Seatfillers see Emmys up close

Jaycie Thierry
Staff Writer

It was the biggest night of the year for television – the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by “Saturday Night Live’s” Colin Jost and Michael Che Monday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

More than 250 people of all backgrounds, dressed head-to-toe in their best formal-wear, lined up outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center to check in as seatfillers just before 2:30 p.m.

Seatfillers are guests who take the chairs of any award nominees who step away throughout the show in order to ensure that the theater always appears full during wide shots.

This year, I was one of them.

Anyone can turn on their television and watch in awe, but seatfillers are the flies on the wall who hear and see all when the cameras are turned off. The buzz and atmosphere of utter glamour throughout the room only facilitates the experience as a seatfiller, regardless of the continuous movement to fill every available seat.

Seatfillers would shuffle their way into the theater and be directed toward an empty chair in the audience while celebrities were escorted to their seats, oftentimes no more than a few feet away.

My night started off being placed front row, in a perfect position to see Hollywood legend Henry Winkler accept the first award of the night, his first Emmy after four decades, for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for “‘Barry.”

Best known as Fonzie on Happy Days, Winkler said, “Skip Brittenham said to me a long time ago, ‘If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you,’ and tonight I got to clear the table.”

Viewers from home do not see how quickly the aisles turn into a social event when the show is cut to a commercial.

I was placed just two seats away from nominees Ed Harris, for “Westworld” to my right, and Sarah Paulson for “American Horror Story“ to my left.

While picking my jaw back up from the floor as Paulson floated by in black, I broke my silence, “I apologize for staring, but you look gorgeous.”

She laughed and expressed a chipper thank you. Director and producer Ryan Murphy, who also walked past, would later take home Emmy’s for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”

Murphy was eventually joined by one of his “Gianni Versace” stars, Penelope Cruz, when she took the seat next to me with her husband, Javier Bardem, leading the way.

My first move toward another seat was triggered by a desperate rush to find my purse buried somewhere underneath Cruz’s dress just seconds before the first commercial break ended.

My night remained a constant observation of celebrities who would continue to make beelines across the room to chat it up with other nominees throughout the night.

There were a series of memorable moments throughout the night for both the awards show and myself.

This year’s Emmy Awards, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Sandra Oh made history as the first ever Asian woman nominated for lead actress for her work in “Killing Eve.”

My favorite moments were when I mustered up the courage to talk to some of my favorite guests attending the show.

From speaking to Sarah Paulson and Lorne Michaels, “SNL” creator and producer, to congratulating Henry Winkler on his win and thanking Anthony Anderson for the work the cast of “Black-ish” does, each encounter taught me something different.

When you can speak to these stars on a level that reminds you they are normal, everyday people just like you, that is when they reciprocate the same respect, kindness and gratitude being displayed toward them.

Who knows, they may even just let you hold their Emmy like Michaels did when one seatfiller expressed what were the odds of being able to do so ever again.

The Emmy Awards has an ambiance that not very many people get the chance to experience. Next time, I am finding a way into the Governor’s Ball.

Jaycie Thierry can be reached at

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