Clayton Davis, Variety, September 19, 2021
The Primetime Emmy Awards were unable to capitalize on its historic and diverse nomination fields, with all major acting trophies going to white actors.
Actors that were seen as solid contenders included Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez (“Pose”), the late Michael K. Williams (“Lovecraft Country”) and Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang (“Saturday Night Live”) — but in the end, all ended up empty-handed.
Michaela Coel, nominated for four Emmys, picked up the writing limited category for “I May Destroy You,” the third time a Black creative has won the category and first for a Black woman. Past Black winners have included David Mills (“The Corner”), Anthony Hemingway (“American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson”) and Cord Jefferson (“Watchmen”).
A record number of 49 non-Anglo creatives were recognized in the acting and reality competition categories. While many didn’t expect anyone to unseat Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”), Jean Smart (“Hacks”) and Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”), pundits were expecting a couple of actors to break through, such as any of the actors from “Hamilton” and Regé-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”).
As my former colleague Karen Peterson texted me during the telecast, “two awards shows in a row where recently departed Black men lost to white Brits who weren’t present,” referring to the late Michael K. Williams (“Lovecraft Country”), who lost supporting actor drama to Tobias Menzies (“The Crown”), and Chadwick Boseman’s loss at the Academy Awards after having been nominated for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Kerry Washington presented the prize, but not before paying tribute to Williams, saying, “Michael was a brilliantly talented actor. Michael. I know you’re here; we would have missed it; you’re excellent excellence, your artistry will endure.”
For the past two years, the TV Academy has increased its number of actors of color. Still, these performers have continued to come up short in key demographics — notably Asians, Latinos and many other underrepresented groups. Last year saw four actors winning major categories – Zendaya (“Euphoria”), Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Watchmen”) and Uzo Aduba (“Mrs. America”), with this year plummeting to zero.