"I've been to the Emmys before, though I've never been individually nominated. But I'm really just going to enjoy myself. I'm excited to see friends," adds the co-star of the CBS drama "The Good Wife," which is up for nine Emmys, including best drama and best actress in Julianna Margulies.
Last weekend, Charles flew out to Los Angeles from New York, where he lives, to do an Emmy roundtable discussion with other first-time nominees. While he was connecting and re-connecting with new and old acting colleagues, he says, the awards show experience came into focus.
"I got to see friends like Michelle Forbes, who's nominated for "The Killing," and we worked on "In Treatment" together, and Walton Goggins, who's nominated in the same category as I am, and we worked together on one of the first films he ever did," the 40-year-old Baltimore native says.
"And that's really what it's about. In this business, there's so much built around competition that I have a kind of mixed feeling about any kind of awards show, to be honest with you," Charles adds. "That doesn't mean that I'm not really flattered and touched [by the nomination]. Look, I'm going out there [to Los Angeles], so I don't want to sound like a hypocrite. But it's just that I want to embrace it as a celebration for all the people whose work has been recognized, all the creative people, as opposed to who's going to win or not win."
The best-supporting-actor category in which he is nominated is filled with friends, according to Charles. His relationship with two of the other nominees goes back more than 20 years, when they were starting out and appeared in the made-for-TV move "Murder in Mississippi," a compelling and socially conscious 1990 production about Mississippi in the summer of 1964. The film revisits the death of three civil rights workers — Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
"Andre Braugher was actually in the same television movie I did years ago," Charles says." I think it was one of the first things he did out of Juilliard. It was called 'Murder in Mississippi, and I played Andrew Goodman. Andre was in it. Walton was in it. And it was so great to connect with Walton. I hadn't seen Walton in years, and he's such a great guy and really fine actor."
That major role in the civil rights docu-drama came for Charles only two years after his 1988 debut in John Waters "Hairspray," and it is typical of the kind of quality productions he has sought throughout his career — rather than chasing after easy TV money in one-joke sitcoms and pilots.
In addition to his current role in "The Good Wife," which is generally considered the one network drama worthy of comparison to such cable productions as "Mad Men," Charles has also played leading roles in Aaron Sorkin's "Sports Night" and HBO's "In Treatment." Before CBS' "The Good Wife," Charles was perhaps best known for his work in such feature films as "Dead Poets Society."