The Oscars had their moment of historic diversity, and it could be time for the Emmys to have one as well.
The biggest takeaway from the nominations-round ballots is that each acting category across drama, comedy and limited series/TV movie should have more than one POC nominated in their respective races. If the stars continue to align, we could actually have two or more nominated in each, which would be a first in the 73-year history of the ceremony.
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But it’s not all about diversity. There are a lot of other areas of opportunity for the voting members of the Television Academy to make history with this year’s Primetime Emmy Award nominations (and eventual wins).
Lead comedy actor nods look likely for Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) and Kenan Thompson (“Kenan”), while in supporting comedy actress Naomi Ackie (“Master of None”) and Ego Nwodim (“Saturday Night Live”) are strongly in the running. Lead limited series/TV movie actor has multiple potential nominees from “Hamilton,” and supporting limited series/ TV movie actress could fit this trend as well, pending how much voters love “WandaVision” and “I May Destroy You.”
Meanwhile, in the lead drama actor race, we could see performers of color dominate on the ballot. Top-tier contenders include Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), Anthony Mackie (“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”), Jonathan Majors (“Lovecraft Country”), Regé-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”), Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian”) and Billy Porter (“Pose”). And if Brown or Porter manage repeat wins in September, they would be just the second Black actors to do so after Bill Cosby (“I Spy”).
Majors and his co-star Jurnee Smollett are both clearly priorities for HBO in the Emmy contest. If both are nominated, it would be the first time that both a Black lead actor and a Black lead actress from a drama series were nominated in the same year. Mj Rodriguez hopes to ride onto the lead drama actress ballot for the first time for her work in the final season of “Pose.” If she succeeds, she will be the first trans woman to be nominated in the category and just the third in the acting categories overall, following Laverne Cox (in guest drama actress for “Orange Is the New Black”) and Rain Valdez (short form comedy or drama actress for “Razor Tongue”).
Chris Rock is currently tied with Debbie Allen for the second-most recognized Black nominees in Emmys history: They both have 19 noms, behind only re-recording mixer Joe Earle, who has 25 to date. If Rock pulls off a nomination for FX’s “Fargo,” he’ll take that second spot alone.
RuPaul is in the mix once again with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in competition program, along with his hosting submission and “Untucked” in unstructured reality. If he wins two of the three, he will tie Donald A. Morgan as the most awarded Black performer in Emmy history. Three would have him set the new record.
Though a long shot for Netflix’s “Selena: The Series,” should Christian Serratos be nominated in the lead drama actress category, she would be only the second Latina to be recognized there, following Rita Moreno for “The Rockford Files” in 1979. And Rosie Perez is eyeing her first TV acting nod for her performance as Megan Briscoe in HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant.” If nominated, she would be just the third Latina to ever be recognized in the supporting comedy actress race, following Liz Torres (for “The John Larroquette Show” in 1994 and 1995) and Sofia Vergara (for “Modern Family” from 2010-2013).
AAPI representation in the acting races at the Emmys has been next-to-nonexistent through the years. This year, though, there are two standout performers who could crack the supporting comedy actor ballot: Nico Santos (“Superstore”) and/or Bowen Yang (“Saturday Night Live”). Neither has been nominated in that category before, though Yang has a variety writing nom from 2019 already under his belt. If both get nominated, it would be the first time two actors of Asian descent were nominated in the same category. Should either go on to win, that would also be a first for the category.
There’s also a good chance that “Saturday Night Live” could break its own record from 2017 and pick up the most nominations for a variety, music or comedy series in a single year. Also beating “The West Wing’s” 2002 record of receiving the most acting nominations in a single year (12) will be tougher — just think of the competition from Apple TV Plus’ “Ted Lasso” alone — but not necessarily impossible. This is because so many of its cast members are poised to see their names on acting ballots, including the aforementioned Yang and Nwodim, as well as Thompson, Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong. Additionally, episode hosts including Rock, Adele, John Mulaney, Dave Chappelle, Timothée Chalamet, Kristen Wiig and front-runners Dan Levy and Maya Rudolph are very clearly in the mix in the guest comedy actor and actress races.
Speaking of “Ted Lasso,” it is currently trending toward five acting nominations, including for co-creator and star Jason Sudeikis, along with its surefire nod in the comedy series category. It also stands a good chance at some Creative Arts noms. All of this amounts to a possibility of breaking the 2009 record held by “30 Rock,” which pulled in 22 nominations, the most for a comedy series. Looking further ahead at wins, which Apple TV Plus obviously is, it could also break the record “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” currently holds for most awards in its first season (eight).
On the drama side, “Game of Thrones” holds the record for most single season noms with 32 for its final Emmy outing. Netflix’s “The Crown” could come close but would need to pull off some surprises to get it over the edge. (So far, it’s trending toward six acting nods, which helps with but doesn’t guarantee that record-breaker.)
“And the Band Played On” (1993), “The Glass Menagerie” (1973) and “The Normal Heart” (2014) are tied for the most acting nominations in the limited series/TV movie categories (with six). Disney Plus’ “Hamilton” has the best shot on topping this, potentially mirroring its Tony tally: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr. in lead actor; Daveed Diggs, Christopher Jackson and/or Jonathan Groff in supporting actor; and Renée Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo in supporting actress.
And looking at the future generations of acting talent, Chase W. Dillon as the young and complicated Homer in Amazon Prime Video’s “The Underground Railroad” could find himself with an Emmy nomination at only age 9. If so, he’ll be the youngest male actor to ever be nominated, beating Fred Savage’s long record for “The Wonder Years” in 1989. (He was 13 at the time.) The only performer younger would be Keshia Knight Pulliam who was 6 when she was nominated for “The Cosby Show” in 1986.
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