The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has decided to revoke Patrika Darbo’s Daytime Emmy after an investigation revealed a submission error, Variety has learned exclusively. The Academy has decided not to award the statue to another performer.
Darbo earned a statue for her role as Mickey Walker on “The Bay” in the guest performer in a digital daytime drama series category at the 45th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards held in April. Producers of “The Bay” had submitted her in that category, but that submission contained two violations, according to NATAS. In addition to having previously appeared on the show, her reel contained material from more than one episode, and the rulebook specifically states it should only include a single show.
A NATAS rep says: “NATAS immediately commissioned a thorough internal investigation, and determined that Patrika Darbo and Thomas Calabro, both of Amazon’s ‘The Bay,’ should have been deemed ineligible…as they had each appeared in a prior season of the program.”
Darbo exclusively tells Variety she first learned about this revocation from “The Bay” executive producer Gregori Martin, who said the situation was being looked into, and then from NATAS’ senior vice president David Michaels, who informed her the investigation had concluded, and not in her favor.
“Of course, I felt badly about it,” Darbo says. “David said he was ready to jump off a bridge.”
The actress adds that when she won a primetime Emmy in 2016, walking on stage of “was one of the most exhilarating, wonderful moments of my life” and noted it was unfortunate the rightful winner of this Daytime Emmy “missed that opportunity to go on stage and receive those accolades from their peers.”
Martin tells Variety that he takes “responsibility for not seeing the note above the submission details,” which led to this incorrect submission.
But in fact, more than one web series producer erroneously believed that guest actor reels could contain material from multiple episodes. The trend was attributed to the fact that the other digital acting categories each allowed entrants to submit material from up to four episodes. NATAS missed catching this as many submissions came in close to the deadline.
“Early on, I owned this mistake,” Michaels says. “I had spent most of the day vetting supporting categories, then I switched over to [guest]. My big mistake was not noticing some of the entries weren’t following the one-episode rule.”
After Darbo was notified she was losing her Emmy, the original plan was for the award to go to the performer with the next highest number of votes in the category — “All My Children’s” Jennifer Bassey, who debuted last season as Beverly Newman in “Anacostia” on YouTube. Anthony Anderson, “Anacostia’s” creator and executive producer, informed Bassey that she was the winner after receiving a communication from NATAS informing him of the decision.
However, it turns out that Bassey’s win was also revoked after it was revealed that her submission, too, had included material from more than one episode, leaving Anderson the arduous duty of making a second call to Bassey informing her that she wasn’t going to be getting the award after all.
“She broke down,” Anderson says. “It was unbearable to listen to. Since then, we’ve talked and we’re in agreement that we don’t want to rock the boat.”
“I am shocked and truly disappointed that [NATAS] has handled their errors this way,” Bassey adds. “I hope that no other actors have to share this experience ever again.”
Michaels admits he is “very upset” about the way things have turned out, but Paul Pillitteri, senior vice president of public relations and communications for NATAS says with entries ballooning from 1900 to 2500 over the course of the year, “David’s being a little hard on himself.”
“On top of David trying to produce the show that aired on April 29th, he was vetting nominees. Human mistake is human mistake,” Pillitteri says. “Upon further review [guest performer] category, it seemed that the entire category was questionable. Everybody was a little off. The awards committee decided instead there would be no Emmy [in that] category this year.”
NATAS started looking into certain submissions after Michaels received an email from Michael Caruso, a multiple Daytime Emmy nominee for producing web series, two days prior to the Creative Arts ceremony when the majority of the digital categories were awarded. Caruso had observed potential violations in some of the digital acting submissions.
Michaels recalls asking Caruso, nominated this year as executive producer of web series “Ladies of the Lake,” if this was something that could wait till after the awards ceremonies.
“If I had been told, ‘No, this can’t wait till next week,’ this all would have gone differently,” Michaels says. “I would have addressed whatever it was and we probably would not have awarded the category. I didn’t actually have all the facts until after the show.”
In addition to discovering encroachments in the guest performer category, Caruso says he noted possible violations in one of the other digital acting categories in which more than one nominee submitted beyond the maximum four episodes allowed by the rulebook.
“I am not doing this for personal reasons,” Caruso says. “This is 100% about transparency, integrity and a level playing field within the daytime competition, which has been lacking.”
NATAS investigated Caruso’s inquiries and discovered that two actors in a digital acting category “may or may not” have met the published criteria (related to the number of episodes allowable in their submissions). Michaels says that since digital dramas are in a “wild, wild, west” phase, it’s nebulous as to what constitutes an “episode.”
“I’m still am not clear on what an episode is on these web series,” Michaels says. “Some are an hour, some are a half hour, (and) some are 15 minutes.”
NATAS concluded there were no violations in categories other than Darbo’s.
“It’s a different rule [violation],” says Michaels, noting why in one digital acting category it’s been decided there will be no winner and in another, the winner remains. “I’m trying to do the fair thing for everybody. There was nebulous information [in our rulebook] as to what constitutes an ‘episode.’ We don’t want to penalize an innocent actor for that.”
The official NATAS statement reads, in part, “The questioned materials were often fleeting, representing only a single line of dialogue, and their inclusion was deemed not to have impacted the outcome of the competition.”
“The determination of the awards committee, and I happen to be in total agreement with them, [is] I’m not convinced that the letter of the law was broken,” Michaels says. “I had to bring this to the national awards committee where the final decisions were made. I did have the opportunity to weigh in, as did Paul. These decisions were not made lightly.”
Moving forward, proposed changes in next year’s competition include removing “episodes” from the rulebook and instead letting actors select material from numerous episodes that will fill a certain amount of time.
Additionally, the guest performer in a digital daytime drama candidates will be brought into parity with other acting categories in terms of how much material can be submitted. A box will have to be checked with the online entry system in which the first date a character ever aired on the show. If the date isn’t correct, the submission can’t continue.
Michaels says as a “make good” anyone who enters this category next year will be given a complimentary entry.
However, Darbo, who sits on the board of governors for the Television Academy, representing the Performers Peer Group, feels that may not be enough.
“If you’re taking away mine, you have to take [other perceived violators’] because you have a cloud over you,” the actress says. “It’s a sad thing that I’m going to lose my Emmy because of a paperwork error, but if we let little things like that go through we are negating the Emmy brand and that cannot happen.”
In the future, Darbo, says, she would “ask to please see how we’re submitting and what’s going on. Because this has really broken my heart.”
“The sad part of all of this is Patrika, Jennifer, and three other very deserving people who are all very talented were robbed of potentially winning an Emmy,” says Anderson. “I support NATAS’ decision because at the end of the day ‘Anacostia’ has been around for nine years, five seasons, and 50 episodes. I know my show’s value, and it doesn’t come from an award.”