News & Commentary, Screen, TV

After #OscarsSoWhite, Emmy Awards a winner for diversity

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This year’s Academy Awards famously drew criticism for its overwhelming whiteness — for the second year in a row 20 out of 20 acting nominees were white — spawning the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. But while Hollywood might be falling behind in issues of diversity and representation, today’s Emmy Awards tell a very different story.

Of the 73 major acting nominations, 18 went to non-white actors. That’s the most number of Emmy nominations for people of colour of any year, up from last year’s 16 nominations, 2014’s eight nominations, and 2013 and 2012’s five nominations.

For the first time in Emmy Awards history, all six lead acting categories include nods for people of colour.

Of the 12 awards available to actors, four went to people of colour, including Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek, who won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in Mr. Robot, and Courtney B Vance, who won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for playing Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

(Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on Netflix’s Bloodline.)

But beyond the awards themselves, diversity was clearly on the agenda, with Jeffrey Tambor again winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance in Transparent. He used the platform to call on producers to offer more opportunities to transgender actors, which was later echoed by trans actor and star of Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox, who presented an award.

Transparent’s creator Jill Soloway, who was inspired to create the show after her father came out as transgender, won for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. In her speech, she said: “I’ve always wanted to be part of a movement. This TV show allows me to take my dreams about unlikable Jewish people, queer folk, trans folk, and make them heroes. Thank you to the trans community for your lived lives.”

She then issued a call to action: “Topple the patriarchy!”

Aziz Ansari, who was this year the first South Asian actor ever nominated for a leading role on a television series, picked up an award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series with his writing partner Alan Yang for their work on Master of None. 

Sarah Paulson won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her performance in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and used the opportunity to thank her female partner Holland Taylor.

As the American TV industry continues to open itself up to stories, voices, characters, and talents from a broader range of backgrounds and cultures, it’s developing into one of the most exciting and vital art forms in the world.

It’s becoming apparent that the “Golden Age of TV” is a result of increasing diversity, as much as anything else.

One response to “After #OscarsSoWhite, Emmy Awards a winner for diversity

  1. I watched the first season of Transparent but couldn’t bring myself to watch the second. That family (apart from dad) is the most unlikable bunch of people I’ve seen in an ensemble. Vance was excellent in TPVOJS but I think Sarah Paulson took him to another level. Couldn’t get into I Robot no matter how hard I tried. It would be nice if we didn’t have to label anyone as “coloured” or “non-white”.

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