By Mandi Bierly
June 17, 2011 at 06:55 PM EDT

On June 24, Emmy nominating ballots are due. (View the ballot listings online here. Fringe‘s Joshua Jackson and Mike & Molly‘s Melissa McCarthy will announce the nominees on July 14.) To celebrate, we phoned John Leverence, the Television Academy’s SVP of Awards, and asked a few evergreen burning questions.

• Who decides whether a show like Glee or Castle enters as a comedy or drama? Producers submit themselves, and then there is a review. Leverence says there have been ongoing discussions about whether to split the comedy category into two — sitcoms and dramedies. “When the Board was thinking about this, the feeling was that no, comedy is a broad spectrum, but we think that the comedy series category can accommodate that broad spectrum. You have the same kind of thing going on in the drama series. You have something like The Killing, which after every episode you want to go kill yourself … But you have things like Castle and White Collar,” he says. “The awards committee did a review, looked at the lineup, and they said, ‘The hell with it, let’s leave comedies where they are.’ The Board of Governors does not want to get into a game of Whac-A-Mole.” 

• Why is someone like Raising Hope‘s Cloris Leachman considered a guest actress instead of a supporting actress? Because that differentiation — much like the one between supporting actor and lead actor in the case of ensemble casts — is subjective and up to the performer. “A person is thought of as a particular kind of player, a particular kind of role within [the show],” Leverence says. “That person who’s the guest can choose to go guest or can choose to go supporting. It used to be no more than three episodes, and then no more than six, and then it really came down to, we’re not going to look quantitatively. We’re going to look at the title the person has. You have people like Shelley Long, an example of a guest on Modern Family, where she plays the mother and wreaks havoc [and then is gone]. But then you also have the Cloris Leachman situation in which you have an ongoing guest.” 

• Is there a cap on the number of people who can submit for supporting actor or actress from one show? No.

• Will we ever see an ensemble Emmy similar to what SAG awards entire casts? “The TV Academy has a problem with that, because we have a general principle that you can get one Emmy for one achievement. If we were to have that ensemble category, then Alec Baldwin is going to win for lead actor in a comedy series, and then he’s going to pick up a second Emmy for ensemble from a comedy series, and we have just done a violation of one of our long-standing principles for the awards,” Leverence says. “They’re going to get you if you do and get you if you don’t.”

• Why did Deadliest Catch move from the Outstanding Nonfiction Series category to Outstanding Reality Program when it came time to nominate its sixth season, which documented the passing of Capt. Phil Harris? It was a call made by the show’s producers who read this year’s somewhat modified rule that says Outstanding Reality Program should include documentary-style reality shows and docusoaps. “You have a situation with Deadliest Catch of a series that has been on sufficiently long enough that you have a continuing cast of characters there. Per our rules, when you have that, it would be considered a docusoap, and [you] must enter over into the reality category,” Leverence says. “It’s a sense that we are no longer freshly documenting the work on the boat. Rather, we are continuing the adventure with a cast of characters who we know and who are perhaps bringing their own personal narratives a little bit more than you would typically get in the first year or [in] a newer program that is essentially doing the same kind of documentation.” That’s why Coal, Catch EP Thom Beers’ new Spike series, for instance, is entered in the Outstanding Nonfiction Series race.

(Reporting by Kate Ward)

Read more:

Why ‘Parks and Rec,’ ‘Community,’ and ‘Justified’ can hope for an Emmy nod: Thank the TCA Awards!

Jane Lynch talks hosting this year’s Emmys: ‘I’m quite calm about it’

‘Deadliest Catch’ jumps categories at Emmys