The people behind the Emmys are clearly aware that the entertainment industry has a diversity problem. But despite this, the 2018 awards show was strikingly white.
If you’ve watched Netflix’s cult crime drama Seven Seconds, you’ll know that Regina King is one of the best things about it. The actress starred in the limited series as Latrice Butler, a teacher whose teenage son Brenton is critically injured by police. The show’s handling of racial politics in modern America is deft, but it’s King’s performance that gives the series its heart.
At the 2018 Emmys on Monday night (17 September), King’s role in Seven Seconds was recognised when she won the award for lead actress in a limited series. Nicole Kidman won the award last year for her turn in Big Little Lies.
“Really? Say word,” said the actress as she took to the stage to accept her award.
“Wow, I didn’t have nothing to say because I wasn’t really expecting this, but I am so grateful television academy. Y’all are my friends, my peers, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
She also thanked Netflix “for creating an opportunity to tell a story [and hold a mirror up to what’s going on today”.
King, who has appeared in films and TV shows including 24, Jerry Maguire and A Cinderella Story over the course of her 33-year acting career, was the first person of colour to win an award at this year’s Emmys, prompting criticism about the show’s lack of diversity.
While several people of colour were nominated for awards, including Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish) and Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live), the first hour of the awards ceremony consisted only of white people accepting trophies.
At one point in the ceremony, host Michael Che observed that there had been “six awards, all white winners”. Later in the show, when nine winners in a row had all been white, the starting lack of diversity was pointed out by James Corden.
“Let’s get it trending,” Corden said as he took to the stage to present an award. “#EmmysSoWhite.” Overall, 10 white people accepted awards before King receive her trophy for Seven Seconds, and 22 out of 26 awards in total were given to white performers, directors, writers and producers.
Making things even more uncomfortable was the fact that the Emmys broadcast opened with a skit titled ‘We Solved It’, celebrating the awards show having the most diverse group of nominees in TV history.
During the opening segment, stars including Kristen Bell, John Legend and Kate McKinnon poked fun at the idea that the entertainment industry’s diversity problem had been “solved” – but the longer the ceremony went on, the more those jokes began to seem a little too close to the bone.
Some viewers watching at home also questioned why the opening segment claimed to celebrate diversity, but didn’t feature a single woman of colour.
Congratulations to King for her award – and here’s hoping that next year, we won’t have to wait so long for a person of colour to win.
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