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Emmys 2016 red carpet diary

Who got game? Hollywood does. That’s who

Everybody in Hollywood got game.

Nearly everyone who walked the red carpet on Sunday night at the 2016 Emmy Awards who stopped to chat with ESPN cameras — both His & Hers and The Undefeated were represented — wanted to immediately go in about something sports-related—without even knowing what exactly we had planned for them.

I teamed up with the ESPN 2 show’s co-host Jemele Hill — my college roommate and my best friend — to, in a way, show her the ropes of covering a big entertainment red carpet. Hill was a novice at this before Sunday night, not that anyone else noticed. Let’s be wholly honest here: she was quite the rock star herself on the carpet given that a lot of people in Tinseltown spend their off times on set watching her noon show. “Who’s the best athlete of the last 50 years,” is what Daniel Sunjata, of ABC’s forthcoming Notorious wanted to know from her. This — or something like it — happened a couple of times.

But just about everyone was ready to drop some sports knowledge — if only we let them.

As I explained to Hill and her show producers Talaya Wilkins and Nicole D. Peterson before things really got going, these carpets can be a beast. Yes, prepare to see some of the world’s most famous people who enter your living rooms weekly walking before you and clustering with other like-famous people, and expect to see even those who recognized me — His & Hers was banking on my time as a red carpet reporter and, as someone who, well, quite frankly, is known by a few folks they love! — to offer up a friendly wave and keep on moving. Hi, Kerry Washington! Thanks for the knowing smile and thumbs-up you have in appreciation for my gown, but can we talk about … Oh? No. No time? OK, then. Moving right along!

This is the norm. Can’t take it too personal.

Eh.

But, hey, the red carpet is all a negotiation, and we managed to grab some great names, tested them a bit about who was an Emmy nominee versus who was an athlete. Would you be surprised to know that American Horror Story’s Angela Bassett — who was the only person on the Emmys red carpet to be impressed by and to notice our team of all four black women working this big, high-profile red carpet — is a rock star at this? The Oscar-nominated actor was initially nervous about talking with ESPN — feared she didn’t know enough about sports. She nailed it.

We also went off script a bit with Jenifer Lewis of black-ish who went viral with a made-up song with pop singer and actor Brandy Norwood and Roz Ryan earlier this year. She, um, made us sing the PG-rated version of it with her. We obliged. Have you ever met Lewis? Who says no to her? No one, that’s who. She also gave us the backstory on how that little ditty came to be.

There’s also foolishness that happens on the carpet — all in good fun, of course. While interviewing Anthony Anderson, nominated for his leading role in black-ish, about our fun little nominee v. athlete game, the show’s creator comes up behind him and gives him a breast massage a la that infamous Janet Jackson Rolling Stone cover. Hey, Kenya Barris knows what makes good TV.

There were awkward moments, to be sure. Jon Voight lightly fixing my hair during our interview and a nasty bee — of which I’m deathly afraid of — came for my life while Hill was interviewing an actor from Young & The Restless.

We managed to get a bit of news out of people who hung out on that fire-hot Emmys red carpet too — that’s really the point of these things, other than to do a quick check-in with the best television has to offer. Like director John Singleton talking up his forthcoming TV series Snowfall, which was just picked up by FX. If you’ve heard nothing about it, here’s one reason to watch when it finally comes to the small screen: It focuses on the 1980s cocaine-epidemic drama, and it’s set in Los Angeles. Singleton, if you need a refresher, is the Oscar-nominated writer and director behind Boyz N The Hood, which was released 25 years ago. He knows how to tell a good story.

And there are serious moments. Many black TV actors pull double-duty in Hollywood and are working on some pretty heady projects in the film world. Mahershala Ali — a former college basketball player at Saint Mary’s College — was up for an Emmy for Netflix’s excellent House of Cards. He’ll soon be seen in Netflix’s Luke Cage. But he also has critics screaming because of his role in the forthcoming Moonlight, a coming-of-age story set in Miami during the War on Drugs era. Oscar may already be calling for Ali — and he talked with me about the critical response so far. And he’s not alone; nearly every reporter tried to get 30 seconds with Taraji P. Henson, who as Cookie in FOX’s Empire, is a favorite for anyone to talk with (she had to run in by the time we were ready to speak with her; the show was starting soon). Henson also stars in Hidden Figures, which will be released in January and already has people talking up another Oscar nomination for her as well.

As these things go, it was a pretty good carpet, we got to chat with some amazing people, and we had fun in the process. Please check out some of our videos here!

Until next time!

Kelley L. Carter is a senior entertainment writer at The Undefeated. She can act out every episode of the U.S version of "The Office," she can and will sing the Michigan State University fight song on command and she is very much immune to Hollywood hotness.