Last year Kerry Washington and Don Cheadle made Emmy history as two African American actors breaking through the lead acting categories at the same time with nominations. Not only did they both earn nominations again this year, but a total of 11 Black actors and actresses were nominated across all acting categories — the most since 1977 when Roots racked up nine nominations for its castmembers according to TV Academy stats (Roots wound up winning trophies for Olivia Cole and Louis Gossett Jr). Last year Washington’s nom for Scandal repped the first in nearly two decades for a black actress, the last being Cicely Tyson in 1995’s Sweet Justice. This year, Washington will be running into Tyson on the red carpet as she’s also up for an nomination in the lead movie/miniseries actress category for The Trip to Bountiful. Another big year for Black thesps was 1986, when The Cosby Show earned eight acting nominations and a guest comedy actor win for Roscoe Lee Browne. Typically the Emmys, similar to the Oscars, has been criticized for a lack of diversity in the past.
“It’s a testament to the storytelling that is going on out there,” Andre Braugher, who plays Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, said this morning about the record. “If you look at what Fox is doing with diverse comedies, there’s The Mindy Project and our show. There’s a new dimension of half-hour comedies that don’t depend on stereotypes or the boxes we put people in. I play a gay police captain on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I’m not the butt of the joke. That’s revolutionary for TV.”
Added Cheadle about the trend, “It definitely reps a widening of the storytelling and more inclusive ideology of the shared stories and experiences we all have. It’s creeping toward something, but there’s still a lack of recognition for other nationalities. It’s definitely better, but it’s not something you can pin too much on as a trend since next year could be lower.”
Of the 11 this year, there’s Washington in Scandal (lead drama actress), Joe Morton also in Scandal (guest actor drama), Cheadle in House Of Lies (lead actor comedy series), Braugher for Brooklyn Nine-Nine (supporting comedy actor), Chiwetel Ejiofor in Starz’s Dancing On The Edge, Idris Elba for Luther (both in movie/miniseries actor category), Tyson in Trip to Bountiful (lead actress movie/miniseries), Angela Bassett in American Horror Story: Coven (movie/miniseries supporting actress), Reg. E. Cathey in House Of Cards (guest actor drama), and Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox in Orange Is The New Black (both guest actress comedy series).