In the next addition to our “Emmy Confidential” series we spoke with an actor who just joined the Television Academy earlier this year. This first time voter is eager to bring a fresh perspective to the Television Academy and to hopefully help reward a wider-range of what television has to offer.
Continuing this year’s “Emmy Confidential” series we spoke with a brand new member of the Television Academy. This first time voter is a member of the performer peer group who is currently a recurring guest star on workplace comedy who has made a career for themselves over the past twenty years balancing their time with television guest stars and Broadway runs.
Before jumping into this year’s categories we had a candid conversation about the Television Academy’s attempts to diversity and if this new voter thinks that their peers have gone far enough.
“I’m somewhere in the middle. I feel that television has made a lot more strides towards diversity than what the film industry has achieved both in terms of overall content and the people that are signing creative and development deals. Just the other day it was announced that Tracee Ellis Ross signed an overall deal at ABC. I think they do a better job but we also have a long way to go.”
“We need to do a better job at making people of color the leads of shows as opposed to the comic relief or a second banana. Look at shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, they had Black characters in the cast but they barely had any lines. That’s not representation and it’s definitely not diversity.”
“I think Black-ish does a good job of representing diversity on television for Black people. I also think Mindy Kaling’s new show [Never Have I Ever] is doing a great job as well. There needs to be more effort television executives to make the writers room more inclusive, to make the producing team more inclusive, to make the directing team more inclusive. When that paradigm shift occurs we won’t be talking about diversity on television anymore and these will all just be more projects that we are watching.”
“We saw a major shift in who was allowed to join the Television Academy and the result was a major shift in the types of nominees. Watchmen is the perfect example of a show that has characters existing solely for the purpose of telling a story even though its rooted in a historical Black context but its not done in a way where we look at it as a Black show or a White show. That type of programming is great.”
“The Television Academy membership is finally starting to reflect the world that we live in and because of that so are the nominees. I just hope that we keep it up. We’ve seen all these movements across America fighting for change and they make a big splash but once the embers start to burn out people move on. I don’t want this to be a moment in time. I need this to be a consistent change.”
Outstanding Drama Series: The Mandalorian
I voted for The Mandalorian because all of the other nominees have had love. Nothing against any of them, they are all excellently produced but The Mandalorian is different. It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s like watching a movie every week. It keeps my attention. It’s technically brilliant. It has everything.
I want us [as a Television Academy] to be better and not just vote for something because it won the year before. I want to vote something that my heart and my spirit tells me to vote for. Something about this show made me excited for every episode.
Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Billy Porter, Pose
What Billy Porter is doing on Pose is phenomenal. He is executing a character from all different vantage points of an emotional life during a very difficult time in American history. To be able to pull that off flawlessly without a false note take a lot of work, it takes skill, and it takes a life well lived to be able to pull that off. To watch that play out on screen is a beautiful thing.
I didn’t vote for him because he’s the person everyone is telling me to vote for. I voted for him because he is exuding excellence on screen.
Nothing against the other nominees because they are all wonderful. At the end of the day you have to look at not who is the best but who is the person that gave that character a life. Who made you feel something? That’s what makes an award-worthy performance.
Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Zendaya, Euphoria
We’ve watched her grow from a young pre-teen as the lead of a Disney show to this character and the two are worlds apart. Zendaya has learned her craft well. She took on a project and a character that could have easily ruined her career because it’s not in that Disney lane. She didn’t play it safe and a lot of people would have been too afraid to risk it. She doesn’t care about a brand. She cares about stretching herself as an actress, about stretching herself as an artist, stretching herself as a human being. It would be wonderful to watch someone be rewarded for tackling such difficult material with such grace, ease, and agility.
I love The Crown. That show is my jam. So is Killing Eve, Ozark, and The Morning Show. If politics play a part someone like Jennifer Aniston will win. But if truthfulness and honesty play a part then Zendaya will and should win.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
He was FANTABULOUS. This is someone who we have seen go from the sitcom world to dramas effortlessly. He went from sitcoms to West Wing to features and now The Handmaid’s Tale. His portrayal as Commander Joseph Lawrence was creepy, he scared the hell out of me. Anyone who can take me outside of who I know them to be then they’ve done their job.
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
She chewed up the scenery. I love her. This was a great culmination of all the roles she’s done throughout her entire career brought to life in the form of Princess Margaret. I think she inhabited the character very well. I think that she was astute and aware that she was portraying royalty so she channeled this dignity and decorum while also making her a human being. That’s hard to do.
Comedy Series: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
It’s wonderfully written. It’s wonderfully produced. It’s wonderfully acted. It’s set in a specific time period which I think is hard to pull off in an episodic setting. They recreate that world week after week. They show a woman who is strong and opinionated and unapologetic; I love that about the show. The person at the forefront of this story is a woman in a time where you were not applauded for being that type of woman.
I am a fan of the people involved in Schitt’s Creek more than I am a fan of the show itself. I wasn’t as invested in it as much as I was with shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Insecure or Dead to Me or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Anthony Anderson is playing a character week after week that I find so important. He is playing a Black man with a Black family with a Black Mama and a Black Daddy while tackling subjects that resonate with the world we navigate in. I find it important and I find what he does with the character to be important. It’s not one note and it could have easily been.
Ted Danson was good on The Good Place but that wasn’t a show that resonated with me. Ramy Youssef is hilarious but he’s not necessarily playing a character. Eugene Levy is someone that I love as well as Don Cheadle.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I love her. She’s killing it. Before I became a voter I didn’t understand why this show was winning everything. Then I finally sat down to watch it and I totally got it.
