Twenty-one non-white actors were nominated during Thursday’s Emmy nominations, a diverse list of representation that includes last year’s best actress in a drama winner Viola Davis, Mr. Robot star Rami Malek, and many others.
“At no time in the past 70 years has our industry achieved the vibrancy, relevancy, consistent creative excellence, and diversity we are experiencing at this very moment,” Television Academy chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum said before the nominations were announced. “Television is the premier cultural entertainment touchstone throughout the world. This is far more than a second Golden Age of television. The fact is, no other entertainment medium surpasses the popularity, cultural impact, or global scale of television. Television dominates the entertainment conversation and is enjoying the most spectacular run in its history.”
In addition to Malek (Mr. Robot) and Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), Taraji P. Henson (Empire), a very excited Anthony Anderson (Black-ish), Aziz Ansari (Master of None), and Tracee Ellis-Ross (Black-ish) were also nominated in lead acting categories. Supporting actors nominees included Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), and Niecy Nash (Getting On).
In nearly every acting acting category, the inclusion of minority performers was noticeably greater than it was last year. Of the six nominees in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category, half are people of color, as Idris Elba (Luther) and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story costars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Courtney B. Vance each scored nods.
Similarly, Ross breaks into a category that is traditionally dominated by an all-white roster, as it was in 2015. You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find another nominee of color in the Lead Actress in a Comedy series category, when America Ferrara was recognized for her performance in ABC’s Ugly Betty.
Kerry Washington (Confirmation) and Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill) also received nominations in the Limited Series category. On the supporting side, Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo), Sterling K. Brown (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story), and Regina King (American Crime) were also nominated.
In the guest-acting categories, Tracy Morgan (Saturday Night Live), Reg E. Cathey (House of Cards), and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) scored nominations.
The lack of diversity in Hollywood — and specifically at awards shows — has become a larger topic of conversation in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite movement. For the last two years at the Academy Awards, every acting nomination went to a white actor or actress. In response to the outrage over this year’s Academy Award nominations, the Academy expanded its ranks by inviting 683 new members, 41 percent of whom were people of color.
The 68th Annual Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs Sept. 18 on ABC.
— Additional reporting by Joey Nolfi