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2015 Emmy Nod Favorites: ‘Bessie,’ ‘Transparent,’ ‘Olive Kitteridge,’ Amy Schumer, Black Actresses

2015 Emmy Nod Favorites: 'Bessie,' 'Transparent,' 'Olive Kitteridge,' Amy Schumer, Black Actresses

The Emmys are usually as staid as the entertainment industry gets, with the same group of people getting nominated and winning for the same roles year after year. 

There are a lot of old favorites in the 2015 batch of nominees, but there is also recognition of a more diverse TV landscape than in years past. Dee Rees’ HBO movie “Bessie,” a biopic of the bisexual black jazz legend Bessie Smith, garnered 12 nods, while Jill Soloway’s landmark trans comedy “Transparent” got 11. The female-dominated “American Horror Story: Freak Show” got 20 nominations, while director Lisa Cholodenko and writer Jane Anderson’s “Olive Kitteridge” earned 13.

Among other Women and Hollywood favorites, “Veep” got 9 nods, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” got 7 and “Inside Amy Schumer” broke out of the Comedy Central ghetto — and solidified its creator and star’s banner year — with 7, including nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy, Best Variety Show, Best Writing, and Best Directing. 

Thanks to a handful of progressive creators and showrunners, a great many black actresses were recognized in the acting categories: Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson for “How to Get Away with Murder,” Khandi Alexander for “Scandal,” Uzo Aduba for “Orange is the New Black,” Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique for “Bessie,” Taraji P. Henson for “Empire” and Niecy Nash for “Getting On,” among others.

Still there are more actresses we’d like to have seen nominated: Gina Rodriguez for “Jane the Virgin,” Kerry Washington on “Scandal” and Lorraine Toussaint for “Orange is the New Black,” as well as Ellie Kemper for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Julianna Marguilies for “The Good Wife” and Lizzy Caplan for “Masters of Sex.”   

It’s also disappointing that every single one of the Best Comedy and Best Drama nominees features a white protagonist. 

Behind the scenes, both Rees and Cholodenko got a nod in the Outstanding Directing For A Limited Series, Movie Or A Dramatic Special category. Also recognized were the directors in the Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking category, which was comprised only of female filmmakers: Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”), Margaret Brown (“The Great Invisible”), and Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus (“Hot Girls Wanted”).

Still, the major non-acting categories had a bizarre and disappointing pattern to them: Only one woman was nominated in many of them. Here are all the major categories with only one female nominee: 

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series (Jill Soloway, “Transparent,” Pilot)
Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (“Inside Amy Schumer” – the only nominee with a female head writer and a female-majority writing staff) 
Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series (Jill Soloway, “Transparent,” “Best New Girl”)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series (Amy Schumer and Ryan McFaul, “Inside Amy Schumer” “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer”)
Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series (Lesli Linka Glatter, “Homeland,” “From A To B And Back Again”)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special (Natalie Johns, “Annie Lennox: Nostalgia Live In Concert”)
Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series (Susan Lacy and Michael Kantor, Executive Producers)
Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or A Special (Original Dramatic Score) (Rachel Portman, “Bessie”)
Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series (Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner, “Lost Horizon”)
Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming (Laura Poitras, “Citizenfour”)

Below are the female acting nominees and the “best shows” categories with our quick takes. 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder”

Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Our Take: This might be the most exciting category of the Emmys, with two women of color nominees and well-deserved recognition for the seven-faced Tatiana Maslany. 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie

Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Honorable Woman”

Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”

Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Queen Latifah, “Bessie”

Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge”

Emma Thompson, “Mrs. Lovett”

Our Take: It’s encouraging to see so many older actresses nominated in this category, proving once again that television is a woman’s best friend. 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or A Movie

Regina King, “American Crime”

Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Angela Bassett, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Mo’Nique, “Bessie”

Zoe Kazan, “Olive Kitteridge”

Our Take: At the risk of repeating ourselves, we’re delighted that half of this category is devoted to recognizing the work of actresses of color. 

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Margo Martindale, “The Americans”

Diana Rigg, “Game Of Thrones”

Rachel Brosnahan, “House Of Cards”

Cicely Tyson, “How To Get Away With Murder”

Allison Janney, “Masters Of Sex”

Khandi Alexander, “Scandal”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”

Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”

Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

Our Take: It’s Amy Schumer’s year.

Outstanding Limited Series

“American Crime”

“American Horror Story: Freak Show”

“Olive Kitteridge”

“The Honorable Woman”

“Wolf Hall”

Our Take: The majority of this category is female-dominated. Take a note, “True Detective.” 

Outstanding Television Movie

“Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain, Poirot’s Last Case”


“Grace of Monaco”

“Hello Ladies: The Movie”

“Killing Jesus”


Outstanding Variety Series

“The Colbert Report”

“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”

“Last Week Tonight”

“The Late Show”

“The Tonight Show”

Our Take: Ah, late night, white men’s last bastion in TV. 

Outstanding Comedy Series


“Modern Family”

“Parks & Recreation”

“Silicon Valley”


“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”


Our Take: Four of these seven shows feature a female lead, and two were created or co-created by a woman.

Outstanding Drama Series

“Better Call Saul”

“Downton Abbey”

“Game of Thrones”


“House of Cards”

“Mad Men”

“Orange Is The New Black”

Our Take: The genre of “prestige drama,” it seems, still remains the domain of antiheroic white men (“Better Call Saul,” “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Mad Men”). When are we going breaking out of this narrow conception of what constitutes “prestige”?

Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”

Lena Headey, “Game Of Thrones”

Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”

Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife”

Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”

Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is The New Black”

Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”

Niecy Nash, “Getting On”

Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”

Allison Janney, “Mom”

Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”

Gaby Hoffmann, “Transparent”

Jane Krakowski, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”

Our Take: Niecy Nash is the surprise nominee here — and the one for which we’re most grateful. HBO’s “Getting On” remains one of TV’s most underrated gems

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

“Drunk History”

“Inside Amy Schumer”

“Key & Peele”


“Saturday Night Live”

Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition

Tom Bergeron, “Dancing With The Stars”

Jane Lynch, “Hollywood Game Night”

Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, “Project Runway”

Cat Deeley, “So You Think You Can Dance”

Anthony Bourdain, “The Taste”

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series

Christine Baranski, “The Big Bang Theory”

Gaby Hoffmann, “Girls”

Pamela Adlon, “Louie”

Elizabeth Banks, “Modern Family”

Joan Cusack, “Shameless”

Tina Fey, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Animated Program


“Bob’s Burgers”

“Over the Garden Wall”

“The Simpsons”

“South Park”

Our Take: Kinda depressing that none one of these shows features a female protagonist. 

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