When the Emmy nominations were announced in July, it was clear that this year’s ceremony would be a far cry from #OscarsSoWhite — all six major acting categories included nominees of color. The winners at Sunday’s ceremony also reflected the TV industry’s embracing of racial diversity.
“Master of None” creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang won the best comedy writing award for “Parents,” a standout episode that explored the experience of being a child of immigrant parents. In his acceptance speech, Yang called out Hollywood for one-dimensional Asian characters such as the infamous Long Duk Dong in “Sixteen Candles.”
“There’s 17 million Asian Americans in this country and there’s 17 million Italian Americans. They have ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Sopranos,’” Yang said. “We got Long Duk Dong. So we got a long way to go, but I know we can get there. I believe in us. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work.”
The pair was played off the stage before Ansari had a chance to address the audience, but he was able to thank his parents (who also starred in “Master of None” as his character’s parents) while presenting an award later in the show. “They inspired that episode,” said Ansari, who made history this year as the first South Asian actor to be nominated for a leading role.
Ansari lost the award for best actor in a comedy series to Jeffrey Tambor, who plays transgender woman Maura Pfefferman on Amazon’s “Transparent.” “I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a transgender character on television,” Tambor said, referencing a criticism of the show and other Hollywood efforts that cast cisgender actors as transgender characters.
“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway, won her second consecutive directing award for the Amazon dramedy. “Thank you to the transgender community for your lived lives,” she said.
FX’s critically acclaimed miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” was up for a whopping 22 nominations and two awards — best lead actor and best supporting actor — went to Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown, who are both African American. Brown will be seen next in NBC’s “This Is Us,” which premieres Tuesday.
Regina King, who is also African American, won her second consecutive Emmy Award for her performance in the ABC anthology series “American Crime,” which has deftly tackled race and other social issues in its two seasons. “I am so proud of this show, so proud to be a part of this show — to have the opportunity to tell stories that provoke necessary conversations,” King told the audience.
“Key and Peele” duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele took home the award for best sketch variety show. Damon Wayans, who helped break ground as a performer and co-creator of the ’90s sketch comedy show “In Living Color,” presented the award.
Egyptian American actor Rami Malek won outstanding lead actor in the drama category for his role as Elliot Alderson on USA’s “Mr. Robot.” He thanked creator Sam Esmail, who is also Egyptian, calling him ” a pure visionary.” Fusion pointed out that Malek is the first nonwhite actor to win best actor in the drama category since Andre Braugher in 1998.
“For me to stand here as not the typical leading man, and to have come home with this I think speaks a lot about where we’re headed,” Malek later told reporters backstage, according to Entertainment Weekly. “And I think we can just keep going further in that direction — obviously not just limited to entertainment, but socially and politically to continue and strive to be as progressive as possible.”
Still, the Emmy nominations, like diversity on television, are a work in progress. Critics have noted the lack of Latino nominees in recent years, and the Guardian noted that only two Latino actors were nominated (none in any major category) this year.
The new shows on the fall TV schedule reflect increasing diversity on the small screen. Donald Glover’s well-received FX dramedy “Atlanta,” which premiered Sept. 6, has already proven a success for FX, earning the highest number of premiere viewers for a basic cable comedy since “Inside Amy Schumer” in 2013. Issa Rae’s highly anticipated comedy “Insecure” will premiere on HBO next month.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that NBC’s “This Is Us” premiere Wednesday. It premieres on Tuesday. This version has been updated.