Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the Emmys: Looking Back on Her Historic Wins and Most Memorable Moments
By Stacy Lambe
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is no stranger to the Emmys. In fact, she’s practically Television Academy royalty thanks to her record wins and nominations dating back to 1996, when she was first honored with the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for playing Elaine on Seinfeld.
In total, Louis-Dreyfus has garnered 26 nominations and 11 wins for her work on the NBC sitcom as well as The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep. The latter, created by Armando Iannucci, has led to the actress’ current winning streak, with six consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for playing Vice President turned President Selina Meyer. She’s nominated again -- twice, in fact -- for the final season of the HBO series at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be handed out live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and will air on Fox.
If Louis-Dreyfus wins on Sunday, she’ll set two records. The first, besting her current record for the most wins for a performer for the same role in a series with a total of seven awards for all seven seasons of Veep. The first six were consecutive wins, while the seventh comes after a one-year absence at the Emmys when the series went on hiatus while the actress battled cancer.
The second record is the most wins for an individual performer with nine Emmys, breaking a tie Louis-Dreyfus currently holds with Cloris Leachman. Leachman, who is 93, has won for her various roles on A Brand New Life, Cher, Malcolm in the Middle, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Promised Land. Her last nomination -- her 22nd -- was in 2006 for Raising Hope.
In addition to her historic wins, Louis-Dreyfus has been a near-constant presence at the Primetime Emmys. Over the past 27 years, she’s been nominated at 18 ceremonies, including a six-year streak from 1993 to 1998.
It was in 1996, during the 48th annual ceremony, that she had her first memorable moment as she crossed her fingers and mouthed, “please, please,” before she won the award. After the surprise win, she managed to stumble her way through an acceptance speech. “I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked,” she said in an interview with the Television Academy years later. A decade later, which marked her second win, after a significant gap at the Emmys, she accepted her prize by saying, “I’m not somebody who really believes in curses, but curse this!”
In wasn’t until 2012 that Louis-Dreyfus sharpened her comedy skills, making each acceptance speech more anticipated than the next thanks to a string of hilarious bits involving her competition and Veep co-stars. While walking to the stage, she hugged fellow nominee Amy Poehler (up for Parks and Recreation at the time) on the way to accepting her award from Stephen Colbert. Once at the microphone, she started reading her speech from a crumpled up piece of paper. “Thank you so much, I’m a bit overwhelmed, oh my god. First of all, I’d like to thank NBC, Parks and Rec, my beautiful boys, Archie and Abel,” Louis-Dreyfus said before stuttering and looking to a confused Poehler, whom she accidentally “switched” notes with.
Louis-Dreyfus topped the comedy bit in 2013 with Tony Hale, who plays Selina’s body man, Gary, standing by her side as she ran through a long list of “thank yous.” As she started to stutter, Hale leaned in to help her, whispering names into her ear. The moment was a brilliant recreation of Selina and Gary’s dynamic that fans have come to love on Veep.
The following year, in 2014, Louis-Dreyfus’ acceptance speech marked the hilarious conclusion to a two-part gag that started when she and Bryan Cranston presented the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. While praising his work on Breaking Bad, she remarked on how similar he looks to one of Elaine’s love interests on Seinfeld. After it turned out to be him, Cranston reminded his former co-star they also had a kissing scene. Cut to Louis-Dreyfus’ win for Veep, when she marched over to Cranston and made out with him before accepting her award. “Yeah, he was on Seinfeld,” she quipped to rapturous applause.
Over the next two years, she brought the political satire of Veep into her acceptance speeches. “‘What a great honor it must be for you to honor me tonight.’ Oh wait, oh god. Oh no no, I’m so sorry. Donald Trump said that, I’m sorry,” she apologized in 2015, before deadpanning: “It’s getting trickier and trickier to satirize this stuff.”
That was followed by another skewer of the political system in 2016 when she read off an apology for all America. “I’d also like to take this opportunity to personally apologize for the current political climate,” she quipped. “I think that Veep has torn down the wall between comedy and politics. Our show started out as a political satire, but it now feels more like a sobering documentary. So I certainly do promise to rebuild that wall, and make Mexico pay for it.”
She also ended on a poignant note, with a brief, heartfelt dedication to her father, who died days before the ceremony. “Lastly, I’d like to dedicate this to my father, William Louis-Dreyfus, who passed away on Saturday,” she said, barely holding her speech steady. “I’m so glad that he liked Veep because his opinion was the one that really mattered.”
That mix of wit and poignancy carried over to 2017, the sixth consecutive year she won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. “We did have a whole storyline about an impeachment, but we abandoned that because we were worried that someone else might get to it first,” she remarked to cheers and laughter from the audience, before concluding, “This is, and it continues to be, the role of a lifetime and an adventure of utter joy.”