For the second year in a row, all 20 actors and actresses up for Academy Awards were white. An uproar ensued and boycotts followed. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, promised changes.
Compare that to this year's Tony Awards, in which 35 percent of the nominees are people of color.
Are the Tonys always more diverse than the Oscars? We looked at the years since 2010, comparing acting nominations for Tonys, Oscars and Primetime Emmys, to get a sense of how television compares. Here's what we found when looking at the percentage of acting nominees who were white.
No medium is as diverse as the U.S. population, as you can see from the green line, which looks at the percent of the population identifying as non-Hispanic white. But the Tony Awards have consistently come closest, especially this year. In 2015 they were almost as homogeneous as the Oscars, as more than 90 percent of acting nominees were white. That was an outlier, however, as they're usually just under 80 percent white.
As expected, since stories being told on television have grown more diverse, so have the actors and actresses being singled out for their stellar performances over the last few years. In 2015, it was more inclusive than the Oscars or the Tonys: Of 77 Emmy nominees for acting, 16 were people of color. Three of six actors up for best supporting role in a comedy were black: Titus Burgess ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"), Andre Braugher ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine") and Keegan-Michael Key ("Key & Peele"). (Tony Hale of "Veep" won.)
It wasn't always that way. In 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Oscar nominations were actually more diverse than the Emmys. But with peak television has come a greater acceptance of a wide variety of programming. The standard Nielsen ratings chase isn't nearly as important as it used to be.
Of course there's also the question of who's voting. Do awards shows really reflect the industry as a whole? Acting Oscars are determined by an 1,100-person branch of the Academy, and Tony nominations come from a 50-person committee, made up of those in the industry. In other words, the winners aren't based on the feelings of the general public. If that were the case, maybe Michael B. Jordan would have been nominated for his role in "Creed" over, say, Bryan Cranston in "Trumbo" — a movie that few people saw. Even so, we know from recent research at USC, among other places, that people of color are egregiously underrepresented in movies.
As Viola Davis noted when she won her Emmy for "How to Get Away With Murder" last year, "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." And these days, in television and theater, the roles are increasingly there.
"Hamilton" wasn't the only stage production to make this a banner year for theater actors of color. "Shuffle Along," "The Color Purple" and "Eclipsed" all had predominantly non-white casts, and all landed nominations in multiple categories.
Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o is a nominee for her leading role in the play "Eclipsed," which also has an entirely female cast. The show, written by Danai Gurira, follows a group of African women trying to survive civil war in Liberia. In the most recent Lenny newsletter, Nyong'o wrote that journalists sometimes ask her why such a big star would take a part in a "small play," which made her wonder why people would assume a Hollywood role would be worth more than a Broadway one — especially considering how uninteresting so many movie roles are for women of color.
She talked about performing "night after night, with four incredible actresses, telling a powerful story about women who are rarely given a complex rendering," and wrote, "I look out at the diverse audiences who come to full houses and experience our performances, and feel proud of being a part of sharing this important story with the world. I see a work of incredible power that is transforming lives by daring to offer women of color fully rendered narratives, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. I look at this play and see nothing about it that is 'small.'"