Comedy’s “it” girl, Tiffany Haddish, winning Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for hosting Saturday Night Live, set the tone for what became a historic night at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Saturday. All four guest acting categories went to Black actors, Haddish, Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us), Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Katt Williams (Atlanta).
This blows past previous high water marks — in the past two decades, there have been only two instances of multiple wins for black guest actors — in 2003 and 2014. Both times two of the four winners were people of color.
The breakthrough is a result of a concerted effort on part of networks, writers and producers to embrace more diverse storytelling and put on series featuring complex black characters, something that had been a rarity in the past.
Asked if a character like William from This Is Us could have existed years ago, Cephas Jones said following his win, “It would have been difficult.” He added, “We are moving forward and moving ahead.”
There was a hint of a potential sweep when the Primetime Emmy nominations were announced in July and a record 11 black actors — half of the field — landed guest acting noms.
They were part of the record 36 diversity nominees in the acting Emmy categories across drama, comedy and limited series/movie this year, a number that eclipsed the previous record of 27 set last year.
And there may be more milestones to come at the main Emmy ceremony on Sept. 17 as Donald Glover and Sterling K. Brown are looking to repeat their lead actor wins for Atlanta and This Is Us, respectively. Black-ish‘s Tracee Ellis Ross is among the frontrunners in the lead actress in a comedy series, alongside Rachel Brosnahan, while Killing Eve‘s Sandra Oh is eying a first lead drama actress Emmy for an Asian woman.