Mark Cendrowski on all things Emmys, Directing The Big Bang Theory, and Mark Hamill.
Mark Cendrowski was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for The Big Bang Theory. The morning of the nominations, his name was inadvertently left off the list of nominees. Cendrowski got his own headlines because of the snaufu. I caught up with him to talk about that morning and directing the number one comedy, and Mark Hamill
So, let’s talk about Emmy nomination morning and what happened on your end because it wasn’t the run of the mill hearing your name being read out announcement.
When they announced it in the morning, I was a little bit disappointed because there was no nomination. I was actually working that morning on Happy Together and was in editing. I didn’t think much about it. I checked and was happy that the editing team had been nominated. While editing, I got a call from Maury McIntyre who is the President of the Academy and he says, “Mark, I’m going to have to apologize but I think you’ll be OK when you hear why.” That was such a confusing call and wondered why he’d be calling now, and then he told me I’d been nominated. I was absolutely flabbergasted to go from being not nominated to being nominated and because they had technical problems. It was great. I was thrilled and the emotions were such a rollercoaster. They put out the announcement and I got my own headline that day and even though it was a late call, I had a lot of people call me because that was the article they saw.
I was thrilled because the show is just delightful.
It’s been a dream to work on for eleven years. It’s been nothing but quality. It’s the show that keeps outperforming. It’s still the number one comedy and you don’t see that very much. When this came along, it was so nice because the cast and the producers were so congratulatory, it was so sweet and an appreciation for my work.
What was so great about this episode and this season was seeing Sheldon’s transformation.
That’s the most important thing. If you look back at what he was like in the first season, I don’t think you could have predicted him getting married. It was such a great pair. That’s what made this episode so special. People have lived with this guy for eleven years and he’s in your home every day. You feel closer to him and you’re rooting for him. As much as he’s gone through, you’re happy for him and both of them.
Credit to the writers, they don’t plan things a year in advance, they let things happen organically and as shows and characters evolve they run with them. If things go well in the writing room and if the audience responds, they go with it.
If you remember, Mayim’s character came on at the end of the third season as a date set up as a joke. In that episode, she was just one little tag and there was a spark there the writers saw. It evolved. They didn’t jump in and make it happen naturally. People were looking forward to this wedding the way you look forward to a family wedding.
You had Teller, Kathy Bates, and Mark Hamill. He signed on without seeing the script.
They had pitched him on the outline if I recall correctly. He saw a chance to play himself and the writers are all very much like some of the characters. They were like, if we can get Mark Hamill we’ll do anything. Whatever you want. They pitched him the idea and he loved it. It was a chance to play himself but to really show some comedic chops as opposed to going off to playing a new character. For our characters, Luke Skywalker was the guy.
For me, I think that was the challenge, for a 30-minute comedy, we had 23 speaking roles and we had to keep it fun and make sure they story flowed. It was funny, sentimental and that combination of everything was why I was so proud of the episode.
Aside from it being special in that way with the wedding. What else made it so special about directing that episode?
I think what made it special was that I had to bring a lot of single camera elements into this. We did a lot of fourth wall stuff. We took our time with lighting. We were able to perform it in front of a studio audience which is what the multi-camera is known for and what it should be. The audience tells you when things are working and when they’re not. I was still able to do a version in front of the audience and emotionally that was great and so much of that ended up on screen.
That’s what I’m most proud of, the single camera element, the multi-camera element and still be able to do an entire show in front of the audience. Not only was it a great episode, it was the last of the season. It was such a great feeling at the end of the night and that sense of accomplishment.
How long did that one take to shoot?
We do one a week. It’s five days; the table read, run throughs, we have two days on camera and there was a lot we packed in the two days. We had to pre-shoot some of the wedding. The scene with Mark Hamill and the dog was one we wanted to pre-shoot partly because we didn’t want an animal reacting in front of 300 people.
The puzzle of 22 speaking parts also included getting them into wardrobe, makeup and hair and into rehearsal. We had extras, we had prep, we had people shooting B-roll. There’s a great photo taken from one of the booms of what looked like a whirlpool of people.
You also have the ending with the Hawking moment. It was so sentimental and so great to end the season.
It was a great way to end the episode where you can take a breath. This is the moment and the next day where you think, “I can’t believe we did it.” To have this gift, Stephen Hawking has been such a big part of the show for us, it was great. The only problem was trying to fit everybody in and it’s hard to do.
Emotionally, it really put the exclamation point on the episode and summed everything up.
It was magical, almost in the same way you were nominated.
It wasn’t the norm.