Daytime Emmys Combine Young Performer Categories, Clarify Gender Identity Rules

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is moving ahead with a plan to eliminate two of its gender-specific acting categories. As first reported by Variety in August, the organization has been looking into merging combing its outstanding younger actor and actress categories into one. The TV Academy is expected to formally announce the change on Thursday, in time for its 2020 awards.

The new category will now be called Outstanding Younger Performer in a Drama Series, replacing the two actor and actress categories.

Also, NATAS plans to clarify that in its remaining gendered acting categories, performers will be encouraged to enter the one they feel best fits their gender identity. The Daytime Emmys will allow eligible performers to select the category they feel best represents themselves.

The group already has a guest performer category that combines both genders. The consideration of this change was discussed at an Academy advisory in August, and the final decisions coincide with this year’s call for the next Daytime Emmy entries, which go out this Thursday.

Other changes expected to be announced this week include the news that six craft categories previously exclusive to broadcast dramas will now also welcome entrants from digital dramas. There will also be changes in the areas of creation of new categories, clip reel requirements, and clarifications on judging.

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Some of the rules changes are the continuation of a larger overhaul that NATAS CEO Adam Sharp has been coordinating since taking over the organization last year. Earlier this year, NATAS released a “transparency report” for the 46th Daytime Emmys, revealing five separate judging irregularities and four nomination challenges — and how they handled each dispute. The report came a year after a Daytime Emmys awards debacle rocked the organization and led to a threatened boycott by TV’s major daytime soap operas (which ultimately didn’t happen).

Other recent changes included tapping Steve Ulrich as senior VP of production and events, a newly created position that handles the planning and production of the Daytime, Sports, News & Documentary, and Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards ceremonies, plus the National Student Production Awards and other events. And last week, NATAS revealed that the 47th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards will be divided into three awards shows (instead of two) on Friday, June 12, 2020, Saturday, June 13th, 2020 and Sunday, June 14th, 2020.

As for the categories for younger actor in a drama series and younger actress in a drama series, which were first presented in 1985, it also made sense to combine the younger performer categories because there are fewer daytime soap operas in 2019.

In the past, the Daytime Emmy awards for younger actor and younger actress in a drama series have recognized the work of the performers age 25 and under.

NATAS’ discussion also comes as the conversation continues over gender-inclusive categories, and whether they still make sense for awards shows. MTV dropped gender-specific categories for its Movie & TV Awards and Video Music Awards shows, while the Television Critics Assn. combines its acting categories into just two: individual achievement in drama and individual achievement in comedy.

The subject has also been discussed in the past in the context of the Emmys. Two years ago, “Billions” star Asia Kate Dillon, the first gender non-binary performer to play a non-binary character on a major TV show, asked the Los Angeles-based Television Academy, which administers the Primetime Emmys, to clarify its gender distinctions. Dillon was allowed to submit to either category, and chose “actor” because of its gender-neutral usage. Now, the Daytime Emmys have made it clear that they will allow performers that same choice.

(Pictured: “Days of Our Lives” star Kyler Pettis, 2019 winner for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series.)