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“I actually got kind of a late start in acting. My dad actually passed away before he ever saw me perform and I can’t help but wonder what he would think about all this … going to work in full makeup,” Burrell said.

The last-minute controversy behind the scenes was emerging even as stars such as Christine Hendricks of “Mad Men” and Julia Stiles of “Dexter” were arriving for the show.

“She looks awesome, as always,” said fan Jessica Steiner, 26, of Hendricks, who was wearing a rhinestone-encrusted gown with a plunging neckline.

“Modern Family” nominee Sofia Vergara wore an ultra-glam, one-shouldered peach goddess gown and chandelier earrings. Gwyneth Paltrow stood by her, in a sleek black gown with cut-outs.

“Gwyneth is classy, and Sofia is sexy,” said fan Vanessa Baeza, 27. “But I think Sofia looks better. Her dress is more flattering.”

Inside the Nokia Theatre, Hendricks’ show is facing a threat from the mobsters and crooked politicians of “Boardwalk Empire.”

AMC’s 1960s Madison Avenue saga, which has earned three consecutive Emmy Awards as best drama series, is competing Sunday with HBO’s tale of Atlantic City, N.J, schemers making the most of the wild days of Prohibition in the 1920s.

“The Sopranos,” another HBO show about New Jersey hoodlums, was an Emmy magnet for the cable TV channel that earned 21 trophies during its six seasons.

HBO and AMC’s leading men are in a showdown as well. “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm, shut out three times by Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” caught a break when Cranston’s series didn’t air within the Emmy eligibility period.

But newcomer “Boardwalk Empire” brought Steve Buscemi into the picture with a first-string nomination for the actor who has been acclaimed for supporting roles. Also nominated for best drama series are “Dexter,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Good Wife.”

Other contests to watch include best comedy series, with “Modern Family” trying to repeat last year’s win against competitors including “Glee” and “Parks and Recreation.”

Steve Carell of “The Office” made his last Emmy stand for his fifth and final season as clueless manager Michael Scott but lost again.

A new category, which combines the previously separate best miniseries and made-for-TV movie nominees, includes the miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” with Kate Winslet nominated in the role of an embattled mother, and the movie “Too Big to Fail,” about the U.S. fiscal crisis in 2008.

In the reality-competition category, perennial winner “The Amazing Race” returned to triumph Sunday after losing last year to “Top Chef.” “American Idol” lost its ninth shot at winning, this time for a season in which it successfully navigated the loss of key judge Simon Cowell.

HBO came into the night with a leading 15 awards earned at the Sept. 10 creative arts awards, followed by PBS with 10, Fox with nine, CBS with seven and NBC with five.

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