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A Black Actress Has Never Won Drama Series Lead Actress Emmy. Will Kerry Washington Be 1st?

A Black Actress Has Never Won Drama Series Lead Actress Emmy. Will Kerry Washington Be 1st?

The 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards celebration will be held TONIGHT, Sunday, September 22, at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. CBS is broadcasting this year’s show, with Neil Patrick Harris serving as host – his second major awards hosting gig this year (he also hosted the Tony Awards).

Congrats to Kerry Washington (Lead Actress In A Drama Series) and Don Cheadle (Lead Actor In A Comedy Series) for their Primtetime Emmy nominations (specific categories in parentheses), announced over the summer.

This marks Kerry Washington’s first ever Emmy nomination, AND the first time a black actress has been nominated in that specific category (Lead Actress In A Drama Series) since the 1994-95 season (the 47th annual Primetime Emmys) when Cicely Tyson was nominated for her work in the NBC legal drama series Sweet Justice

Interestingly, Sweet Justice would run for just one season. And Tyson didn’t win. She lost to Kathy Baker for her work in Picket Fences.

Note: a black actress has never won in this category, in the 65 years since the first Primetime Emmys were awarded.

Never! Not once! 

In the Primetime Emmy’s 65-year history, black actresses have been nominated just 9 times in that specific category – again, Lead Actress In A Drama Series.

Debbie Allen was the first, and her nomination didn’t come until 1982, for Fame. She was the only black actress nominated in that category over the next 3 years – through 1985. All of them were for Fame, but she never won, despite 4 consecutive nominations.

Alfre Woodard was next for St. Elsewhere, nominated in 1986; followed by Regina Taylor, nominated 2 years in a row for I’ll Fly Away (1992 and 1993); and then Cicely Tyson’s aforementioned nomination for Sweet Justice in 1995.

And of course, Kerry Washington in 2013.

As an aside, I should give props to Diahann Carroll who was the very first black performer (male or female) to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in ANY category. That came in 1963, when she was nominated for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role (what would likely be the equivalent of a guest-starring role on an episode of a TV series) for her appearance in an episode of the TV series Naked City.  Ethel Waters, who was the very first black performer (male or female) to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in ANY category. That came in 1962, when she was nominated for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role (what would likely be the equivalent of a guest-starring role on an episode of a TV series) for her appearance in an episode of the TV series Route 66 (thanks to Kola Boof for the catch).

So what are Kerry Washington’s chances of becoming THE first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy for Lead Actress In A Drama Series?

While I certainly wouldn’t say her chances are slim, I will say that she’s got some tough competition: Connie Britton, Claire Danes, Michelle Dockery, Vera Farmiga, Elisabeth Moss, and Robin Wright. Most of them star in TV series that already have a history of critical acclaim and awards behind them, like Homeland, Mad Men, and Downton Abbey; or series that immediately drew acclaim after they initially aired, like House Of Cards and Bates Motel.

Scandal can claim neither, unfortunately.

But anything is possible, and pure talent isn’t the only factor that goes into these decisions. So, who knows, we might be in for a surprise. For example, the Emmys may decide that they want to make a statement and finally give the Emmy for Lead Actress In A Drama Series to a black actress for the first time ever!

Or maybe not.

We’ll find out tonight, when I’m sure most of us will be watching to see what happens!

By the way, Don Cheadle was nominated in the same category last year. This year’s nomination marks his 6th nomination total.

Alfre Woodard picked up a nomination for her performance in Steel Magnolias, in the Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie category.

And last, but not least, Paris Barclay picked up a nomination in the Directing For A Comedy Series category, for directing Diva, the thirteenth episode of Glee’s fourth season.

Notable misses? I thought Regina King had a shot at a nomination this year, for her work in Southland, which was canceled after this last season. 

I’m sure after tonight’s broadcast, there’ll be the usual debates on who should have won this or that award, but didn’t; who was nominated that shouldn’t have been in the first place; etc.

I also expect to see the usual articles lamenting the lack of diversity in terms of nominees and eventual winners. Ho-hum.

