With nearly every awards show the question of diversity pops up: #OscarsSoWhite continues to be a yearly refrain, but where the Emmys are concerned, things look better in 2020. (Or, at least, more pigmented.)
Of the 24 nominations in series lead acting categories, seven went to Black actors and actresses (10 if you include the leading acting categories in limited series), while Sandra Oh and Ramy Youssef also secured nominations. To look at the nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series is to be delighted, as actresses of color actually outnumber white leading ladies.
And with Frank Scherma, the Chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, espousing a push towards more diverse voices, it might be worth looking at where the Emmys still have to go to present a show that’s truly inclusive. It’s amazing to look at this year’s nominations and see some interesting elements within racial diversity pop up. Taika Waititi, nominated for his voice work on the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian,” while his “What We Do in the Shadows” was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, is Maori, an indigenous group native to New Zealand. Youssef, star of “Ramy” is Muslim.
But what about Latino representation? Last year saw Afro-Latino star Jharrel Jerome take home Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” where he was nominated alongside Benicio del Toro for “Escape at Dannemora.” But if you look at nominations for Latinos in the big four acting categories, it’s kinda grim. As far as leading actor in a drama it’s been over 20 years since someone was nominated; the last was Jimmy Smits for “NYPD Blue” in 1999. And for a comedy series, it’s been five years since Louis C.K. (yep, his father is Mexican and C.K. was raised in the country) was nominated for his work on “Louie.”
For Latinas it’s worse. The first (and last) Latina actress nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series was in 1979. Who was nominated, you ask? Why, it was actress Rita Moreno for her work on “The Rockford Files.” Unfortunately, her work on the sitcom “One Day At a Time” has yet to be recognized by the Television Academy. And America Ferrera remains the only Latina to actually win an Emmy for Comedy lead actress, winning in 2007, just one of two actresses ever nominated in the category. The other being, you guessed it, Rita Moreno.
And we still have to talk about the complete dearth of disabled representation in television and awards shows. Yes, “Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements” was nominated for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, but that’s it. This year wasn’t a particularly stellar year for disabled representation. There is the work actors Daryl “Chill” Mitchell and Lauren Ridloff were doing on “Fear the Walking Dead” and “The Walking Dead,” respectively, and while these might not have been Emmy contenders, per se, it begs the question if anyone was actually looking for disability representation at the outset.
That being said, this year’s Emmys continue to show the diversity is possible in awards. As we continue to have conversations about who is being represented, both on-screen and in the ceremonies themselves, it opens up the doors to other avenues of inclusivity. Until then, we’ll continue to look at the statistics and hope they’ll be updated.