Despite Landmark Nominations, The Emmys Still Misses Key Moments In Diverse TV Representation

Diversity is still in a fickle spot with the 74th Emmy Awards Nominations. While some of television’s moments of diversity are being recognized, others got left behind. 

Black and Asian representation rewarded

As Just Add Color’s Monique Jones wrote for Shadow and Act, Abbott Elementary‘s creator and star Quinta Brunson earned nominations for writing and lead actress in a comedy. Combined with the series’ nomination, Brunson became the first Black woman to receive comedy nominations for writing, acting and series. Meanwhile Sheryl Lee Ralph and Janelle James earned their first Emmys nominations for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Tyler James Williams was also nominated for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and the show itself was nominated as one of the year’s best comedies. 

Zendaya also made more history after becoming the first Black woman to be nominated twice in the dramatic lead actress category for her role in Euphoria. This time, became the first Black woman and the second Black person ever to be nominated for both songwriting and acting. She’s also the youngest woman nominated for producing (she serves as an executive producer on Euphoria). 

Squid Game became the first non-English series to be nominated at the Emmys, with the cast and crew all receiving nominations along with the series itself. Lee Jung-jae earned a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series with Jung Ho-yeon earning a nomination for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Park Hae-soo and Oh Yeong-su both got nominations for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Lee You-mi also earned a nom for her guest starring role and Hwang Dong-hyuk, the series’ creator, earned a writing nomination. Even the series’ music earned a nomination.  

Asian representation continued at the Emmys nomination ceremony; as Variety’s Clayton Davis wrote, “Even Japanese director, Hiro Murai, picked up two noms in separate genre races for FX’s Atlanta and HBO’s Station Eleven…Sandra Oh picked up her 13th overall acting nom for Killing Eve, although she’s yet to walk away with a statuette. Also carrying the torch for AAPI actors are Himesh Patel (Station Eleven), Nick Mohammad (Ted Lasso), Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live) and Arian Moayed (Succession).

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Less diversity despite meaningful noms

However, despite the historic nature of this year’s nominations, there was less overall recognition of non-white performers, with Davis reporting that there are less than 25 actors of color nominated in the acting categories compared to last year’s 42 nominations. He states that the causes of this are due to “ the omissions of Sterling K. Brown, Kenan Thompson, Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Rosie Perez, Giancarlo Esposito and others who received noms last year.”

But the downward trend is not particularly stopping Black entertainment as Black women have begun to take over with Issa Rae (Insecure), Natasha Rothwell (The White Lotus), with Janelle James and Sheryl Lee Ralph (Abbot Elementary). Despite the snubs of Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us) and Samuel L. Jackson (The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey), Donald Glover (Atlanta), Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso) and Tyler James Williams (Abbot Elementary) are still creating excitement in their Emmy nominations. 

On the Latino side of representation, Oscar Isaac is leading the charge with his super-charged performance from HBO’s Scenes from a Marriage. However, with Selena Gomez being snubbed the nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress, Isaac is the only actor in the main categories, while Colman Domingo managed to win the nomination for best guest actor drama in Euphoria.

Indigenous people are itching to have a win this year with FX’s What We Do in the Shadows and Reservation Dogs, both executive produced by Taika Waititi and with the latter created by Sterlin Harjo and featuring a predominantly Native American cast, being nominated. Waititi was also snubbed from directorial and acting nominations for David Jenkins’ queer-focused pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death (which Waititi also executive produces). In addition, Gil Birmingham, who was in Yellowstone and Under the Banner of Heaven, is hoping to etch out a win to join August Schellenberg (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) and increase more representation for Native American performers. 

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Disabled actors forgotten while women directors are remembered

Another oversight among the TV Academy was not giving disabled actors credit for their roles this year. There is a lack of deaf actors in the nominations with James Caverly (Only Murders in the Building) being overlooked. This, along with other disabled actors being left behind, shows that there is clearly more that can be done to recognize disabled talent.

However, one of the biggest bright spots of the ceremony was the amount of women directors who were nominated. 

“Five of the seven nominees for directing (comedy) are women, including a shocking inclusion of Mary Lou Belli for BET+’s first nom for The Ms. Pat Show, wrote Davis. “This is the first time women have outnumbered men in any directing categories. While that’s not the same showing on the directing (drama) side, three of the seven spots are occupied by women, including two from Succession (Lorene Scafaria and Cathy Yan). The number of women in writing and directing categories is among [one of the most], if not the most, in the 74-year history [of the Emmys].”

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