The Primetime Emmys will be held tonight, Sunday, September 22, at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. CBS is broadcasting this year’s show, starting at 8pm, with Neil Patrick Harris serving as host.

For the full list of nominees, click HERE.

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Comments

HereNorThere

What happened? Did a Black actress won?

Hollywierd is a joke

FactChecker

Some very interesting comments with regard to black women and the Emmy's. I don't know where to begin. I haven't seen all of the work of the nominees, just Washington, Moss and Britton. And I believe Washington will win. And, of course, it will be political. Everything in our society is. Everyone posting, and writing — not just here — but throughout the media, know that Kerry is talented, and Scandal, with its superior writing, talented ensemble cast, and leader, Shonda Rhimes, formed a perfect storm for Kerry to have the opportunity to showcase her talent.

If she weren't in the running, and it were all white women, that doesn't takeaway from the politics involved of who will win, it simply makes them look different because everyone in the category is white.

So, for example, one could argue that Elizabeth Moss is beyond deserving for her portrayal of Peggy, because in the way in which she's played the role, it reminds present day audiences of just how difficult it was for white women to get a foothold in the corporate culture of the sixties. But her role also resonates with audiences today because women in general, and black women, in particular, are still fighting the uphill battles, in the boardroom, for the kind of authority, respect, and opportunity that Peggy is fighting for.

So, from the perspective of Emmy voters, one could argue the brilliance of Moss, and Mad Men, in general, because while they portray the past it's also reflective of the present. And that's brilliance — as far as I'm concerned — when a TV show can be entertaining, educational, and enlightening all at once. … I've never seen Homeland, but the premise is too close to home, for me, in that it involves a situation, or crisis in which we, as Americans, have been living with for over a decade. And, I watch dramas to escape from my life, not relive what's occurring in the real world. So, from that perspective one could argue Danes performance as being good, solid, but it's not really moving the needle. I mean, her character was, probably, written for a white man.

Anyway, I'm rooting for Kerry. She deserves it as much as anyone. And, like everything else in this business, and this world, it's all subjective. And those who hold the power will, ultimately, decide.

Jess

*submits a write-in vote for Keri Russell from "The Americans"*

Nadia

LOL! I'm scrolling through the comments to see what folks are saying about the post and all I see is debate about interracial coupling. For real, this happens so much with commenters on this site that I think S&A should just post some factual data on the number of shows in which black women have bee paired with white men, and the number of shows in which black men have been paired with white women, and let's just call it a day so that we can put this whole debate to bed. I'm waiting for Accidental Visitor to jump in soon with his comments too LOL. This is his favorite topic.

THE TRUTH

"

Last time I checked, Hollywood was in the U. S. where people of color are still the minority. Do you expect black actresses to leave the U. S. to find acting jobs? You can't be serious. Obviously you have a problem seeing Black women act with White men. I don't have a problem with it and I know that some black actresses don't either. We will have to agree to disagree on this one. There much more important things to be upset about in this world besides seeing Black women act with White men."

Read my post above. You're like arguing with a Fox News viewer…blinded by your point and your point only. I wrote that the FACT is white A-list actresses are untouched by non-white hands, while actresses of color are almost exclusively paired with white men. That's THE TRUTH. Has nothing to do with me demeaning women of color, but instead calling attention to inequity and the need for balance. It has nothing to do with looking for work outside of the USA. You can't make a valid argument if you don't care to analyze opposing viewpoints. Again, it is possible to adapt films and franchises to encompass a larger world view and be inclusive of everyone.

I'm done with you. Some folks only hear what they want to.

THE TRUTH

@Akimbo & LL2 – You both missed the point. The discussion has to do with race in film and TV, not interracial dating. The actresses I listed below have been SUBJECTED to racism in the industry…and it has nothing to do with economics. I'm not saying they should limit their careers, but rather that there should be balance and greater opportunities for them other that those as solely white male love interests.

