The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards began last night (September 17) with a satirical message about what presenter Kenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live”) called “the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history.” The occasion compelled Thompson and fellow performers including Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”), Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) and Ricky Martin (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”) to preemptively celebrate the end of television’s diversity problems.
“Saturday Night Live” head writers and ceremony co-hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost took further aim at these equity issues during an opening that featured quips like “‘Black-ish’ is also how I’ve been asked to behave tonight,” and “‘Roseanne’ was cancelled by herself, but picked up by White nationalists.”
Despite these and other jabs at the state of racial and gender equity in TV, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences ultimately awarded only a few Emmy Awards to TV artists of color. Here are those victors, plus the other ways that stars centered race during a show that critics deemed #EmmysSoWhite.
Regina King earned her first Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie statue for her performance as a mother seeking justice after a police officer kills her son, in Netflix’s “Seven Seconds.”
Darren Criss won the corresponding Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie award for his performance as spree killer Andrew Cunanan (who, like Criss, was half-Filipino) in FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”
English actress Thandie Newton, the daughter of a Zimbabwean mother and White British father, won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for portraying the increasingly self-aware fantasy world personality Maeve in HBO’s “Westworld.”
Che recognized long-performing Black actors like Marla Gibbs (“The Jeffersons”) and Kadeem Hardison (“A Different World”), who achieved renown outside the critical TV establishment, with “Reparation Emmys.”
While neither Donald Glover nor his series, “Atlanta,” won any awards during the last night’s telecast (though the show picked up three awards at last week’s Creative Arts Emmys), Polygon notes that his character Teddy Perkins—a reclusive and disturbed musician, played on-screen by an unrecognizable Glover in distinctive White skin prosthetics—made an appearance. Vulture initially speculated that either Glover or fellow “Atlanta” star Lakeith Stanfield donned Perkins’ likeness for the Emmys, before reporting that both men eventually posed with Perkins for a photo: