Diversity and talent in today’s TV
By Carlos Bilan, Contributor
The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards were held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. Talk show host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel was the emcee this year. Although some of his jokes were deemed distasteful by social media, Kimmel managed to maintain a comical spirit and convey satirical points. For instance, Kimmel did an intermission skit wherein the child actors from Stranger Things distributed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; Kimmel’s way of taking a jab at the price hike of EpiPens in America (thankfully, Canada is not affected).
Many of this year’s winners also won in previous years. Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her fifth consecutive Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as a former senator in the political satire Veep. Maggie Smith, who has never been present at the awards show during all the years she has won or been nominated, was honoured as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal as the Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey. Kimmel jokingly quipped to the camera, “Maggie, if you want this, it will be in the lost and found” since only those present can receive the award.
Diversity ruled the Emmy Awards this year, as it honoured bravura performances by actors of colour on television. It has been 18 years since a minority dramatic lead actor won Best Actor, and Rami Malek broke that streak when he received the award for his portrayal of an alienated hacker named Elliot on Mr. Robot. Expressing his genuine shock and disbelief, he quoted a memorable line said by his character as he accepted the award: “Please tell me you’re seeing this.” He added that his win honours all the Elliots in the world.
Jeffrey Tambor won Best Actor in a Comedy for his role as a transgender woman in Transparent. He said during his speech, “Please give transgender talent a chance. […] I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female.”
FX’s American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson dominated in the Limited Movie Series category, winning three acting Emmys for Courtney Vance, Sterling Brown, and Sarah Paulson. This was also their first Emmy win. Marcia Clark, the prosecutor on the OJ Simpson case, was in the audience at the time. As show director Ryan Murphy said, “The great story tonight is that Marcia Clark finally won,” referencing her loss in the trial.
HBO’s Game of Thrones achieved a record-breaking feat that night as it overtook Frasier as the most-awarded fictional series. Thrones now has a total of 106 nominations and 38 wins, and brought home 12 awards including best script, best directing, and best drama for the second consecutive year.
Another glorious win happened when Saskatchewan-born actress Tatiana Maslany won Best Actress for her portrayal of a cohort of clones in the Canadian sci-fi thriller series Orphan Black. “I feel so lucky to be on a show that puts women at the centre,” Maslany said onstage after receiving the prestigious trophy.
Before 2015, Maslany had never been nominated, and critics and the online community had seen her lack of nominations as a serious snub. Last year, she got nominated but didn’t win, which critics thought was undeserved. The Guardian mentioned that her acting is “Olympic-level.” Finally, Maslany gained the long overdue recognition she deserved. In addition, Maslany was the number one trending topic on both Facebook and Twitter. Canada is overflowing with pride, and her Canadian peers in the industry have congratulated her. A historic win indeed, since it’s the first time a Canadian in a Canadian show has won an Emmy in dramatic acting.