Unlike at the Oscars, the Television Academy hasn’t had a problem with diversity in its acting categories. For the third year in a row, non-white performers continued to rally at the Emmys, earning 21 nominations across the drama, comedy, movie/limited and guest categories.
“I feel so happy that this particular awards is setting an example and shining a light on work that may be overlooked by some other awards,” said Niecy Nash, who received a best supporting comedy actress nom for her work on HBO’s Getting On.
“We all matter because you’re trying to find yourself, someone who represents you, someone who looks like you, someone you can identify with, not just when you turn on the television but when you watch the awards as well,” she added.
Said Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, whose series counted nominations for Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross: “The idea of inclusion is a word I wish didn’t exist because I feel like everyone is included in this space because we are all of one. But I do think until it’s a well known thing we have to use words like that. I’m glad we are part of that conversation.
“The universal appeal of our show comes from a specific voice. I do think that specific voice happens to resonate with a lot of people and that comes from telling honest and truthful stories. One of the things I got from Norman Lear and people I look up to is to tell your story and people will find themselves within them,” added Barris.
Many actors also have acknowledged that given television’s vast number of networks and streaming services, the opportunities for a melting pot of talent are just that much greater than on the big screen, where there’s a finite number of parts.
For the second time in Emmy history, the best actress in a drama category features two African-Americans: Taraji P. Henson for Fox’s Empire and Viola Davis of How to Get Away With Murder, who last year Davis became the first black actress to win in the drama field.
Other breakthrough categories for non-white actors include best lead actor in a limited series or movie, where Luther‘s Idris Elba, and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’s Cuba Gooding Jr and Courtney B. Vance are competing. Meanwhile, the supporting comedy actor field this year includes Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Andre Braugher, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Tituss Burgess and Key & Peele‘s Keegan-Michael Key.
2014 marked a high point for black performers not seen in the 37 years, since Roots earned nine nominations (and wins for Olivia Cole and Louis Gossett Jr). In 2013, Kerry Washington’s portrayal of Olivia Pope in ABC’s Scandal landed her a best actress drama nom — the first for a black actress since Cicely Tyson for NBC’s Sweet Justice in 1995. (Washington earned a second nom last year as well.)
Also among the 21 non-whites actors nominated today are Rami Malek, Mr. Robot (lead actor, drama series); Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (lead actress limited series/movie); Kerry Washington, Confirmation (lead actress limited series/movie); Aziz Ansari, Master of None (lead actor comedy series); Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo (supporting actor limited series/movie); Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson (supporting actor limited series/movie); Regina King, American Crime (supporting actress limited series/movie); Tracy Morgan, Saturday Night Live (guest comedy series actor); Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards (guest drama series actor); and Mahershala Ali, House of Cards (guest drama series actor).