#EmmysSoWhite: Acting Emmy’s Go To All White Actors at the 2021 Show

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Photo: Billy Porter on Instagram

#EmmysSoWhite is trending on Twitter after not a single actor of color won in the acting categories despite a record number of diverse nominees this year. The 2021 Emmy Awards included a record of 49 nominations for actors of color, yet all of those same nominees were snubbed across the board that Sunday night.

The Problem for Nominees

The diverse group of nominees seemed to be solid contenders this year. Some highly anticipated candidates were Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez (“Pose”), the late Michael K. Williams (“Lovecraft Country”), and Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang (“Saturday Night Live”). Pose‘s Mj Rodriguez was even recognized as the first transgender woman ever nominated for a major acting statue. Theorists were at least expecting a couple of actors to break through, such as any of the actors from “Hamilton” and Regé-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”) considering their popularity.

MJ Rodriguez Nomination Poster. Photo: MJ Rodriguez Instagram

Despite all of that, only two performers of color — I May Destroy You‘s Michaela Coel and RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s own RuPaul — accepted awards, but neither of which was in an acting category. The Emmys have also failed to reward any Black women directors in any of their three genre distinctions.

To Make Matters Worse

The Academy awkwardly made the disparity all the more obvious by stacking the presenters’ list with diverse talent – ultimately further highlighting the poor representation of the winners. Longtime Emmy fans didn’t miss a beat when calling them out for that on Twitter.

The Statistics for Actors of Color

Color of Change reported that the executives running television platforms today—both traditional networks and emerging streaming sites—are not hiring Black showrunners, which results in excluding or isolating Black writers in writers’ rooms and in the creative process. Over 90% of showrunners are white, two-thirds of shows had no Black writers at all, and another 17% of shows had just one Black writer. The ultimate result of this exclusion is the widespread reliance on Black stereotypes to drive Black character portrayals, where Black characters even exist at all—at best, “cardboard” characters, at worst, unfair, inaccurate, and dehumanizing portrayals.


Over the last few years, we’ve seen a real shift in how many POC actors and showrunners are being hired, but The Emmy’s is a great example of the work that needs to be done. People of color fight hard every day to be let into the room where it all happens, now the few that are in aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. POC creatives exist. They’re alive and flourishing in what seems to be a very undisclosed and concealed way. What these creatives need, are opportunities to not only break in but stick around. 

The Winners

Of course, this is not to say that the winners of this years Emmy’s don’t deserve the awards they took home. In fact, there’s a lot that can be celebrated about the people who did win. Netflix’s 10 wins on Sunday night, coupled with 34 wins at the Creative Arts Emmys a week ago devoted mostly to technical categories, ties the all-time record for wins by a network or service in a single year. The Crown accumulated 11 awards including technical ones, just short of the drama-series record of a dozen established by HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” These are all amazing things! The important thing to note is that you can enjoy something and also critique it. So without further ado… the winners and nominees: 

Best Limited Series

  • I May Destroy You (HBO)
  • Mare of Easttown (HBO)
  • The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) — WINNER
  • The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
  • WandaVision (Disney Plus)

Best Drama Series

  • The Boys (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Bridgerton (Netflix)
  • The Crown (Netflix) — WINNER
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
  • Lovecraft Country (HBO)
  • The Mandalorian (Disney Plus)
  • Pose (FX)
  • This Is Us (NBC)

Best Comedy Series

  • Black-ish (ABC)
  • Cobra Kai (Netflix)
  • Emily in Paris (Netflix)
  • Hacks (HBO Max)
  • The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
  • The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
  • Pen15 (Hulu)
  • Ted Lasso (Apple TV Plus) — WINNER

Best Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

  • Bo Burnham: Inside
  • David Byrne’s American Utopia
  • 8:46 — Dave Chappelle
  • Friends: The Reunion
  • Hamilton — WINNER
  • A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote

Best Variety Special (Live)

  • Celebrating America — An Inauguration Night Special
  • The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards
  • The Oscars
  • The Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show Starring The Weeknd
  • Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020: Democracy’s Last Stand Building Back America Great Again Better 2020 — WINNER

Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
  • Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country
  • Josh O’Connor, The Crown — WINNER
  • Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton
  • Billy Porter, Pose
  • Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason

Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Uzo Aduba, In Treatment
  • Olivia Colman, The Crown — WINNER
  • Emma Corrin, The Crown
  • Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Mj Rodriguez, Pose
  • Jurnee Smollett, Lovecraft Country

Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Paul Bettany, WandaVision
  • Hugh Grant, The Undoing
  • Ewan McGregor, Halston — WINNER
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
  • Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton

Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You
  • Cynthia Erivo, Genius: Aretha
  • Elizabeth Olsen, WandaVision
  • Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit
  • Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown — WINNER

