When the Emmy nominations were announced a few months ago, we took the opportunity to praise ten of the amazing performers of color who weren’t recognized for their tremendous work. While last night’s ceremony was largely still indicative of Hollywood’s massive struggles with race (seriously, why is Amy Schumer winning awards?), there were still several major victories for long-overlooked performers of color that signaled at least the stirrings of a sea change in how society sees performers of color.
Let’s start with the most notable: Viola. F***ing. Davis. The actress made history when she became the first black woman (and woman of color) to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her acclaimed work on Shonda Rimes’s legal thriller (if you can call it that…just, watch it) “How To Get Away With Murder.” When the legendary actress accepted the award, she delivered one of the strongest, most-impassioned acceptance speeches that we’ve seen, thanking Shonda Rimes for empowering her to tackle the transformative role:
In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.
That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.
You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.
And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you.
Of course, someone had to say something dumb. This time around, it was General Hospital actress Nancy Lee Grahn, who apparently couldn’t resis saying on Twitter that Davis had never endured discrimination, among other half-thought-out nonsense that she eventually tried apologizing for:
@nxssy I do 2. I think she’s the bees knees but she’s elite of TV performers. Brilliant as she is. She has never been discriminated against— Nancy Lee Grahn (@NancyLeeGrahn) September 21, 2015
Besides Davis, notable victors of color included Uzo Aduba for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (“Orange Is The New Black”) and Regina King for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (“American Crime”).
Who do you think should have won? Let us know in the comments!