Because of ingrained racism, Sandra Oh didn’t even initially think she was being offered the lead role on BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” but on Thursday, she earned herself an Emmy nomination for it. On the show, the actress plays security operative Eve Polastri, who is hunting down an elusive but flamboyant international assassin.
Oh’s nomination is significant on a number of levels, since she has been overdue for good roles after playing Cristina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Killing Eve” has been worth the wait because it showcases her dramatic and comedic talents in equal measure: IndieWire has made no secret that “Killing Eve” is a favorite for its killer performances, dialogue, action, and style. Much credit goes to “Fleabag” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who was also nominated for writing the first episode of “Killing Eve,” for the show’s unique point of view and tone.
Beyond just a personal victory though, Oh is the first actress of Asian descent to have been nominated as a lead actress, probably because there have been very few TV shows with Asian lead actresses in the first place. The shows with Asian lead actresses that come to mind are “Fresh off the Boat,” “Quantico,” “The Mindy Project,” “Nikita,” and the short-lived “Stalker” and “All-American Girl.” (It should be noted that Mindy Kaling has earned nods but they were for writing and producing, not acting.)
If Oh wins, she will be the first Asian actress to win in a leading role, and this would be her first Emmy win ever. That’s right; despite multiple nominations for “Grey’s Anatomy,” she never won an Emmy, only a Golden Globe.
Oh isn’t the only significant Asian representation among the nominees though. Darren Criss, who is half Filipino, snagged a nomination for playing killer Andrew Cunanan, who in real life was also half-Filipino, in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” on FX. This is his first individual acting Emmy nomination. He previously had a nod as a singer/songwriter on “Glee.”
Criss released the following statement on Twitter regarding his nomination: “Zorro, Dr. Strange, Harry Dunne, Todd Alquist, and Jesus Christ… pretty incredible company to keep. Humbled by your talent, Antonio Banderas, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeff Daniels, Jesse Plemons, John Legend. I’m such a fan. Congrats! What an honor, Television Academy. Thank you so much. Truly. Wow. And a huge congrats to my fellow cast and crew of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story! Ryan Murphy does it again!”
Either win would make great strides for Asian representation, especially in the acting categories. Only two Asian actors have won previously: Riz Ahmed in 2017 for his leading role in “The Night Of” and Archie Panjabi for her supporting role in “The Good Wife” in 2010.
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Although not for acting, the Japanese-born Hiro Murai also finally got a nomination for directing the “Teddy Perkins” episode of “Atlanta.” He’s a frequent collaborator with Donald Glover, having directed many Childish Gambino music videos — including this spring’s jaw-dropping “This Is America” — and he directed multiple episodes of both seasons of the FX comedy.
“Teddy Perkins” offered up a unique challenge because it played more like an episode of horror than comedy. Set in a dark mansion and taking place over a short period of time, the bottle episode built an increasing atmosphere of claustrophobia, danger, and despair as Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) tried to buy a piano from an eccentric former child star named Teddy Perkins (Glover).
This is Murai’s first Emmy nomination. He’s also directed episodes of “Barry,” “Legion,” and “Snowfall.”