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How 8 Emmys Categories Are Celebrating Women Behind the Scenes on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘Stranger Things’ and More

From directing to voice acting to production design, women created some stunning Emmy-nominated work in 2017.

The Handmaid's Tale  -- "Late" Episode 103 --  Offred visits JanineÕs baby with Serena Joy and remembers the early days of the revolution before Gilead. Ofglen faces a difficult challenge. Behind the scenes with Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Reed Morano, shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu

When it comes to the Emmys, gender representation has always been a bit of a struggle behind the scenes. In non-acting categories, especially when it comes to technical awards, there’s a lack of female representation that’s persisted throughout the industry. But this year, there are bright spots to be found.

This is not a complete representation of all of the year’s nominees — there were many other female nominees whose work was noteworthy — but here is a selection of the strides women made in 2017, often in categories largely dominated by men.

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance

BoJack Horseman Season 3

  • “BoJack Horseman” (Netflix): Kristen Schaal as Sarah Lynn in “That’s Too Much, Man!”
  • “F Is For Family” (Netflix): Mo Collins as Ginny, Jimmy Fitzsimmons, Lex, Ben, and Cutie Pie in the episode “Pray Away”
  • “The Simpsons” (Fox): Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson in “Looking for Mr. Goodbart”

Fun fact: Since this category was created for the 2013-2014 season, a total of four women have been nominated — three of them this year. (Tress MacNeille was nominated for her “Simpsons” work in 2015.) As one of the few gender-blind acting categories in the Emmys line-up, the even split between male and female nominees this year is exciting, as is the fact that Schaal is being recognized for her heartbreaking work in the criminally under-recognized “BoJack Horseman.” While this is the only Emmy nomination for “BoJack” this year, it’s also worth noting that this is only Nancy Cartwright’s second Emmy nomination — she won in 1992, also for playing Bart Simpson.

Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Period Program (One Hour Or More)

FEUD: Bette and Joan -- "More, Or Less" -- Installment 1, Episode 4 (Airs Sunday, March 26, 10:00 p.m. e/p) --Pictured: (l-r) Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford, Alison Wright as Pauline Jameson. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

  • “FEUD: Bette And Joan” (FX): Judy Becker, Production Designer; Jamie McCall, Art Director; Florencia Martin, Set Decorator

Before Ryan Murphy brought her to television, Oscar-nominated Judy Becker had primarily worked in film (though did design the pilot for HBO’s “Girls”), bringing to life a range of late-20th-century worlds in films like “Joy,” “Carol,” “American Hustle,” and “Hitchcock.” She’s currently nominated for recreating 1960s Hollywood in the first edition of “FEUD,” but the smart money’s on her also attending next year’s Emmys for her work on Murphy’s next period saga, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”

Outstanding Production Design For A Variety, Nonfiction, Reality Or Reality-Competition Series

Alia Shawkat and Tony Hale in "Drunk History."

  • “Drunk History” (Comedy Central): Chloe Arbiture, Production Designer; Monica Sotto, Art Director; Rae Deslich, Set Decorator

The only all-female production team nominated in this category is going up against some heavy hitters, including “Saturday Night Live.” But the episode it’s nominated for — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inebriated retelling of the life of Alexander Hamilton — pushed beyond the show’s standard vignette format for a full-length installment, digging in for the essential amount of period accuracy necessary to sell the gag.

Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour)

Sarah Jessica Parker Thomas Haden Church Divorce Season 1 Episode 1 HBO

“Divorce”

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

  • “Divorce” (HBO): Reed Morano for “Pilot”

Before “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Reed Morano worked primarily as a cinematographer, and her work in the pilot for HBO’s searing relationship comedy brought a necessary degree of warmth and intimacy to what might otherwise have been an overly chilling portrait of marriage. There are a few other people nominated multiple times this year, but not for two different behind-the-scenes positions — reflecting just how much talent Morano brings to the table.

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series

The Handmaid's Tale -- "The Bridge" -- Episode 109 -- Offred embarks on a dangerous mission for the resistance. Janine moves to a new posting. Serena Joy suspects the Commander’s infidelity. Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu): Reed Morano for “Offred (Pilot)”
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu): Kate Dennis for “The Bridge”
  • “Homeland” (Showtime): Lesli Linka Glatter for “America First”

That’s three nominations for women in this category — and Glatter’s third consecutive one for “Homeland,” proving her status as a powerhouse director. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” meanwhile, is the first show to be nominated twice in this category since “The Sopranos” in 2006. A woman hasn’t won this award since Mimi Leder for “E.R.” in 1995, but this might be the year that changes.

Outstanding Directing For A Nonfiction Program

Ava DuVernay at the New York Film Festival

Photo by Joe Russo/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

  • “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher And Debbie Reynolds” (HBO): Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, directors
  • “Planet Earth II” (BBC America): Elizabeth White, director
  • “13th” (Netflix): Ava DuVernay, director

Not only is this a category where women and men are nominated equally (if you consider “Bright Lights” to be an even split) but DuVernay could make history as the first black woman to win in any directing category at the Emmys. However, she is up against Ezra Edelman and “O.J.: Made in America,” which “13th” faced — and lost to — earlier this year at the Oscars. (Yes, both projects were nominated for Oscars and Emmys. The Oscar rules have already been changed to disqualify “limited” series like “Made in America” in the future.)

Outstanding Main Title Design

  • “Stranger Things” (Netflix): Michelle Dougherty, Creative Director; Peter Frankfurt, Executive Creative Director; Arisu Kashiwagi, Designer; Eric Demeusy, Compositor/Designer

Michelle Dougherty, according to the Television Academy website, has been nominated seven times in the Outstanding Main Title Design category — including a nomination for last year’s “Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” a title sequence which is remains haunting and evocative. Title designs are a team effort, as seen from the number of names above, but perhaps seventh time will be the charm for Dougherty. It’s well deserved, as the “Stranger Things” opening’s simple design somehow perfectly captured the ’80s nostalgia feel of the Duffer Brothers fan favorite.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Master of None Season 2 Episode 8 Angela Bassett Lena Waithe

  • “Master Of None” (Netflix): Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe for “Thanksgiving”

It didn’t make headlines when the nominations initially came out, but it’s official: Lena Waithe is the first black woman to ever be nominated in this category. She is also one of only two women to be nominated for writing in the Comedy, Drama, or Limited series categories at all, the other being Lisa Joy for co-writing the “Westworld” episode “The Bicameral Mind” with Jonathan Nolan. Waithe’s “Thanksgiving” was more than a beautiful episode of television — it represented what happened when a voice that’s not normally heard in writers’ rooms gets a chance to speak.

Voting for the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ends Monday, August 28. 

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