10 Takeaways From the 2020 Emmys Nominations

Today, nominations were announced for the 72nd Annual Emmy Awards. In the wake of the nation’s reckoning with racism, record numbers of Black actors and craftsmen were recognized by the Academy. Watchmen (HBO) leads the pack with a whopping 26 nominations while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) follows with 20. Ozark (Netflix) and Succession (HBO) score 18 nominations apiece, The Mandalorian (Disney+) scoops up 15 nods, and Schitt’s Creek (Netflix) leads the Comedy Field. Here are ten takeaways from the nominations:

BEST: Insecure Breaks Through (Finally!)

Finally! After three incredible culture-shifting seasons and just three prior Emmy nominations, Insecure has finally broken through with Emmy voters. The Issa Rae-led comedy series received eight nominations across marquee and below-the-line categories. Issa Rae (Lead Actress) and Yvonne Orji (Supporting Actress) were recognized for some of their strongest and most nuanced acting yet. The series was also nominated for its cinematography, casting, and music supervision. Oh, and it finally got a Best Comedy Series nomination!

WORST: Reese Witherspoon Shut Out

Reese Witherspoon was initially one of the ones to beat this Emmy season. She was a producer and starring actress in three critically acclaimed and highly popular series: Big Little Lies (HBO), Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu), and The Morning Show (Apple TV). She delivered some of the most memorable scenes across all three shows and while her co-stars were recognized, Reese herself was ignored. Instead, the Academy went with Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show), Meryl Streep and Laura Dern (Big Little Lies), and Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere). Looking at those nominees, there’s really no reason why Jennifer was chosen over Reese for that Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series nomination. Nonetheless, she is still an Emmy-nominated producer this year for Little Fires Everywhere (Best Limited Series).

BEST: Black Women Get Their Due

HBO

There’s really nothing better than seeing a nominations list bursting with Black women. This year, Angela Bassett (A Black Lady Sketch Show and The Imagineering Story), Issa Rae (Insecure), Yvonne Orji (Insecure), Lupita Nyong’o (Serengeti), Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere), Uzo Aduba (Mrs. America), Cicely Tyson (How to Get Away with Murder), Phylicia Rashad (This Is Us), Jasmine Cephas Jones (#FreeRayshawn), Zendaya (Euphoria), Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish), Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black), Regina King (Watchmen), and Octavia Spencer (Self Made) all received nominations for their work. In non-acting categories, Sheila E. (Music Direction), Tanya Barfield (Writing), Michelle Cole (Costume Design), and Kira Kelly (Cinematography) also received well-deserved recognition. Black women consistently set and raise the bar across the arts, so it’s really incredible to see their talents so eagerly received across a spectrum of categories. The Zendaya nomination is particularly pleasing because she leads the way for a slew of nominations for Euphoria — a show that has seemingly jumped the “teen” hurdle and been embraced by the Academy. Now comes the real challenge, will the Academy actually award these ladies?

WORST: POSE Actresses Sidelined Again

Just as black women have been shining lights in the arts, Black and Latinx queer folk have been trailblazers and game-changers across the entertainment industry for decades. FX’s groundbreaking POSE scored seven Emmy nominations for its inaugural season including a win in the Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for Billy Porter. This year, the acclaimed drama received another five nominations — four of them for costumes, hairstyling, and makeup and another nomination for Billy Porter. While Porter is a phenomenal actor, he did not give the first, second, or third best performance of the season. Those honors would go to the three trans womxn at the heart of POSE: MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, and Angelica Ross. It’s almost laughable that MJ Rodriguez was passed over in favor of Jennifer Aniston for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Angelica Ross gave one of the most heartbreaking and defiant performances of the year as Candy (a powerhouse of a dark skinned Black trans woman) and a nomination in Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series should have been a no-brainer. Awards shows and critics circles continue to act as if Billy Porter is the only actor on Pose and it’s ridiculous. The trans womxn on that show are delivering stronger performances than a lot of actors across television and they deserve their due recognition.

BEST: Black Broadway Stars Crossover

Netflix

A number of Black Broadway stars scored Emmy nominations this year! There’s been a lot of conversation recently around equity and diversity in theatre, so this representation is cool to see. Most notably, Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr. and Jasmine Cephas Jones, both of Hamilton fame, scored nominations for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (Central Park) and Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series (#FreeRayshawn), respectively. In addition, two-tine Tony nominee Jeremy Pope was also recognized in Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series for his work in Hollywood.

WORST: Viola Davis Snubbed

(ABC/Raymond Liu)

Yes, Viola Davis already has five Emmy nominations for the role of Annalise Keating. Yes, Viola Davis already won an Emmy. Yes, Viola Davis was snubbed this year. How to Get Away with Murder‘s surprisingly great final season delivered some of Viola’s best monlogues to date. The season cemented her as the only actor who could have brought a character as layered and as complicated as Annalise to life.

BEST: Black Music and Musicians Shine

Hulu

The Emmys award excellence in television, but there are categories for music! From original songs and original scores to music direction and music supervision, these categories were full of fun surprises. Insecure (Kier Lehman) and Euphoria (Jen Malone & Adam Leber) have the best soundtracks on television right now, so their nominations for Outstanding Music Supervision were well deserved. Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, and Labrinth all scored nominations for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, and RZA received a nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. In addition, music icons Sheila E., Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis all received nominations for Outstanding Music Direction. As for the Outstanding Score categories, Labrinth picked up a second nomination for his Euphoria score and Kamasi Washington scored a nomination for his score for Michelle Obama’s Becoming.

WORST: Little Fires Supporting Actresses Snubbed

While Reese and Kerry were incredible in Little Fires Everywhere, the real heart of the show was found in the supporting actresses. Tiffany Boone, AnnaSophia Robb, and Megan Stott gave some of the most moving and spellbinding performances of the year. They held their own against seasoned talents like Reese and Kerry and were scarily good at recreating younger versions of those leading ladies. It was a very competitive year, but it would have been nice to see some of their names on the final ballot today.

BEST: Watchmen and Succession Dominate

It’s no secret that Succession (18) and Watchmen (26) were the best drama series and limited series of the past television season. There’s not much else to say but kudos to the Academy for doing the right thing and showering both series with well-deserved nominations.

WORST: Tim Blake Nelson & Tom Pelphrey Snubbed

While Watchmen (26) and Ozark (18) garnered a ton of nominations, there were some head-scratching omissions from both shows’ tallies. First, Tim Blake Nelson was right up there with Regina King as the best performance on Watchmen. The show simply would not be the same if another actor was cast as Hooded Justice, no one could pull off that chilling gravelly drawl quite like him. Likewise, Tom Pelphrey far and away gave the strongest performance in Ozark this season. In a show that includes Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and Julia Garner, it’s not an easy task to hold your own, but Tom’s performance as the bipolar brother of Wendy Byrde stole the show. Both of these men deserved recognition for their powerful performances.

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