When Josh Charles first appeared opposite Julianna Margulies in "The Good Wife" on CBS in 2009, you couldn't help but wonder if this was going to be a breakthrough role for him.
On Thursday, the one-time Baltimore School for the Arts student broke into the higher reaches of TV acting when he received his first Emmy nomination.
As nominee for best supporting actor in a drama series, Charles is now going head-to-head with the likes of Andre Braugher of TNT's "Men of a Certain Age" and John Slattery of AMC's "Mad Men" — pretty refined company. And he belongs there — in fact, he has for some time, probably reaching as far back as his better moments as Dan Rydell in Aaron Sorkin's ABC series "Sports Night."
Charles said he was a little overwhelmed by the reaction after the news was announced Thursday. Besides The Baltimore Sun, such publications as Entertainment Weekly and the Hollywood Reporter were hailing his nomination as one of the most deserved.
"I guess I would just say that I am really humbled and honored to have my work recognized," Charles wrote. "I just got back from being out of the country, so I am a little bit jet-lagged. But have been really touched by the calls, texts and emails from family and friends."
The reaction of Charles' family in Baltimore to the Emmy news was best described by his uncle, Stan, publisher of PressBox, a local monthly sports magazine.
"We weren't thinking about the Emmys or anything, and then my brother called me Thursday, and I could tell he was a little emotional about it when he said, 'Josh just got nominated for an Emmy,'" Stan Charles said, referring to Allan Charles, Josh's father, a longtime Baltimore advertising executive.
It is surprising when you look back across Charles' career to realize that at age 39 he has been working professionally for 23 years since his debut in John Waters' "Hairspray." And there has been a considerable amount of quality work — from his feature film performance as Knox Overstreet in "Dead Poets Society" to his TV turns in "Sports Night" and HBO's "In Treatment."
Stan Charles says his nephew sometimes went without work rather than take bad roles.
"There were a lot of offers of things he could have done years ago while he was kind of scuffling and out of work and doing smaller bit parts," Stan Charles says. "And he would get an offer for a series, and he wouldn't take it, because it just didn't meet up to the level of quality and sophistication that he enjoys doing."
Stan Charles says he thinks that "impulse to do quality work" came from working in commercials that his father was producing in Baltimore when Josh was young.
"I think that he got that desire for excellence from his father — from hanging around on the set when his father was making commercials and being in some of the commercials himself," Stan Charles says. "My brother is always looking for the perfect take, and I think Josh got some of that same appreciation for quality from him."
For his part, Allan Charles plays down the local commercials his son appeared in as a child and teen. But he says one aspect of his son's career that is sometimes overlooked and that makes him tremendously proud is Josh's work in the theater.
"If you have seen some of these plays he's been in, he's just a brilliant actor," Allan Charles says, referring to a production of "The Glass Menagerie" at the Long Wharf Theater in Connecticut and "The Well Appointed Room" at Chicago's Steppenwolf among others.
"I mean, it's just him," his father explains. "There's no cinematography or anything, just the acting. He's an extremely gifted and talented actor, and a large number of people are now getting to see that because 'The Good Wife' has exposed him to a larger audience. 'Sports Night' was acclaimed, but it didn't get the numbers 'Good Wife' does."
Pointing out that his son has been acting professionally since age 16, Allan Charles says, "I laugh, because what I get all the time around town these days is, 'Oh, you must be so proud of him.' … My answer is, 'I've always been proud of Josh.'"
The Emmy winners will be announced Sept. 18 in a live telecast that starts at 8 p.m. on the Fox network.
In addition to Braugher and Slattery, Charles is also competing against Alan Cumming ("The Good Wife"), Walton Goggins ("Justified") and Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones").
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