09/23/2013 AT 08:30 PM EDT
How surprised was Jeff Daniels to win his first Emmy
"I heard my name, and I go, 'Oh, that's what it sounds like when you win,' " Daniels, who won for his lead role
as the self-righteous anchor Will McAvoy on The Newsroom
, told reporters at HBO's afterparty
on the Plaza of the Pacific Design Center, Sunday. "You hear your name just like that. 'Well, I won!' "
Going into the ceremony, the favorite appeared to be Breaking Bad
's Bryan Cranston, who had won for the past three years. When Daniels's name was announced instead, reported The New York Times
, "There were audible gasps of 'Whoa!' and 'What?' in the auditorium."
But Daniels, 58, said he sensed something different going on at Sunday's Emmys.
"I've been nominated a few times over the years, Golden Globes and SAGs, so I've been in that place where you hear someone else's name, and that's okay. It gets old, but that's okay," he said.
"I started to get a sense that maybe something different was happening when Tony Hale won" – for supporting actor in a comedy series, for Veep
"That's a performance that's I think brilliant but subtle, and subtle doesn't always win," said Daniels. "Merritt Wever winning for what she does on Nurse Jackie
is subtle. When Bobby [Cannavale, for Boardwalk Empire,
] won … I gave myself a 50-50 at that point."
Although Daniels was himself surprised by his Emmy victory, he said there was one other surprise that might even surpass the pleasure of winning.
"If Elton John comes [to the HBO party], I will weep openly," Daniels said. "I would love to meet Elton."
Reporting by GABRIELLE OLYA