When TV stars and industry execs arrived to the Dynamic & Diverse 66th Emmy Awards Celebration on Tuesday night, they were not only celebrating the year’s biggest small screen accomplishments but said they were welcoming the “new golden age of television.” The event, held at the Television Academy in North Hollywood, highlighted every form of diversity.
“Celebrating diversity means getting really specific about your heritage so we can focus on and enjoy our commonalities,” said “Mistresses’” Jason George, who serves as chair of SAG-AFTRA’s diversity advisory committee, “and through that enjoy the differences a little bit instead of seeing it as something that keeps us apart.”
Tiphany Adams, known for her role in “Push Girls,” said the night was about inclusion. Adams noted that prior to this golden age of television you might see an actor hired to play someone living with a physical or mental disability. She said now there are greater opportunities for an actor with that condition to play the role themselves.
“I feel like celebrating diversity is such a movement happening right now,” she said. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”
The celebration not only highlighted actors, but also showrunners and execs who make their appearances on the show possible. Many pointed to “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes for expanding the opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds.
“She doesn’t look at it like ‘Oh, I’m trying to create diversity!’ Instead she’s just creating a world. In this world there are people that are diverse, which is the best thing ever,” said “How to Get Away With Murder” actress Aja Naomi King.
For many of the night’s attendees, more diversity could be achieved on both TV and film. “Scandal’s” Joe Morton said there have been strides but there needs to be greater diversity in the storylines.
“Last year’s films were mostly about segregation of some sort and that hasn’t changed,” Morton told Variety. “I would like to see change so we’re telling stories that we’re already equal and we’re doing something completely not involved with segregation or equality.”
The Dynamic & Diverse event is in its second year, sparked last year by Kerry Washington’s nomination for lead actress in a drama series. Organizers said they wanted to once again set aside an evening to take note of diversity on television.
George said the amount of attendees showed the impact of promoting diversity on TV. He said about 750 people committed to coming to the event, exceeding their original goal of 400.
Newcomers to the industry also took note of the changing look of television. Ana Golja, who plays a teenager struggling with addiction and disorders on “Degrassi,” said more diversity on television is empowering.
“It’s about time that people of different ethnicities are finally being displayed, appreciated and valued as they should be,” Golja said.
As the night progressed, more of the attendees let loose and mingled with fellow industry execs and actors. Mari Koda of “Step Up All In” showed her dance moves on stage as Stevie Wonder songs blasted in the background, and waiters served drinks, mini sandwiches and gingerbread desserts.
“If you take a look at the upcoming television schedule, you’ll see more people of color in the lineup,” said George, “and they’re not just on the show but are appearing as regulars and stars in the show. More than ever before and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Academy leaders also noted that being in tune with the importance of diversity on television can expand the range of actors’ impact on their viewers.
“I urge you to share your stories because ultimately that is what television is all about — sharing people’s stories,” Television Academy president and chief operating officer Maury McIntrye said to the crowd. “These days there is no better medium than television for storytellers to share their unique, disparate and unique voices.”
George closed the night’s speeches by excitedly announcing that Dynamic & Diverse celebration would now become an annual event during Emmy season.