Emmys 2020: why this year’s nominations news is an important moment for Black actors

Posted by for People

Although there is still much race disparity in the TV industry, this year’s Emmy nominations suggest that progress is at least being made.

The Emmy 2020 nominations are now in, with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Ozark and Succession leading the way across all categories.

Paul Mescal is nominated for his role as Connell in Normal People, Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh are in the same category for Killing Eve, and Olivia Colman is up for playing the Queen in The Crown.

But perhaps the most noticeable and welcome nominations news to take note of is that this year’s list includes a record number of Black actors, with 34.3% of the acting nominees being Black. 

This is an increase from last year, when Black actors made up only 19.8% of the nominee pool. The previous record was in 2018, when 27.7% Black actors were nominated. 

Of the 102 acting nominations, 35 went to Black people, including: Billy Porter, Sterling K. Brown, Zendaya, Maya Rudolph, Regina King, Octavia Spencer and Kerry Washington.

Of course, there is still a long way to go to close the race disparity in the industry. Take, for example, the number or brilliant performances by Black actors that have been snubbed: Angelica Ross for Pose, Viola Davis for How To Get Away With Murder and Tiffany Boone for Little Fires Everywhere.

But, ultimately, this is undoubtedly a progressive step in the right direction.

Speaking about the significance of this year’s nominations, Variety reports that Frank Scherma, chairman and CEO, Television Academy, said: “2020 isn’t just about the global health crisis. This year we are also bearing witness to one of the greatest fights for social justice in history, and it is our duty to use this medium for change. 

“That is the power and responsibility of television — not only delivering a multitude of services or a little escapism, but also amplifying the voices that must be heard and telling the stories that must be told. Because television, by its very nature, connects us all.”

Washington, who is up for four awards for her work on Little Fires Everywhere, American Son and Live in Front of a Studio Audience, shared her thanks on Instagram after the announcement was made.

“To me, one of the nominations that I am most proud of is American Son,” Washington told Deadline“That’s definitely a project that has been resonating in our public consciousness in a different way.

“To be able to tell a story about the value of Black life and police violence at this time… it gives people that space to communicate about those issues.”

Zendaya, who has earned her first Emmy nomination for her role on Euphoria, has also shared her reaction on Instagram, saying, “I’m honestly speechless, my heart is just overflowing with love and gratitude. I’m so incredibly honoured to work beside the talented people that I get to call family.”

And Porter, who is nominated for his role as Pray Tell in Pose, has said the “groundbreaking” show’s work is “so important” in telling the story of ball culture in 80s New York.

A full list of Black actors nominated for an Emmy in 2020

Don Cheadle, outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, Black Monday

Anthony Anderson, outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, Black-ish

Issa Rae, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, Insecure

Tracee Ellis Ross, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, Black-ish

Andre Braugher, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, Brooklyn 99

Mahershala Ali, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for his role in Ramy, and outstanding children’s program for executive producing We Are The Dream: The Kids Of The Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest

Kenan Thompson, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, Saturday Night Live

Sterling K. Brown, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for his role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his role in This Is Us

Eddie Murphy, outstanding guest actor in a comedy series, Saturday Night Live

Yvonne Orji, outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, Insecure

Wanda Sykes, outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for playing Moms Mabley in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, outstanding character voice-over performance for her work in Crank Yankers

Billy Porter, outstanding lead actor in a drama series, Pose

Zendaya, outstanding lead actress in a drama series, Euphoria

Jeffrey Wright, outstanding supporting actor in a drama series, Westworld

Giancarlo Esposito, outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his role in Better Call Saul, and outstanding guest actor in The Mandalorian

Thandie Newton, outstanding supporting actress in a drama series, Westworld

Samira Wiley, outstanding supporting actress in a drama series, The Handmaid’s Tale

Laverne Cox, outstanding guest actress in a drama series, Orange Is The New Black

Octavia Spencer, outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie, Self Made

Regina King, outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie, Watchmen

Kerry Washington, outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie, Little Fires Everywhere

Jeremy Pope, outstanding lead actor in a limited series of movie, Hollywood

Angela Bassett, outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for Black Lady Sketch Show, and outstanding narrator for The Imagineering Story

Maya Rudolph, outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for portraying Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live; outstanding guest actress in a comedy series as The Judge on The Good Place, and outstanding character voice-over performance as Connie the Hormone Monstress in How To Have An Orgasm

Phylicia Rashad, outstanding guest actress in a drama series, This Is Us

Ron Cephas Jones, outstanding guest actor in a drama series, This Is Us 

Stephan James, outstanding actor in a short form comedy or drama series, #FreeRayshawn

Laurence Fishburne, outstanding actor in a short form comedy or drama series, #FreeRayshawn

Mamoudou Athie, outstanding actor in a short form comedy or drama series, Oh Jerome, No

Corey Hawkins, outstanding actor in a short form comedy or drama series, Survive

Jasmine Cephas Jones, outstanding actress in a short form comedy or drama series, #FreeRayshawn

Robin Thede and the entire A Black Lady Sketch Show team for outstanding variety sketch series.

Lupita Nyong’o, outstanding narrator, Serengeti

Chiwetel Ejiofor, outstanding narrator, The Elephant Queen

Take a look at the full Emmys 2020 nominations list here. The winners will be announced when the ceremony takes place on 21 September 2020.

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty

Share this article

Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…