Take that, Oscars. In a year when the film industry’s biggest awards were roundly criticized for having an all-white lineup of acting nominees, the Emmy Awards nommed a record 18 black actors in 11 different thesping categories. Impressively, the number comes without any single program leading the charge.
HBO’s “Bessie” landed noms for star Queen Latifah and supporting standouts Mo’Nique and Michael Kenneth Williams, but other than the “How to Get Away With Murder” daughter-mother duo of Viola Davis (lead actress) and Cicely Tyson (guest), the remaining 13 nominees hail from 13 different programs on outlets ranging from ABC to Netflix to Showtime.
That reinforces how the smallscreen’s much-ballyhooed movement toward diversity isn’t just a matter of one or two shows or progressive networks, but instead a wider spread of diverse voices.
But before TV Academy voters give themselves a collective pat on the back, it’s worth noting that only two black creatives were nominated for writing and directing: “Bessie” helmer and co-scripter Dee Rees landed a pair of noms, while “American Crime” showrunner John Ridley picked up one for scripting.
Also, the representation for actors who aren’t either white or black is pretty bleak. With the CW’s Golden Globe-winning “Jane the Virgin” landing only a single nom in the Emmy voiceover category, Latinos were nearly shut out. Asians were completely left off the nom lists, despite the praise for ABC’s freshman “Fresh Off the Boat” and leading lady Constance Wu.
In fact, the lead actress in a comedy category — where “Jane” star Gina Rodriguez was a favorite, and Wu was a darkhorse — is one of the four performer categories this year to include only white nominees.
As much progress as the Emmys have made, there’s still room for improvement.