas]. He's an irritant to Sandy. I think if I had not bothered Chuck, he probably would have looked for some guy in his 70s.

Sarah Baker, Kathleen Turner, and Paul Reiser in season 3 of 'The Kominsky Method.'

Whose idea was it for your character to have the ponytail?

That was Chuck. Believe me, I would never have dreamt of that. Chuck said, "I just want to make sure you are clear: I want to physically age you." I said, "Okay, whatever you want." He said, "We're going to give you a little padding. We're going to give you a bald cap. And one more thing. We're giving you a ponytail." I said, "Well, that's kind of genius." It's a great character choice because he's not just a guy who lost his hair. He's a guy who's holding onto some memory of his youth."

Did Chuck tell you early on that Martin wouldn't get along with Sandy?

I think he had a vague idea because comedy is all about friction. Something needs to go wrong. If things are too rosy, that's not funny. Sandy doesn't like his daughter's choice of an old guy. And then most of the horror comes from how Martin and his daughter actually get along too well. So, somebody has to be irritated, right?

You were nominated six times for your work on Mad About You. Were you worried you'd never have that good fortune again?

I don't remember having that thought one way or the other. It was always very nice to be nominated, and it was always in such a select group of really talented people. And then you don't win for whatever reason. I never took it too literally. I didn't feel too sad if I didn't win. We had such fun on Mad About You and wrote the shows we wanted to write. I got to play with Helen Hunt every day for seven years.

I was aware that it was a unique experience, but I never really thought about the awards. I've long since stopped following it. It just wasn't on my mind at all. I was traveling and when I landed, I turned on my phone and had a surprising number of texts. I went, "What's going on? Did somebody die?" There's so much content out there to watch, it felt even more special. So with all the great content out there and all the great performances, the fact that this silly-ass character got noticed and appreciated is actually really sweet.

I assume you didn't campaign at all then?

No. I can honestly tell you, I didn't have a publicist. I didn't have anybody do anything. I'm telling you, I didn't know the Emmys were going on this year!

Mad About You
Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser on 'Mad About You'
| Credit: Trae Patton/Sony Pictures Television/Spectrum

The return of Mad About You really came out at the worst time, didn't it?

That's how we planned it! We said, 'What would be the worst time?" That's my business acronym. It wasn't the pandemic. It came out in two halves — November of 2019 and December of 2019. So we can't blame the pandemic. You can blame Spectrum if you want. Spectrum isn't Netflix — it isn't in every house. For one year it was exclusive to Spectrum, and at the end of 2020 it moved to Amazon, so it was more widely available. But you know, the excitement had waned.

I still have people go, "What happened? You guys were talking about doing that?" I was like, "It's been out for a year." So it was frustrating. The good news is, you can go find it. We had no desire to do it. We were very content and proud of the way we ended the show. We stuck the landing. And then when it seemed like everybody was doing these reunions, people were asking us, "Would you guys do it?" So we thought long and hard: "Is there any reason to do it?" Then we realized the timing of our story. It lands 19 years later. That little baby we had in 1999 would be heading to college now. That's an interesting moment to investigate.

So what are you expecting from this Emmys ceremony?

Nobody has a clear answer. If you have to wear a mask, that's actually great. When they have a camera on you and the other guy wins, they can't see you gritting your teeth. I think that's going to be a huge plus. So I embrace the pandemic to that extent.

All three seasons of The Kominsky Method are streaming now on Netflix.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring Emmys analysis, exclusive interviews, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's TV shows and performances.

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