Emmy nominees

Emmy acting nominees, from left, Walton Goggins (“Justified”), Johnny Galecki (“The Big Bang Theory”), Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”), and Michelle Forbes (“The Killing”). (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

For a television critic, the Emmys are always a mixed bag. It's always great when shows and performances we have supported from the beginning are recognized, but sometimes — if you can believe it — the shows and people we believe deserve to win don't. But there is one consistent bright spot in the process — when people whose work has been consistently terrific over the years are recognized for the first time. This year saw quite a few accomplished performers get their first Emmy nomination.

It's a very busy time for these folks, as you can imagine, but we were fortunate that four of them found time to sit down with us to discuss the thrill of Emmy season. Michelle Forbes, nominated for her role as the grieving mother on "The Killing"; Walton Goggins, who plays the mad poet and backwoods gangster Boyd Crowder on "Justified"; Josh Charles, whose increasingly complicated Will Gardner tempts "The Good Wife"; and Johnny Galecki, the romantic (and least geeky) physicist of "The Big Bang Theory."

It was, from the beginning, a surprisingly intimate group. Forbes and Charles worked together fairly recently on "In Treatment"; Goggins is godfather of Galecki's daughter. Add to that the fact that both Charles and Galecki are nominated along with their costars (Alan Cumming and Jim Parsons, respectively), and Charles is up against his very good friend Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones"), and you quickly understand what a small world Hollywood becomes. It certainly made for a lively conversation between people who were not just peers, but friends.

Below is an edited transcript of an hour-long discussion, moderated by Mary McNamara, held in The Times' Chandler Auditorium.

What's it like working and then also having to deal with all of this, with the Emmys publicity and the nerves?

Johnny Galecki: Oh, it's terribly exciting. It's wonderful. Yeah, we've been doing a bit of it, but it's all leading up to this wonderful celebration we get to be a part of.

Josh Charles: I feel thoroughly blessed, as I'm sure everybody does, and honored and it's nice to be recognized, but I don't think that's why any of us necessarily do what we do. So I think it doesn't really come into my brain that way when I'm acting. Maybe it's just because I have a lot of self-loathing too.

[Laughter.]

JG: I wish there was an award for that.

Michelle, you were kind of outspoken about the Emmys a couple of years ago. You were saying that it didn't matter. That it was the performance that mattered.

Michelle Forbes: Yes, that lovely quote. That was indeed.

That still is all over the Internet.

MF: Oh, I'm so glad that's still around. [Laughs.] … I still stand by what I said, that the work is the important bit. And we tell stories for the audience. And if you have an audience engaged and you've touched people, you've done your job. And the rest is just fun and icing and everything else, but that's where the glory is.

Well, it's something that everybody says, and it's not just the Emmys, it's the Oscars too: It's an honor to be nominated. It's not something that we think about. But you must think about it.

Walton Goggins: You can't really compare work. But it is the experience. It's like a new experience. And you know, I mean, I have an 8-month-old son, and I'm reminded that there are only so many firsts in life. And that firsts are really a bell curve. You know, like every single day something new is happening in his life, and the older I get, you know, you're lucky if you get a first a week, or a first a month. Some people, a first a year. And this experience for me has been one that I'll never forget, because it may very well never happen again, and that would be OK. But it's really been an extraordinary kind of experience.

What does an Emmy mean these days, and does it mean something different to a cable show versus a network show?

WG: Cable television now is tantamount — in my estimation, it's been said over and over again, but — to independent filmmaking. It really is. It's become this great vehicle for storytelling over a very long format. I do like a three-hour movie. I'll watch "Carlos," which is a six-hour movie. But for some of these shows, "Boardwalk Empire" on down the line, like "The Wire," "The Sopranos," you get to watch these shows for 84 hours, 85 hours. And it's fantastic. What we trade is the amount of people watching the show.

Do you think that people pay attention to the nominees?

MF: I don't think the general public reads the nominations. I don't get stopped on the street for that. Certainly not.