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BIPOC Representation at the 2020 Emmy's


Inclusion at award shows has been an ongoing issue for decades due to the lack of representation from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) creatives up for nominations year after year. At the 92nd Academy Awards in February of this year, only one actor of color was nominated out of 20 viable spots: Cynthia Erivo for her role in Harriet. Akwafina, born Nora Lum, was the first Asian American performer to win a Golden Globe in the lead actress film category in history and only the sixth actor of Asian descent nominated in that category.

While last year’s Emmy Awards brought forth several significant milestones when it comes to representation, this year more small steps towards inclusivity were taken in order to forge a path for BIPOC creatives, both on-screen and behind the scenes.

How is 2020 different?

Award shows are known for causing controversy, sparking hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite, #EmmysSoWhite and so forth to showcase the disparity in nominations between white and BIPOC creatives. In a study by the Los Angeles Times, from 2015 to 2019, 82% of nominees in the 19 primetime categories were white, which included three-quarters of acting nominees and 90% of the writing and directing nominees. This year is slated to break records for inclusion on the ballots with Black nominees at 34.3%. The previous record was only set in 2018 with 27.7% while last year, only 19.8% of nominees were Black.

Women made strides in the writing and directing categories, making up 36% of the nominees compared to 25% in 2019 and for the four years prior to that, just 13%. However, the representation for Latino performers is still low, with no Latino performers in the lead or supporting nominees for any comedy or drama series in the last six years even though they account for 18% of the population. Asians, who account for 6% of the population in the country, remain at 1% across the 19 main categories.

From 2015 to 2019, white writers and directors accounted for 90% of nominees in this category and only shrunk to 86% this year.

“We feel it is a very positive sign that over the past decade the well-deserved recognition of performers of color has increased from 1 in 10 to 1 in 3 nominees across all performer categories,” The Television Academy told the Los Angeles Times. “Clearly that increase in representation has not been equal for all groups, and clearly there is still more to do to improve both gender and racial representation across all categories.”

Who is nominated?

In 2020, 36 actors of color were nominated and actors who have openly identified as members of the LGBTQ+ community accounted for 11 nominations. For hosting, six people of color also received nominations in their respectives categories. Of all of the nominees from historically underrepresented groups, 15 of them were first-time nominees. 

For Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy, Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) and Don Cheadle (Black Monday) were nominated again this year. Alongside Anderson and Cheadle, co-creator and star of Ramy, Ramy Youssef, earned his first acting nomination and made history as the first Muslim American sitcom to be nominated for an Emmy award. For Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy, Issa Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross are both back for the first time since 2018 for their roles in Insecure and Black-ish, respectively.

Zendaya received her first Emmy nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for her role in HBO’s hit show Euphoria, while Sandra Oh received her 11th nomination for her role in Killing Eve. Sterling K. Brown received his fourth nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama for his role in This Is Us–an award he won back in 2017–while Billy Porter received his second nomination for his role in Pose. Porter made history at last year’s Emmy Awards as the first openly gay Black man to win an Emmy.

Jeremy Pope and Octavia Spencer both nabbed their first Emmy nominations in the Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress in a Limited Series of movie category for their roles in Netflix’s Hollywood and Self Made: Inspired By The Life of Madam C.J. Walker, respectively. Regina King was also nominated for another Emmy for her role as Angela Abar in HBO’s Watchmen.

Watchmen received a whopping 26 nominations this year. The show was critically acclaimed before this summer, but rose in popularity due to its themes regarding systemic racism and the fact that it addressed the Tulsa Massacre of 1921. Beyond the show’s nomination as a limited series as well as nods to the lead and supporting creatives, it also received accolades for writing and directing in the limited series category.

Actors of color were excluded from categories like Supporting Actor in a Comedy, Supporting Actress in a Comedy, as well as Guest Actor in a Comedy Series last year. However, this year, William Jackson Harper (The Good Place), Sterling K. Brown (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live), Mahershala Ali (Ramy), and Yvonne Orji (Insecure) all were nominated in their respective categories.

The 72nd annual Emmy Awards will air on September 20 digitally due to the pandemic. For a full list of BIPOC nominees, check out Deadline’s breakdown.

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