Emmys nominees: Acad recognizes young actors

Nods to kids come as pleasant surprises

By bestowing a pair of lead Emmy noms on two actors not old enough to drive, this year the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences isn’t looking stodgy.

Fifteen-year-old Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”) and Hannah Taylor Gordon, 14, who played the title character in the ABC telepic “Anne Frank,” are not the youngest nominees in the history of the TV Acad, but their selections have put a youthful slant on this year’s proceedings.

While Gordon was predicted by many to be nominated for lead actress in a miniseries or movie, hearing Muniz’s name called from the podium was a surprise to some industry watchers. Not only because of his age but because co-star Bryan Cranston, who plays his dad on “Malcolm,” didn’t make the cut (Cranston would compete in the supporting category).

“It was pretty stunning,” says “Malcolm” creator Linwood Boomer of Muniz’s nom. “I don’t think kids are taken as seriously, and that’s what’s so nice about this. That kid works really hard.”

Muniz is the second-youngest person ever to be nominated in a lead acting race. Fred Savage (“The Wonder Years”) was 13 in 1989 when he was nominated in the lead comedy category. He would lose that year to Richard Mulligan of “Empty Nest.”

The youngest winner for a Prime Time Emmy for acting is Roxana Zal, who was 14 in 1984 when she won for a supporting role in TV movie “Something About Amelia.” At 15, Kristy McNicol won a supporting actress Emmy in 1977 for “Family.”

Muniz tries not to make much of the honor, saying there are other teens whose work deserves to be noticed.

“Evan Rachel Wood of ‘Once and Again’ is a good friend of mine and she’s awesome on that show,” Muniz says. “I think she got overlooked this year. I think teen actors are equal to adults, if not better. But I don’t know, they choose who they choose.”

Hans Proppe, exec producer of “Anne Frank,” wasn’t surprised at all by Gordon’s nomination. The original plan when first casting was to find two young actresses to play Anne, at 9 and 15. That didn’t pan out, and then Gordon arrived, who beat out 1,200 others for the role and had the range to handle the age difference.

In her category Taylor Gordon faces stiff competish in the likes of Judy Davis, a previous Emmy winner and Oscar winners Emma Thompson, Holly Hunter and Judy Dench.

“Kids tend to be overlooked as they’re relatively unknown and don’t have publicity machines,” says Proppe. “For ‘Anne Frank,’ the range of what she had to play and to be as focused as she was, it had to be noticed.”

Proppe adds that it’s often difficult for children to make inroads on longform television because of strict labor laws.

“One of the problems with that type of television is that the parameters are so tight it’s hard to incorporate kids and not grind them into the ground.”

On the weekly side, Boomer acknowledges working on a sitcom isn’t always the best life for a teen.

“I’m two-sided on this: I want Frankie to be on the show but I want him to be out playing, too.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix has drops the first trailer for “The Politician,” and “Killing Eve” adds two to its cast for season 3.  CASTING Harriet Walter and Danny Sapani, both alums of “The Crown,” are set to join the cast of “Killing Eve” for its third season. British writer Suzanne Heathcote, whose past credits include [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Disneyland

    Disney Shares Slip Amid Reported Whistleblower Allegations of Inflated Revenue

    Sandra Kuba, a former senior financial analyst for Disney’s revenue operations unit, says she has filed a series of whistleblower tips with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the entertainment conglomerate repeatedly and systematically overstated its revenue for years, according to a MarketWatch report, by as much as $6 billion in a single [...]

  • Bob Bakish Joe Ianniello

    ViacomCBS Sets Board Members; Bob Bakish, Joe Ianniello New Deals Disclosed

    ViacomCBS has unveiled the 13 members of its board of directors and details of new employment contracts for president-CEO Bob Bakish and CBS chairman-CEO Joe Ianniello. The disclosure came Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, six days after Viacom and CBS at long last set an all-stock merger agreement valued at [...]

  • Carrie Underwood, left, and Reba McEntire

    CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

    The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for [...]

  • Ava Max iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Portraits,

    Megan Thee Stallion, CNCO, Ava Max to Perform at VMAs Pre-show

    CNCO, Megan Thee Stallion and “Sweet but Psycho” singer Ava Max (pictured) have been added to the performer lineup at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The three will take the stage during the VMAs’ red carpet pre-show, hosted by Terrence J and Nessa. Zara Larsson will join the two hosts as a special correspondent. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content