By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The ratings may have been lackluster, but Sunday night’s Emmy Awards were special in one regard – the number of Black actors and/or projects featuring people of color that were winners. A record 10 of the 19 performer category awards went to Black actors. Leading the way was Regina King, who earned her fourth Emmy for “Watchmen,” while Zendaya, the star of “Euphoria,” shocked everyone by becoming both the youngest person to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series and the second Black actress to win the award.
Other winners included “Mrs. America’s” Uzo Aduba, King’s co-star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, “Saturday Night Live” guests Maya Rudolph (a double winner for voice acting on Netflix’s “Big Mouth”) and Eddie Murphy, and two of the stars from Quibi’s “#FreeRayshawn,” Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones. Rudolph’s two wins this year marked the first of her career. It marked a major improvement over last year, when only two of 19 winners were performers of color.
There were still some folks unsatisfied with the nominations, although Black actors made up the largest percentage of the 49 acting nominees who were people of color (out of 118). There was a complaint that Latinx performers weren’t being recognized. “The Handmaid’s Tale” actress Alexis Bledel was the only Latinx actor to score a nomination. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus expressed their concern publicly, while actor John Leguizamo boycotted the program.
The broadcast, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, also included references to social justice issues and the election. King appeared in a shirt bearing the image of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman who was fatally shot by police officers in her home earlier this year. “Black-ish” star and Emmys presenter Anthony Anderson also noted that the awards show’s record number of nominations for Black actors unfortunately came in a year when nominees could not celebrate in person.“This isn’t what it should have been,” Anderson said. “But I’m still rooting for everybody Black, because Black stories, Black performances and Black lives matter.”
The show only attracted an audience of 6.1 million, the lowest for any Emmy Awards broadcast.