If there's anyone in this year's crop of Emmy nominees who's been a firsthand witness to the sweeping power of television, it's Jeffrey Tambor.

After a nearly 40-year career on TV, Tambor's resume is filled with appearances on some of the most iconic series in the history of the medium -- a short list includes "M*A*S*H," "The Love Boat," "Three's Company," "Hill Street Blues," "The Golden Girls," "L.A. Law," and "Entourage."

And, of course, he's been at the center of three of the most game-changing programs of recent vintage: "The Larry Sanders Show," the bitingly funny inside-Hollywood sitcom and one of the first original series success stories of premium cable; "Arrested Development," the brilliant-but-before-its-time cult comedy that ultimately served as the vanguard of beloved series revivals and put streaming services in the original series business; and, perhaps most socially significant, "Transparent," the moving, seriocomic account of man transitioning late in life into a woman in the seismic effect it has on his family.

Nominated this year for his eighth Primetime Emmy Award, Tambor's in contention for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (he took home the trophy in that category last year) and he returns as Maura Pfefferman for a third season of "Transparent," which bows on Amazon Prime Sept. 23. The actor recently joined a small group of media to reflect on Maura's evolving aesthetic -- which may include surgical procedures -- his latest Emmy nod, and his longtime friend, Garry Shandling, who passed away earlier this year.

We're seeing an evolution of Maura's look, with the hair and the clothes and the makeup, before considering cosmetic surgery as well -- she seems to be moving in a more maternal direction. How has this affected the way you're playing her?

Jeffrey Tambor: She seems to be shifting -- I think she's saying "Where does this go?" And, maybe for the first time, "What does it look like?" "How does appear?" and "What does it mean to be a woman? How good can I look? How bad can I look? What is my look? What is my appearance? How far can I go in this quotient?" And, in this season, that's where she's going.

How do you feel as she progresses more towards her caring about her appearance?

I never had a problem with any of the accoutrements. Actually, I moved very quickly towards all of that and got interested in all of that. What I didn't get it what it takes in the eyes of society to be a woman and the great responsibility and the great weight of that and how much of our society is based on that. And our advertising structure and our business structure and things like that. That's an eye-opening thing.

I like the way Maura looks from the very first [moment], and Maura has changed her look. From the first moment I went, "Oh, I like her!" I like her looks.

You're no stranger to Emmy attention at this point in your career. What did this particular nomination mean to you this year? What's so special about this one?

What I liked about it the most was the number: 10 nominations, and the array of it. And that means we're being perceived down the line and throughout, and that is the truth. And so I'm very, very happy about that. I'm very proud of this group. You can see it. This is what I always thought acting was. I mean, I'm 72 years old and I get the part of my life and I get to work with these people!

When you encounter people from the trans community in your everyday life -- not from part of the show -- who want to talk to you about the show and the issues it raises, what are some of the great conservations that come out of that?

I had a great, great chance over the break, towards the end of the last season, where I got to teach a class at the LGBT workshop here with some great, talented trans actors and actresses. It was an amazing, amazing thing. There was so much talent out there.

We did this exercise in the first weeks, where they would just tell personal stories, and my life has changed because people don't know. It's not a red carpet issue. These are people and it's a real issue who don't have a lot of money, who don't have a lot of product, who don't have a lot of product, who are taking authorship of their life.

And that's my advice: take authorship of your life. Those words author, authentic -- they're so much used that we sort of get dulled by it, but it's the truth.

Have you always felt that, or was there a shift in your life where you decided to curate your own life more?

I've sort of always felt that. To be an actor I had to go against the grain. My poor father. He just wanted me to be a businessman and I told him I wanted to be an actor. I lived across the street from the theater and and I said, "Whatever they're doing, that sure looks good and it is fun over there.' They always call themselves, "Ladies and gentlemen -- places, please," so I liked that. That felt good.

HBO is going to be putting the great "The Larry Sanders Show" on their HBO Go service so people can see the original episodes.

I didn't know that!

As a bit of a tribute to Garry Shandling. When you think about your time on that show, what comes to mind now?

You see my reaction -- my facial reaction that just happened. It is hard for me to realize that this man is gone. In fact, I am staying at the very hotel where I met him last. We had a lunch with him and Judd Apatow, and Garry and I went across the street and we were in Santa Monica and we just sat on the lawn and talked and talked and talked and then ... You know, there was life before "Larry Sanders" and there was life after "Larry Sanders." He changed the wheel, right?

He was a nice guy. He helped so many people. He was the kindest genius that you could know. He was so great.

You must of been glad to have that last sort of meeting with him.

Well, I did the memorial service. I don't know if you heard about it. It was one of the great [memorials] ... The people that came out, and the feeling in that room of love. There were some tears and there was some big laughs. He was just one of a kind. One of a kind.

How has your sense of humor evolved?

You know, I think Maura is funny. I love her sense of humor. I know this is going to sound weird, but I think she's affected by sense of humor. She's made it even drier, if you can believe it. I think Maura is alive because of her sense of humor. She has a great wit and sense of humor, and I think that's one of the reasons she's made it.

Where would you like to go with Maura moving forward?

Oh, I'd like to play Maura until they tap me on the shoulder and say, "Go sit down!" Hopefully they don't!
Transparent TV Show Poster
Transparent
AmazonTVMASeptember 26, 2014
Based on 28 critics

The past and future unravel when a dramatic admission causes a family's secrets to spill out. Read More

categories Interviews, Tv News