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Seven months after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy rocked the film industry, the Emmys have once again demonstrated a considerably more generous embrace of diversity.
In fact, 21 non-white actors were nominated Thursday morning across 16 acting categories, a list that includes The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story‘s Cuba Gooding Jr., Sterling K. Brown and Courtney B. Vance, Black-ish‘s Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross and Empire‘s Taraji P. Henson. By contrast, for the past two years, all 20 actors nominated for the Academy Awards’ acting categories were white. In addition to outrage, the latter prompted a series of initiatives designed to ensure increased diversity among the Academy’s membership as well as in the films the organization honors.
Though there is still much room for improvement, particularly among the Asian and Latino communities, the collection of non-white names in the 2016 Emmy acting pool is a reflection of a greater inclusivity happening on the small screen. The latter push is led by such hits as Fox’s Empire, ABC’s Black-ish and FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson. Looking ahead to the 2016-17 broadcast network season, 12 of the new series will feature diverse leads.
The 2015 Emmys marked the first year that a black woman — in this case, How to Get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis — took home a statuette in the drama lead actress category. From the stage, an emotional Davis noted, “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.” She was nominated again this year for her lead role on Murder.
Scandal star Kerry Washington became the first black actress to be nominated in that category in nearly 20 years when she landed her first nom in 2013. Though she was left out of the 2016 mix for the Shonda Rhimes series, she scored a mention for her starring role in the HBO movie Confirmation. Had comedy actor Don Cheadle been nominated this year for his role on Showtime’s House of Lies, he would have tied actor Robert Guillaume (Soap, Benson) as the most nominated African-American male actor in Emmy history.
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