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2019 Emmys: Sharp Year-Over-Year Drop in Nominees of Color

There are a total of 24 acting nominations for people of color, which represents quite a drop from last year’s record 38.

Storm Reid as Lisa and Jharrel Jerome as Korey Wise

Storm Reid and Jharrel Jerome in “When They See Us”

Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

In the era of “peak TV,” with significant strides made in recent years in terms of a broader representation of marginalized communities, is that diversity also being represented at the Emmys? Not quite.

This year, there are a total of 24 acting nominations for people of color (not including hosting duties), which represents quite a drop from last year’s record 38. Although only three of the 38 nominees actually took home trophies: Darren Criss for Lead Actor in a Limited Series for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”; Regina King for Lead Actress in a Limited series for “Seven Seconds”; and Thandie Newton for Supporting Actress for “Westworld.”

There are no actors of color in a number of key categories, including Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, as well as Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.

Whether this year’s 24 will fare any better remains to be seen.

Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri - Killing Eve _ Season 2, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gareth Gatrell/BBCAmerica

Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”

Gareth Gatrell/BBCAmerica

Topping the list is Ava DuVernay’s limited drama series “When They See Us,” which earned the most nominations for the streaming giant with a whopping 16 noms, making it the 7th most nominated series. It should be noted that were it not for the Netflix drama’s nominations in several different categories, this year’s diversity picture certainly would not look as rosy.

Included is a first-time nod for Jharrel Jerome in the Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category, for his remarkable performance as the real-life Korey Wise.

Additionally, Niecy Nash and Aunjanue Ellis are both nominated for Lead Actress Limited Series or Movie; Marsha Stephanie Blake for Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie; and John Leguizamo, Michael K. Williams and newcomer Asante Blackk for Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. DuVernay also picked up writing and directing noms for the series.

For his performance in the groundbreaking FX drama series “Pose,” Billy Porter is nominated in the Lead Actor in a Drama Series category. It’s his first.

The same can be said for Kumail Nanjiani and Benicio del Toro, who both picked up their first Emmy nominations as well; Nanjiani in the Guest Actor in a Drama Series category for his role on CBS All Access’ “The Twilight Zone”; and del Toro is nominated in the Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category for “Escape from Dannemora.”

Billy Porter, "Pose"

Billy Porter, “Pose”

FX

Mahershala Ali received a nomination for his role in the third installment of “True Detective,” which marks his second Emmy nod. He was previously nominated for “House of Cards.”

Nominee regulars this year include Anthony Anderson for Lead Actor in a Comedy (“black-ish”), Don Cheadle for Lead Actor in a Comedy (“Black Monday,” marking his eighth nomination), Viola Davis for Lead Actress in a Drama (“How to Get Away With Murder”), Sterling K. Brown for Lead Actor in a Drama Series (“This Is Us”), Giancarlo Esposito for Supporting Actor in a Drama (“Better Call Saul”), and Ron Cephas Jones for Guest Actor in a Drama (“This Is Us”).

Additionally, Glynn Turman picked up a nomination for Guest Actor in a Drama (“How To Get Away With Murder”), Maya Rudolph for Guest Actress in a Comedy (“The Good Place”) as well as Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”), Phylicia Rashad (“This Is Us”) and Cicely Tyson (“How To Get Away With Murder”), all for Guest Actress in a Drama.

Sandra Oh, who made history last year as the first woman of Asian descent nominated in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series category for her role in “Killing Eve,” picked up two nominations this year: Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her “Killing Eve” again, as well as Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

And in addition to the previously mentioned Porter and Cox, in terms of LGBTQ+ representation, Ben Whishaw is nominated in the Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category for his performance in “A Very English Scandal.” And Kate McKinnon picked up a nomination in the Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category for her work on “Saturday Night Live.”

Also Cherry Jones is nominated for Guest Actress in a Drama Series category for her role in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Escape at Dannemora Benicio del Toro

Benicio del Toro in “Escape at Dannemora”

Chris Saunders / Showtime

Glaring omissions include CBS All Access’ acclaimed legal drama “The Good Fight.” Wrapping up its third season, the “Good Wife” spin-off continues to be ignored by Academy voters, notably in the acting categories, despite its prestige. The series, set in an African American law firm, counts just two Emmy nominations: Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics in 2018, Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music in 2017.

Also shut out is “Star Trek: Discovery,” another CBS All Access series and maybe one of TV’s most diverse shows in terms of people of color, gender and LGBTQ+ representation.

HBO’s critically-acclaimed “Random Acts of Flyness,” which was renewed for a second season, didn’t pick up a single nomination. Nor did its contemporary adaptation of “Native Son,” which featured a magnetic performance by Ashton Sanders.

Additionally, cases could be made for a number of other series with diverse casts and performances including Amazon’s “Homecoming,” TNT’s “Claws,” Netflix’s “On My Block” and GLOW, to name a few. But there are only six slots in each category, which means there will always be snubs.

The 2019 Emmy Awards will air September 22 on Fox.

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