2021 Emmy Award Nominations Include Historic Recognition for POC and LGBTQ Talent

Following this year’s slate of historically diverse and inclusive nominees at the Grammy Awards and Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards — which honor the best in TV — have announced their list of 2021 nominees, setting a record for diversity and representation for people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.

In total, 37 different Black actors were nominated for their roles across a wide range of categories. 

In the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, four of the six nominees are Black: Regé-Jean Page for Bridgerton; Sterling K. Brown for This Is Us; Billy Porter for Pose; and Jonathan Majors for Lovecraft Country. The remaining nominees include Matthew Rhys for Perry Mason and Josh O’Connor for The Crown.

In the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, three of the six nominees are Black: Uzo Aduba for In Treatment; Jurnee Smollett for Lovecraft Country; and Mj Rodriguez for Pose. Rodriguez also makes history as the first transgender individual ever nominated in a leading acting category in Emmy history. Emma Corrin and Olivia Colman, both from The Crown, and Elisabeth Moss from The Handmaid’s Tale round out the category.

Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) and Kenan Thompson (Kenan) scored nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series while Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish) was recognized for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

The categories for supporting roles were also diverse and rife with inclusive representation, including nominations for Michael K. Williams (Lovecraft Country), O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale), Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandalorian), Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale), Aunjanue Ellis (Lovecraft Country), Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live), and Rosie Perez (The Flight Attendant). 

With his nomination, Bowen Yang makes history as the first SNL “featured player” nominated for an acting award. His nomination also marks one of the few nods Asian Americans have gotten over the years from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the voting body behind the Emmy Awards. According to a report from the Los Angeles Times analyzing Primetime Emmy categories between 2015 and 2019, Asians only represented 2% of the nominees.

In addition to Yang, Porter, Rodriquez, Wiley and Corrin (who is nonbinary), other notable LGBTQ nominees include Gillian Anderson (who is bisexual) for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for The Crown; Jonathan Groff for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for his role as King George in Hamilton; Cynthia Erivo for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her turn as Aretha Franklin in Genius: Aretha; and reality TV show favorite RuPaul, who received his sixth Emmy nomination in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program for RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In an unusual twist, Patricia Grisafi of NBC News reported that HBO’s Lovecraft Country, which tells the story of a young black traveling across the segregated 1950s United States in search of his missing father, “earned the dubious distinction of scoring what is almost certainly the most-ever Emmy nominations — for a canceled sci-fi/horror series.”

“With 18 nods in categories ranging from best acting to best writing to best stunts, the overload of nominations is as puzzling as its discontinuation after the season one finale in October [2020] became the most-watched new episode of an original series on HBO Max in its first day of availability,” Grisafi reported.

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.