This was a difficult category because all six of these women do an excellent job of fleshing out their characters. I wish I could have voted for two because I also want to see Issa Rae win. What she does this season is wonderful and so outside of the box. I also love Catherine O’Hara. She’s an O.G.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
He makes acting look easily. He took a character that could have been this one-note curmudgeonly old white man and he gave him heart, he gave him depth, and he made you care about him. It’s difficult to do and he did a fantastic job.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
She is killing it. She made Susie something special. She made her that comedy manager folks wish they had. I know a lot of stand-up comedians and I know a lot of them wish they had Susie in their pocket. They also wish Susie could keep her money situation under control but that’s a different conversation!
Outstanding Limited Series: Watchmen
I voted for Watchmen for all the reasons I stated earlier
This was a tough one for me and I need to go on the record and say that Unorthodox is bananas and fantabulous. Mrs. America is a cinematic history lesson. Little Fires Everywhere is a masterclass in acting from Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Then there’s Unbelievable which was nothing short of unbelievable.
Lead Actor in a Limited Series: Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
When we think about Hugh Jackman we think about the Wolverine. We think about the boy from Oz. We think about that dude on the Tony’s. We think about all those things. When you see him play Frank Tassone on Bad Education you realize the real Hugh Jackman just showed up. That performance is layered with so much complexity and deviant behavior. It is wonderful.
I saw it originally in Toronto last year. I remember seeing it in that theatre thinking he would get some Oscar love. There is no doubt in my mind that it would have happened.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series: Shira Haas, Unorthodox
I know that this is an unorthodox choice but I voted for Shira. I saw a performance that was undeniably understated with such a quiet fire that it made you lean into the television to watch her. She is the one that resonated in my heart
I love Kerry Washington in Little Fires Everywhere. She can give a steely eyed look like nobody I’ve seen in my life. Regina King had to inhabit so many difficult things and in my heart I wanted to vote for her. Cate Blanchett; what are you going to say? Perfection.
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series: Jim Parsons, Hollywood
This was a no brainer. What he did with that character is so crazy and complex and outside of his comfort zone. When you see someone do something you’ve never seen them do before and they are doing it perfectly it lets you know they had this wealth of talent bubbling from under the surface this entire time. He was finally given the project that allowed him to express this side of his artistry. It’s so different than what he did on The Big Bang Theory and its not even funny.
It was a tossup between him and the brothers from Watchmen. I thought they were wonderful but in the end I didn’t feel their characters had the trajectory in their storylines to warrant a win.
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series: Uzo Aduba, Mrs. America
Uzo is somebody whose dignity and pride within comes to the surface in her characters and it was perfectly executed here as Shirley Chisholm. I loved everything about it and I love that they included Shirley Chisholm in the project. There are a lot of movies, shows, and documentaries coming out this year about the Women’s Movement and the fact that someone had the foresight to include Shirley Chisholm in this story was important. As short and brief as her part was it was the single most powerful one in the entire story.
I also wanted to vote for Holland Taylor in Hollywood. She brought tears to my eyes. Margo Martindale always gives us spot-on perfect performances and I think she is one of the most underappreciated actresses working today. Same with Jean Smart. Then there’s Toni Collette. The one performance that I don’t feel should be here is Tracey Ullman. I didn’t think that Betty Friedan’s story was big enough here to warrant a nomination. Why her over Sarah Paulson? Sarah Paulson was so fierce.
Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Ron Cephas Jones, This Is Us
Ron Cephas Jones is someone who has been around forever. His characterizations are always wonderfully executed and heartfelt and grounded.
Giancarlo is so good at being evil. I love watching him be so evil! James Cromwell is a legend. Jason Bateman has really carved out a niche for himself in terms of being a jack of all trades. But at the end of the day my heart resonated with Ron Cephas Jones.
Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Phylicia Rashad, This Is Us
I watched her on this season. It was short and brief but it was so classy and heartfelt. It was like so many Black mothers that I know that say things to their daughters that they think are said out of love and support but not really. It resonated with me in a way that might not to the same degree with other people.
It’s a crime that she has never won an Emmy. When you think about how long The Cosby Show was on TV you can’t figure out how that happened. She’s the first Black woman to win a Tony for lead actress. I just think that she always does her thing.
I love Cicely Tyson but we didn’t see a lot of her on this season of How to Get Away with Murder. I felt the same way about Laverne Cox. I like Cherry Jones and Harriet Walker too. Alexis Bledel is always wonderful on The Handmaid’s Tale and I almost voted for her.
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Eddie Murphy, Saturday Night Live
This was a no brainer. Eddie Murphy coming back to host SNL and then have the episode become one of the highest rated episodes ever is huge. The opening monologue alone made such a powerful statement when he brought all those Black men out there with him. He said “this moment is not just about me” and it was very powerful. He is another one who never gets honored. Last year was his year and this should be his year too.
This goes back to what we were talking about earlier and how the choices within the Television Academy are much more diverse than at the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He should have won for Dolemite. Because there were so many members of the Academy that didn’t realize what Dolemite represents in the comedic world and in the African-American community. It was funny as hell.
Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live
It was freakin’ hilarious. Maya Rudolph is an amazingly gifted comic artist and she consistently gets overlooked. All of the other women in this category have gotten their flowers and now it’s time for Maya to get hers.
What Wanda Sykes did as Moms Mabley was good but there wasn’t enough of it. I would have loved to have seen an entire episode dedicated to her fleshing that character out.