The Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, and the TV Academy provided historic representation across its acting categories, despite a couple of questionable hiccups.
Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett of the now-canceled “Lovecraft Country” made history as the first two Black leads to be nominated from the same series. It’s also the first piece of visual art to have a Black actor nominated in every eligible acting category, with Michael K. Williams and Aunjanue Ellis also picking up mentions.
Disney Plus’ “Hamilton” broke the all-time record for most nominations in the limited series/TV movie acting categories with seven, including the most POC of any series or TV movie in history recognized. With the nominations for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr, Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, Jonathan Groff, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo, it surpasses “And the Band Played On” (1993), “The Glass Menagerie” (1973) and “The Normal Heart” (2014) that all picked up six mentions in their respective years.
Mj Rodriguez made history as the first trans actress to be nominated in any major Emmy category. She’s just the third trans woman overall, following Laverne Cox (in guest drama actress for “Orange Is the New Black”) and Rain Valdez (short form comedy or drama actress for “Razor Tongue”).
As Megan Briscoe in HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant,” Rosie Perez became just the third Latina ever to be recognized in the supporting comedy actress race — following Liz Torres (for “The John Larroquette Show” in 1994 and 1995) and Sofia Vergara (for “Modern Family” from 2010-2013). Lin-Manuel Miranda is just the seventh Latino to be nominated for lead actor in a limited series, which has seen only one winner in Jharrel Jerome for “When They See Us” in 2019. Miranda already has an Emmy in original music and lyrics for “Bigger” in 2014.
AAPI representation in the acting races has been abysmal in Emmy history, but there were some breakthroughs this year. Bowen Yang (“Saturday Night Live”) is the first actor of Asian descent to be nominated for supporting actor in a comedy, and Phillipa Soo (“Hamilton”) joins him as the first for supporting actress in a limited series.
In lead drama actor, people of color were in the majority for the first time. Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), Jonathan Majors (“Lovecraft Country”), Regé-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”) and Billy Porter (“Pose”) were recognized for their work. If former Emmy winners Brown and Porter manage to pick up trophies again, they would be just the second Black actors to do so since Bill Cosby (“I Spy”).
In lead drama actress, three women of color were nominated, with Uzo Aduba (“In Treatment”), Rodriguez and Smollett, the most in history. Only two Black women have won the race — Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”) in 2015 and Zendaya (“Euphoria”) last year.
In lead comedy actor, with Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) and Kenan Thompson (“Kenan”), it marks the fifth consecutive year in a row that more than one POC has been nominated in the category. There have only been two winners in the category’s history — Robert Guillaume (“Benson”) and Donald Glover (“Atlanta”).
RuPaul is now tied at No. 5 out of the most-nominated Black artists in Emmy history (alongside Donald A. Morgan and Cicely Tyson) with 16 total nominations. If he wins two of his three categories this year, he will tie Morgan as the most-awarded Black performer in Emmy history. Three wins would have him set the new record.
Nicole Byer (“Nailed It”), Karamo Brown (one of the five for “Queer Eye”), RuPaul (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”), Padma Lakshmi (one of the three for “Top Chef”) and Daymond John (one of the six for “Shark Tank”) encapsulate the most people of color nominated in outstanding host for a reality or competition series ever.
There were obvious opportunities missed in particular categories, and other records untouched.
Two actresses of color short of making history, the Emmys have two POC nominated in every acting category except for lead comedy actress (Tracee Ellis Ross represents for “Black-ish”) and supporting comedy actress (Perez representing for “The Flight Attendant”).
“Ted Lasso” was two nominations short of breaking the most nods for a single show. The record is still held by “30 Rock” in 2009. However, “Ted Lasso” has a shot of breaking the record held by “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” for winning the most awards in a first season, if it gets more than eight.
With “The Underground Railroad” failing to receive any acting recognition (seriously, WTF?), Chase W. Dillon couldn’t complete with beating Fred Savage’s record as the youngest male acting nominee ever.
There has still never been a POC winner in supporting comedy actor (though Thompson or Yang can pull it off) and supporting drama actor (this year has a record-breaking three nominees and probable frontrunner in Michael K. Williams).
There is just one person of color in each of the writing categories and two in any of the directing races for any series (Michaela Coel and Barry Jenkins), although Spike Lee was nominated for directing a variety special with “David Byrne’s American Utopia.”
The glass is half full.