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TV's Big Night Is Monday. What Are The Odds Of Avoiding Another #EmmysSoWhite?

A photo of the golden Emmy award with a dark background displaying sparkling lights
The acting winners in last year's Emmy Awards were all white, and all of the top series winners were led by white actors or largely white ensembles.
(Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images)
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I went to a very good and very progressive middle school right here in Pasadena: The Sequoyah School.

Do the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?

It isn’t the kind of school that gives out letter grades, or says a student’s classroom work is “failing” or “unsatisfactory.” Instead, you get the kinder and gentler comment, “Needs Improvement.” And that’s the nicest way to say what Emmy Award voters must do with next Monday’s ceremony.

2021 By The Numbers

A year ago, each and every of the 12 Emmy acting trophies — lead and supporting actor and actress in drama, comedy and limited series —went to a white nominee. And all of the top four series winners were anchored by white performers or ensembles: The Crown for drama series, Ted Lasso for comedy series, Queen’s Gambit for limited series, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver for variety talk series.

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The 2021 whitewash was bad on both absolute and relative terms. Last year’s Emmy nominees were the most diverse ever, as performers of color earned a record 49 acting and reality host nominations—almost half of all people shortlisted in those categories.

Nominees This Year

In this year’s competition, there are but 31 nominees of color.

More narrowly, Oscar Isaac (up for lead actor in a limited series for Scenes of a Marriage) and Colman Domingo (up for guest actor in a drama series for Euphoria) were the only two Latino acting nominees. (Domingo already won, as his category was part of the Creative Arts Emmys given out over the Labor Day weekend.)

Sadly, the Television Academy's lack of diversity has been a problem for years. Two years ago, a Los Angeles Times analysis found that from 2015 to 2019, 82% of Emmy nominees in the top categories were white, while writing and directing were 90% white.

The best opportunity for the academy to demonstrate its becoming more inclusive—given that it’s impossible to do any worse than last year—will come in the best comedy race on Monday night (NBC pushed the broadcast back a day for Sunday Night Football).

Some Predictions

Last year, the comedy winner was Ted Lasso. This year, the soccer show might lose to Abbott Elementary, which is led by a Black cast.

While many people like the Korean drama series Squid Game, the likely winner in that category is Succession. And the favorite for best limited series is The White Lotus, which is, well, pretty white. That said, several actors from Squid Game might win, as could Zendaya, for lead drama actress for her work in Euphoria.

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Yet even then, the academy still gets "needs improvement" on its report card. A win here, a win there isn’t quite equitable.

When And Where

  • The Primetime Emmys air Monday, Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. PT on NBC.
  • The show will be held at the Microsoft Theater (formerly Nokia Theater) in downtown L.A.
What questions do you have about film, TV, music, or arts and entertainment?
John Horn, entertainment reporter and host of our weekly podcast Retake, explores whether the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?