The Emmys have really embraced diversity this time around, with nominations for 18 African-American actors after last year’s record of 11 nominations. Here are seven ways it happened.
1. Diversity’s secret weapon: Shonda Rhimes
Anyone who loves television has no doubt been hooked on one of Shonda Rhimes’ dramas. From Grey’s Anatomy to How to Get Away with Murder, Rhimes creates compelling, multifaceted, strong and sexy African-American characters who great actresses like Viola Davis can sink their teeth into and earn an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Drama.
2. Understanding Comedy Central is a hotbed of talent
When it comes to the Emmys, it would have been easy to dismiss the shows on Comedy Central just a few years ago, but not anymore. Beyond developing the talent of Amy Schumer, the cable network has also supported the comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele and their show Key and Peele, which was nominated for Best Variety Sketch Series. Keegan-Michael Key was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Show.
3. Hailing the Queen
Queen Latifah has been nominated for Best Lead Actress in the TV movie category for playing the title role in Bessie, an HBO film about blues singer Bessie Smith. Latifah told Deadline, “There are good roles out there, but we still have to fight for them. The tide has turned. Those who are in power [in TV] are looking to be more diverse; to show an America that actually looks like America and to show the various kinds of roles and tell the stories that we’re involved in. For lead actors and actresses, this isn’t a one-shot deal, this to me, is the beginning.”
4. Recognizing that Empire‘s Cookie Lyon is one of the best characters on TV
The surprise mega-hit Empire managed to smash the standard television drama model by harnessing great actors like Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, along with stupendous writers like Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. The combination is simply electric. Henson was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama.
5. Having faith that good comedy can still happen on network TV
Anthony Anderson’s show Black-ish is a comedy exploring what it means to be an African-American family in 2015. The show is poignant, modern and, of course, funny. Anderson was nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy.
6. Knowing that horror has value
American Horror Story has blasted stereotypes by creating bold, strange and supernatural worlds where fascinating stories can take place. AHS: Freak Show was smart to cast Angela Bassett as the three-breasted character Desiree Dupree, and it clearly paid off now that she’s been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Show or Movie.
7. Knowing when a good actor gets even better
Orange Is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba won the Emmy last year for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, but this time, she’s nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress. We hope she can do it again!
8. Honoring women over 40
Of the 50 actresses nominated over eight different categories, 33 of them are over the age of 40 — that’s more than half. Pretty good, Emmys.