"First of all, we live in a patriarchal society so most roles for women regardless of their race will be to play the love interest of some man. Second, most of the male actors in Hollywood are white men including most of the top male actors. So logically speaking, if a black actress wanted to work as much as possible and as often as possible, she can't avoid acting opposite a white men."

Um, white people are between 8-15% of the total global population, with white men comprising less than half of that. So it's not a question of business – it's racism and socialization. And it IS possible to adapt films and franchises to encompass a larger world view (The Fast & the Furious) and be inclusive of everyone.

The FACT is white A-list actresses are untouched by non-white hands, while actresses of color are almost exclusively paired with white men. That's THE TRUTH. Has nothing to do with me demeaning women of color, but instead calling attention to the inequity and the need for balance which will surely only come from filmmakers who look like us.

So YES, the role is demeaning in the context of interracial inequality.

Peace to you & all the other Hollyweird apologists. Checkmate.

jazzfan360

Some random facts and thoughts…

Shocked none of the other females from Steel Magnolias managed a nomination. Alfre's inclusion doesn't surprise me because the Emmys LOVE her and generally, if you look back over her TV career, will nominate her ANYtime she's eligible. (Witness her downright insulting nomination for doing absolutely nothing in a loudly reviled storyline in the second season of Desperate Housewives.)

Diahann Carroll has been a major groundbreaker on many fronts; her first Emmy nod came one year after she became the first black woman to win a Tony.

As far as Sweet Justice being acclaimed but only running one season, it's sadly not uncommon for black shows that aren't raucous comedies to pick up traction on network TV even if they're considered top quality. Witness Frank's Place (the last Outstanding Comedy Series nominee to run only one season; winner of three Emmys for its only season, including Writing and Guest Actress – Comedy for Beah Richards) and the great, completely forgotten Gabriel's Fire, for which both James Earl Jones (Lead Actor) and Madge Sinclair (Supporting Actress) won.

And the comedy side is possibly even more grim than drama. Don't start me on the lack of love for Everybody Hates Chris (Tichina Arnold couldn't even manage a nod for the first season?). A biggie here, for instance, that no one seems to notice is that Jackee Harry is the ONLY minority EVER to win Supporting Actress in a Comedy. Not just black…ANY race but white. And I haven't looked, but off the top of my head I'm pretty sure Vanessa Williams (who, criminally, never won for Ugly Betty) is the only minority nominated since Jackee's second nod in '88.

The lack of attention is clear…but sadder still is that what this really speaks to is the lack of minorities in mainstream TV over the years. How many dramas can anyone even think of that have been led by a black actress? I'm not at all surprised there's never been a win in that category.

THE TRUTH

"None of that makes Kerry Washington more or less deserving of an Emmy."

Nobody said she wasn't deserving. But she wouldn't get that same acknowledgement in a dignified role.

Tyler

I remain dismayed that Andra Fuller didn't submit himself for his brilliant work on the second season of L.A. Complex. In my mind, he gave one of the finest lead performances in a drama series in 2012 and deserved a nomination. His chances of getting one were practically non-existent given the show's abysmal ratings and it being a CW-affiliated show, but the work stands up to anything Hamm and Cranston are doing.

CareyCarey

"While I certainly wouldn't say her chances are slim, I will say that she's got some tough competition"

While I certainly wouldn't say the reverse Mandigo issue is not an issue, I will say her chances of winning are about as slim as Oprah winning this years Oscar. Opps…wait a minute, Oprah (from what I've been reading) is actually in the lead pack, but not Kerry Washington. I believe her nomination is nothing but a dry bone for the black community to chew on – which serves to quiet their **coughwhinningcough**.

I am serious, although I haven't seen all the actresses in her category, I did see every episode of House of Cards. Robin Wright's performance in that series – alone – positions Kerry as a also-ran. And, I believe Robin is not even the favorite to win the award.

Heck, I liked Kerry better in "Peeples" than that thang she does in Scandal, but my mother and sister love them some Scandal.

The Truth

Sure she will. As long as the woman of color is sleeping with a white man, two thumbs up!
smh…

Jay

I'm all for Kerry but I think Robin Wright should and will get it for House of Cards

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