An Emmy nomination is always a thrill, but for a surprisingly large list of performers, this year’s nods hold special significance: They include their first.
Among the most notable are four actors from the critically acclaimed “When They See Us” from Ava DuVernay and Netflix: Asante Blackk, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Aunjanue Ellis and Jharrel Jerome were all nominated for their work on the show, which tells the story of the wrongful conviction of the young men who came to be known as the Central Park Five. The nom is particularly noteworthy for Blackk, as “When They See Us” is his first-ever credited onscreen role, as well as for Jerome, who portrays the real-life Korey Wise across the decades depicted in the limited series. Jerome was the only actor to play his role at more than one age.
Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”) and Sarah Goldberg and Anthony Carrigan (“Barry”) also scored their first nods this year, but it’s far from just the fresher faced actors who managed to break onto the ballot. There are also quite a few veteran performers who are celebrating their first accolades from the Television Academy, including Tony Award winner Billy Porter (“Pose”), Stephen Root (“Barry”), Mandy Moore (“This Is Us”), Michael McKean (“Better Call Saul”), Amy Adams (“Sharp Objects”), Hugh Grant (“A Very English Scandal”), Michelle Williams, Margaret Qualley and Sam Rockwell (“Fosse/Verdon”), Stellan Skarsgård (“Chernobyl”) and Paul Dano and Benicio Del Toro (“Escape at Dannemora”).
With nomination-round ballots consisting of dozens of pages of eligible contenders, it’s hard to hypothesize exactly what inspired voters to dig deeper this year and tick newer boxes. Name recognition of the program to which the performer is attached could certainly have something to do with it: “When They See Us” was an extremely visible project that launched on the final day of eligibility. Similarly, with “Game of Thrones” in the race one last time, a slew of its supporting and guest players — Alfie Allen, Gwendoline Christie, Sophie Turner and Carice Van Houten — saw their first Emmy attention.
While the Academy has certainly made strides by celebrating this diverse new pool of talent, the true test will be who rises to the top in their respective categories to hear their name announced at the Sept. 22 ceremony.