Best Limited Series/TV Movie Writing

  • Michaela Coel, “I May Destroy You” — WINNER
  • Brad Ingelsby, “Mare of Easttown”
  • Scott Frank, “The Queen’s Gambit”
  • Chuck Hayward and Peter Cameron, “WandaVision” (Episode: “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”)
  • Jac Schaeffer, “WandaVision” (Episode: “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”)
  • Laura Donney, “WandaVision” (Episode: “Previously On”)

Best Competition Program

  • The Amazing Race (CBS)
  • Nailed It! (Netflix)
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1) — WINNER
  • Top Chef (Bravo)
  • The Voice (NBC)

Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Anthony Anderson, Black-Ish
  • Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
  • William H. Macy, Shameless
  • Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso — WINNER
  • Kenan Thompson, Kenan

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Aidy Bryant, Shrill
  • Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant
  • Allison Janney, Mom
  • Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
  • Jean Smart, Hacks — WINNER

Best Comedy Series Directing

  • James Burrows, “B Positive” (Episode: “Pilot”)
  • Susanna Fogel, “The Flight Attendant” (Episode: “In Case of Emergency”)
  • Lucia Aniello, “Hacks” (Episode: “There Is No Line”) — WINNER
  • James Widdoes, “Mom” (Episode: “Scooby-Doo Checks and Salisbury Steak”)
  • Zach Braff, “Ted Lasso” (Episode: “Biscuits”)
  • MJ Delaney, “Ted Lasso” (Episode: “The Hope that Kills You”)
  • Declan Lowney, “Ted Lasso” (Episode: “Make Rebecca Great Again”)

Best Comedy Series Writing

  • Steve Yockey, “The Flight Attendant” (Episode: “In Case of Emergency”)
  • Meredith Scardino, “Girls5eva” (Episode: “Pilot”)
  • Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky, “Hacks” (Episode: “There Is No Line”) — WINNER
  • Maya Erskine, “PEN15” (Episode: “Play”)
  • Joe Kelly, Brendan Hunt, and Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso” (Episode: “Make Rebecca Great Again”)
  • Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly, “Ted Lasso” (Episode: “Pilot”)

Best Variety Sketch Series

  • A Black Lady Sketch Show
  • Saturday Night Live — WINNER

Best Variety Talk Series

  • Conan (TBS)
  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) — WINNER
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)

Best Variety Series Writing

  • “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” — WINNER
  • “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
  • “A Black Lady Sketch Show”
  • “Saturday Night Live”
  • “The Amber Ruffin Show”

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  • Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian
  • O-T Fagbenle, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • John Lithgow, Perry Mason
  • Tobias Menzies, The Crown — WINNER
  • Max Minghella, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Chris Sullivan, This is Us
  • Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Michael Kenneth Williams, Lovecraft Country

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  • Gillian Anderson, The Crown — WINNER
  • Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
  • Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Aunjanue Ellis, Lovecraft Country
  • Emerald Fennell, The Crown
  • Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Best Drama Series Directing

  • Julie Anne Robinson, “Bridgerton” (Episode: “Diamond of the First Water”)
  • Benjamin Caron, “The Crown” (Episode: “Fairytale”)
  • Jessica Hobbs, (The Crown (Episode: “War”) — WINNER
  • Liz Garbus, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Episode: “The Wilderness”)
  • Jon Favreau, “The Mandalorian” (Episode: “Chapter 9: The Marshal”)
  • Steven Canals, “Pose” (Episode: “Series Finale”)

Best Drama Series Writing

  • Rebecca Sonnenshine, “The Boys” (Episode: “What I Know”)
  • Peter Morgan, “The Crown” (Episode: “War”) — WINNER
  • Yahlin Chang, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Episode: “Home”)
  • Misha Green, “Lovecraft Country” (Episode: “Sundown”)
  • Dave Filoni, “The Mandalorian” (Episode: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”)
  • Jon Favreau, “The Mandalorian” (Episode: “Chapter 16: The Rescue”)
  • Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk, Our Lady J, Janet Mock, and Ryan Murphy, “Pose” (Episode: “Series Finale”)

Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
  • Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
  • Anthony Ramos, Hamilton
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster, The Queen’s Gambit
  • Evan Peters, Mare of Easttown — WINNER
  • Paapa Essiedu, I May Destroy You

Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Jean Smart, Mare of Easttown
  • Julianne Nicholson, Mare of Easttown — WINNER
  • Kathryn Hahn, WandaVision
  • Phillipa Soo, Hamilton
  • Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
  • Moses Ingram, The Queen’s Gambit

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Hacks
  • Brett Goldstein, Ted Lasso — WINNER
  • Brendan Hunt, Ted Lasso
  • Nick Mohammed, Ted Lasso
  • Paul Reiser, The Kominsky Method
  • Jeremy Swift, Ted Lasso
  • Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
  • Bowen Yang, Saturday Night Live

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Rosie Perez, The Flight Attendant
  • Hannah Einbinder, Hacks
  • Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
  • Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
  • Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live
  • Juno Temple, Ted Lasso
  • Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso — WINNER

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