Emmys: Ramy Youssef on His "So Wild" First Nominations

"This is a show about an Arab Muslim guy from New Jersey who jerks off too much and we got three Emmy nominations," Youssef says, with nods for lead comedy actor, comedy series directing and a supporting actor nom for Mahershala Ali.
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Ramy Youssef

Tuesday morning's Emmy nominations brought Ramy Youssef, the star and creator of Hulu's hit comedy Ramy, his first nods, getting recognition in the lead actor in a comedy series and directing for a comedy series categories. After winning the Golden Globe this year for his performance, Youssef's nominations mark the first for a Muslim American sitcom, in a series that follows a first-generation Egyptian American navigating the balance between his religion and family's culture with his daily life as a millennial in New Jersey. 

Youssef spoke to THR following his nomination about his first Emmy morning experience, the show's impact, and his commitment to a virtual ceremony this year for the sake of his fellow nominees: "I'm staying at home to keep Michael Douglas safe, he's very treasured by the Egyptian community."

You got your first two Emmy noms this morning. How are you feeling?

I'm super thankful, it's very surreal definitely. It's so cool because really any nomination on this — and to be able to get three — it's just representative of everyone who has worked so hard on the show. To me even an acting nomination is a nomination for the whole show and for everyone who worked so hard on it. I see that nomination and I just think about the cold New York winter and how OK, it was worth standing outside — and that everybody, that's people who have to stand outside in the cold a lot longer than me. So just really, really thankful and it's super surreal that a show of our size can get three Emmy nominations, it's wild.

How was it to get not only the acting nomination, but one for directing and a supporting actor nomination for Mahershala Ali? 

I was most worried for Mahershala — I really felt like he needed to get some recognition, he seemed like he probably needed it the most and so, just as a friend, very happy for him to finally be recognized. To be recognized for directing, it's a massive honor especially because this season I got to direct four episodes and even just as a first-time creator, directing something that you have to fight for to be able to do, even on your own show, it's a hard thing; and rightfully so, I don't blame people, but to be able to go from [directing] one [episode] in the first season and then to be able to do four of them in the second season and get recognized — that one really surprised me, I'll be honest with you. It was really cool.

Where were you when you heard the news? Were you watching the announcement live?

I was, yeah, of course. I was up writing but then I was like, "I can't write, I gotta just watch," and so yeah I watched at home on my laptop.

This makes Ramy the first Muslim American sitcom to be nominated. What does that mean to you? 

It's really exciting because we're so specific. I think that you watch our show, you realize in a good way that we're not even close to covering the entirety of the Muslim experience. For a show that only portrays a sliver of it to get recognized, I think that should mean that we're going to get many more Muslim stories greenlit because the umbrella of the Muslim experience is so vast — it's so many different groups, so many types of people. This is a show about an Arab Muslim guy from New Jersey who jerks off too much and we got three Emmy nominations. I mean, that's a lot, that's so wild. There are so many more stories that could be told, so it excites me for the bigger picture, one that doesn't even include me.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.