Inside the Emmy Nominations: New Rules "Will Stick," Academy Chairman Says

Cat Deeley, Uzo Aduba, 2015 Emmy Noms - H 2015
AP Images

Cat Deeley, Uzo Aduba, 2015 Emmy Noms - H 2015

"When you have so much great work being done, there’s going to be disappointment," TV Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum says.

After a long Emmy campaign season (and an even longer and more diverse TV season), the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards finally unveiled nominees as the focus shifts to the Sept. 20 ceremony. And as actors, writers and producers alike waited to see who made the cut, questions lingered about how the Television Academy’s new rules regarding comedies and dramas would affect the nominations.

"The [new rules] provided clarity and answered many of the gray area questions of prior years," Television Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum told The Hollywood Reporter of the potential for the new rules to snub to shows in cross-genre categories. "There’s always awards snubs. There’s always shows that are disappointed they don’t get nominated, but that’s a good thing. It shows the passion of our audience, that shows people care about these shows."

One of the big shows affected by the new regulations was nominations presenter Uzo Aduba’s Orange Is the New Black, which this year is competing as a drama after Netflix's petition to continue competing in the comedy category was denied. For nominee Aduba, however, the switch wasn’t much of a concern. "[OINTB creator Jenji Kohan] has written a show that balances the scales of those two genres so well," the actress told THR, explaining that it wasn’t something she actively thought about while shooting this season. "[The show] could live in either place, so all we get caught up in doing is telling an authentic story. Our investment is in that and less the categorization of that story."

To Aduba's delighted shock, her show was able to break through in the crowded best drama category, making it a rare show to be nominated as both best drama and best comedy. The nomination continued a series of strong showings from online streaming services and dramedies — including Amazon breakout Transparent.

"The general consensus is that these rule changes were very effective this year," said Rosenblum, who touted the double-digit increase in voting among the Academy’s 20,000 members. "These rules will stick, but as any organization that has a voting process […] it’s incumbent upon us to review the rules every year or so [and …] see if any tweaking needs to be done."

Noting that the number of broadcast nominations was up this year, with 40 percent more dramas being submitted, the Academy chairman further clarified: "While the landscape is more competitive, it’s expanding. The pie is expanding. It’s not a zero-sum game."

In the room, cheers were loud for Orange Is the New Black. Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Taraji P. Henson (Empire) and Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback) also drew notable verbal accolades from the audience on hand for the announcement. The cheers turned to satisfied shock when Aduba and Cat Deeley announced nominations for Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Anthony Anderson (Black-ish), Will Forte (Last Man on Earth) and Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie), signaling a clear sign of joy for the newcomers in their respective categories. (Tomlin has earned Emmy nominations in five straight decades, while Maslany and Anderson each celebrated their first mentions.)

Both Aduba (supporting actress in a comedy) and Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance, best reality competition series) expressed shock when informed of their respective nominations. "That wasn’t in there in during rehearsal!" Deeley said. "I literally said bananas [...] in my head — and possibly some other curse words [… it]  was not in the [rehearsal] script!" the OINTB star said of her nom. "They tricked us — Get it, Emmys! You guys are the new Punk’d […] Ashton [Kutcher]? — I was like, did I imagine it? And I saw it there and it was official. I [thought I] just decided that the Orange got nominated."

This year’s nominees also celebrated diversity in a larger way, capping a season that saw Fox's Empire and ABC's How to Get Away With Murder break through. As one of a few women of color nominated, Aduba was quick to point out how important it was that these types of shows not only exist, but are also recognized in such a way. "Everyone in this world wants to feel seen, and not that an award alone does that, but [with moments like this] one of the only things that can be gleaned out of it is 'You are all welcome. We are all welcome. I see you. We see you. And we see everybody,' " she said. "Diversity [is expanding] in terms of color, gender stories that we’re telling, from Transparent to the way that we depict women, Robin Wright […] to Viola Davis [to] Taraji P. Henson. There’s such a cross-section of representation."

Aduba added that, aside from her show, she is particularly excited about fellow nominees House of Cards ("That’s my jam!"), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and ABC anthology American Crime, the latter of which led the broadcast pack with 10. Deeley, on the other had, was rooting for fellow Fox star Henson and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.

While the nominees will use Thursday to celebrate, the real push to make it to the podium is only just beginning as the competition heats up heading into Fox’s Andy Samberg-hosted ceremony in September. But for Aduba, Emmy season is a different type of marathon than the recent one she completed in April. "The Boston Marathon is the one that makes your legs hurt, but the Emmys makes you sweat," she joked.

The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards airs Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. on Fox.