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Claire Danes

Homeland: Where Her Heart Is

Homeland executive producer Alex Gansa still can't believe his good luck. "We were in the right place at the right time," he says of landing Claire Danes as a bipolar CIA agent in the hit Showtime drama (which returns Sept. 30). "She was thinking about starting a family, she wanted a secure job, this came her way, and she filled it perfectly." So perfectly that Danes, 33, is a lead actress Emmy nominee just two years after winning for her HBO movie Temple Grandin. The actress, whose first child with her husband, actor Hugh Dancy, is due early next year, keeps the trophy in "an office I never really use," she told PEOPLE last fall. "It's reassuring to have them, but I can never take success for granted."

64th Primetime Emmy Awards

Sunday, Sept. 23 Live! ABC 8ET/5PT

WHAT WINNING TAUGHT ME

STARS SHARE THE IMPORTANT LESSONS THEY LEARNED THE NIGHT THEY TOOK HOME THEIR COVETED TROPHIES

"Have a designated escort help you up the stairs, which are deep and slippery. I would have crawled up, but Ashton Kutcher saved me."

-MARGO MARTINDALE

"Take it all in, appreciate it, then let it go. If you try to hold on to that moment at that time, it will lose its meaning."

-BRYAN CRANSTON

"It's heavier than you could possibly imagine! I wasn't ready for its sheer weight."

-TY BURRELL

"Always pose in your most attractive way. Because the one photo you get campy with is the one that will be printed."

-CHRISTINE BARANSKI

"There are moments, and they happen fast. You're king for a day, and then it's back to work."

-TERRY O'QUINN

Can Amy Poehler Top the Pageant?

"I cannot stress how little I've prepared," Amy Poehler says of trying to outdo last year's "beauty pageant" competition among her lead comedy actress conominees. Zooey Deschanel, new to the category this year, says she's game for anything-almost: "I wouldn't get up there naked, but that's about it."

Jimmy Kimmel

Live Wire

THE LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST HAS EMCEED SEVERAL BIG EVENTS, BUT NEVER THE EMMYS-UNTIL NOW

YOU'VE HOSTED A LOT OF AWARDS SHOWS. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE?

The ESPYs. I got a lot of laughs, and when I watched it on television, they'd edited about 80 percent of my monologue out. I learned it's better to do a live show because what happens happens, and there's nothing anyone can do to change it.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOSTING DOS AND DON'TS?

I don't plan to get naked. Just be funny and keep people interested in the show. That's my goal.

WILL WE SEE ANY MID-SHOW WARDROBE CHANGES?

I told them to bring an extra shirt in case I get food on myself. I eat while I'm driving, I don't see why I can't eat while I'm hosting. I mean, it's a long show!

YOUR DREAM EMMY NIGHT WOULD BE ...

The show going well and me going home. I'll probably go to a party, but whenever I do, I always feel like I'd rather be home, watching television ironically.

DOWNTON THE HATCH!

On Emmy night, toast Downton Abbey's 16 nominations with two drinks (from celeb mixologist Charlotte Voisey) perfect for happy hour and high tea!

TEA-TIME MARTINI

2 oz. Hendrick's Gin

1 oz. Earl Grey tea syrup (equal parts strong Earl Grey tea and sugar)

1 oz. fresh lemon juice

1. Combine ingredients and shake well! 2. Serve in a tea cup. (Hungry? Try with a cucumber sandwich on the side!)

THE LAZY AFTERNOON

2 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)

3 oz. strong, cold brewed chamomile tea

1 oz. fresh lemon juice 1 oz. sparkling water

1. Combine ingredients over ice in a tall glass.

2. Stir and serve with a lemon wedge.

Mayim Bialik

How We're Getting Ready

When Mayim Bialik, who made floral hats trendy on her '90s sitcom Blossom, appeared on TLC's What Not to Wear in 2009, she hoped the makeover show would breathe new life into her post-baby wardrobe. She never expected it to resuscitate her career as well. Still, "I credit it for giving me a sense of being competitive industry-wise," says the Big Bang Theory actress, a first-time nominee this year. "They told me, 'Accentuate that you're a small person with curves and stick with jewel tones.'" Now working with stylist Alison Kahn, Bialik, 36, is collaborating with an unnamed designer to create a "classic Hollywood" Emmys look: a "romantic, flowy" gown with long sleeves. The only possible snag? Her right hand, which she injured in an Aug. 15 car crash. "I put in a request for a black splint," she says. "But I don't think my stylist would let me bedazzle it!"

I DON'T HIT THE EMMY RED CARPET WITHOUT ...

Connie Britton

Comfortable shoes or Advil. I hadn't made it through the red carpet and thought I'd broken several toes!

Chris Colfer

Sweat blots. The Emmys are usually really hot, so you have to get the sweat off your face on the red carpet.

Vanessa Williams

Besides Spanx? That's a must. In addition, a good bronzer. You want to look tan with a little glow.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson

A Power Bar, a handful of grapes or some sort of sustenance. You crash from low blood sugar.

  • Contributors:
  • CONTRIBUTORS: Monica Rizzo,
  • Lesley Messer,
  • Patrick Gomez,
  • Raha Lewis,
  • Melody Chiu.