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The Best Wins at the 2022 Emmys Highlighted Long-Deserving Talent

Note to Hollywood: learn something from this.

Michael Keaton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Coolidge

2022 Emmy winners Michael Keaton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Jennifer Coolidge.

Michael Buckner for Variety

There was a nice half hour at the 74th Annual Primetime Emmys where it felt like anything could happen, and that maybe the actors who really made a moment of the seasons they were nominated for may actually receive some deserved recognition.

And then the show devolved into predictability as scheduled, though that may not actually be something to scoff at. The actors winning for their performance in a Limited Series— Michael Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Murray Bartlett, and Jennifer Coolidge—all had long been predicted to win, though an Emmy for the veteran actors feels long overdue.

Ultimately, it feeds into the main lesson from this year’s Emmys, which is that it now behooves showrunners to start building projects around actors that have kept at it, but never quite gotten their moment to shine. Coolidge is a prime example, signifying the best of everything creator Mike White was going for with his class satire “The White Lotus.” Her lived-in performance as a rich woman who roves through life never quite finding the answers she seeks, a role written specifically for Coolidge, netted her the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series in part because it felt like the role that real-life Coolidge had always been waiting to play.

Same with Sheryl Lee Ralph, the biggest winner of the night with her rousing speech, who took on a part in the ensemble of ABC workplace comedy “Abbott Elementary” and made creator Quinta Brunson’s wish to give her material that would finally get the TV icon an Emmy come true. (Who could deny the genius that is “Sweet baby Jesus and the grown one too!”) Jean Smart, the winner of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series two years in a row, who was the only actress the “Hacks” creators had in mind to play headstrong comedian Deborah Vance, is indicative of this point as well.

Many of the winners on Monday night are proof that there is so much talent already working in Hollywood that just have been waiting years, even decades, for the right material. The kind of esteem creators have for actors like Coolidge, Ralph, Keaton, and more becomes contagious.

Honorable mention, in terms of takeaways from the 2022 Primetime Emmys, goes to Lee Jung-jae’s groundbreaking Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his work on “Squid Game.” Even as non-English language projects have gotten more and more recognition at awards shows, more often than not none of the actors get any credit. Hopefully the Korean star’s nomination and win opens the door to more international actors in both film and TV becoming bigger contenders in future awards races.

As we look toward next year’s Emmys, and the expected fantasy takeover (“House of the Dragon,” “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” etc.), hopefully there is still room for more of these talent-driven projects to start premiering, and showcasing long-working actors in a new light. So far, only Kumail Nanjiani’s upcoming turn as strip club entrepreneur Somen Banerjee in Hulu’s “Welcome to Chippendales” seems like a situation where this could occur. Let’s cross our fingers for more.

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