Emmys 2012: Jason Ritter talks 'Parenthood' nomination and Simon Helberg's early-morning text message

jason-ritter-comic-con-2012.jpgWhen Emmy nominations are announced, the conversation tends to turn immediately to those who were snubbed. This year, though, on Thursday morning when the Academy released its nominees list, there was a refreshing reason to celebrate: Jason Ritter snagged a first-time nomination for his guest-starring role as Mark Cyr on the criminally underrated "Parenthood."

Ritter tells Zap2it that, as a longtime part of the television community, he tends to be aware of Emmy nomination morning, mostly, he says, so that he can check on his friends and send congratulatory texts. Today, hough, he'd completely forgotten about the announcements -- which made for a rather unnerving morning.

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"This is the first time that I've completely forgotten that it was this morning. There was no part of my brain that was like, 'Oh, someone's calling me at 6 a.m.! It might be that!' My first thought was that it was probably someone in New York or Scotland who didn't do the math on the time difference," he laughs . "Then I started getting a bunch of texts and I thought, 'Oh my God, someone's been hit by a car, or something horrible has happened.' I was pleasantly surprised on multiple levels, first the idea of being nominated for an Emmy is so crazy and I feel like it's a big practical joke, but also that everyone that I care about is alive and healthy."

In fact, when Ritter finally figured out why he'd received a flurry of notifications on his phone, the good news came from his old friend "The Big Bang Theory" star Simon Helberg. "He and I have been friends since we were thirteen years old and we were college roommates together, and he's just one of my oldest greatest friends," Ritter says. "'Big Bang Theory' got nominated, and Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik, so he was up checking it out and saw my name and texted me."

Ritter's mother, actress Nancy Morgan, was the first person he called after he realized nobody had been in a car crash. "She was really sweet. She had been thinking about me this morning. She woke up early in Colorado with my grandmother, and she was making herself coffee and she was thinking about me," he tells us. "She said she'd been thinking about how I'd been working so hard on all these independent movies that I do which I love and I'm proud of -- but she was having a moment of motherly concern, so she was so happy to hear this news that I had been given this validation somehow. She was very happy to have her motherly concerns quelled."

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Part of the charm of "Parenthood" is that there isn't necessarily one big Mark Cyr-centric episode to point to as the cornerstone of Ritter's performance this season; instead, he and Lauren Graham have deftly navigated a series of small but powerful moments as they've built Mark and Sarah's relationship. "They've had such a nuanced relationship," he says. "They realized that they really did love each other and started getting into the complications of what that means when you're in love with someone but there's an age gap, and more than that, they're in different places in terms of their lives and what they want."

When prodded to choose his personal favorite moment of the season, Ritter opts for quiet intensity as opposed to melodrama. "One of the scenes that I really liked was when Mark found Seth's cigarettes in her bed and decided to trust her that nothing had happened between them. That's a deeply scary moment for a couple, it looked like there had been a huge betrayal, and you just trust someone on the basis of how much you know them. It was nice to see that happen."

parenthood-jason-ritter-lauren-graham.jpgSpeaking of Graham -- since her days on "Gilmore Girls," she's been a critical favorite ignored by Emmy voters, and "Parenthood" itself has long been snubbed when it comes to awards. Ritter is the first to be honored with a nomination for the show.

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"I can't believe that!" he says emphatically. "The show is so filled with incredible actors. I'm really happy that the show has a presence at all in the Emmys, because -- I feel like I can say this because I'm kind of separate from it -- but I think it's so great. I have become a huge fan of it. There's something so special about it and something so unlike everything else. I'm really proud of it, and I think everyone on that show deserves a nomination. The directors, the writer, all the cast. It's such a community process."

He's received heartfelt congratulations from his fellow actors.

"The show is filled with such lovely people who all could have huge powerful terrifying egos if they wanted to, and they don't. They're as happy for me as I would be for them. It's a lovely family and I feel very lucky to represent them," he says.

In last spring's Season 3 finale, Mark proposed to Sarah -- and we never got an official answer. So should we be worried about Ray Romano swooping in this season to steal Mark's girl? "I'm worried!" Ritter laughs. "On one hand, I feel a little bit more secure in her and my relationship; before I was the new guy and she had all this history with Seth, the father of her children, a guy who she loved and had to leave because he was an addict. It was scary. Now Ray Romano's the new guy. I'm totally scared because the writers can do anything, and Sarah's a complicated lady!"

(We suggested that he remind Katims, firmly, that he has an Emmy nomination now, and letting Ray Romano steal his girl is no way to celebrate that. He's taking our advice under consideration.)

Actors always say that it's an honor just to be nominated, but in Ritter's case, the cliche holds true, especially because of the incredible company he keeps in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series category. He's up against the likes of "Breaking Bad's" Mark Margolis, Jeremy Davis on "Justified," and the now-legendary Michael J. Fox, who is nominated for his work on "The Good Wife."

"Michael J. Fox is one of my all-time heroes. I remember growing up and being like, 'Okay, Michael J. Fox is about as cool as you can possibly get. That's the dream.' Him and maybe Zack from 'Saved By The Bell,'" he says. "But Michael J. Fox didn't even need bleach blonde frosted tips to be cool! He was just cool anyway!"

The 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air live on Sunday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. EST. on ABC.
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images/NBC
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