Trends: Emmys 2016 Diversity

Rami Malek, Emmys 2016 (Telegraph UK)

Rami Malek, Emmys 2016 (Telegraph UK)

The Emmy Awards aired this past Sunday night, honoring the best in TV. The twin themes  that popped out from the night were diversity and inclusion. And they played out in many ways.

Mr. Robot actor Rami Malek won Best Actor in a Drama Series, becoming the first Egyptian-American to do so. Malek also became the first non-white actor to win the award since 1998, when Andre Braugher won for Homicide: Life on the Street. On the actress side, Black-ish lead Tracee Ellis Ross was nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. Though she didn’t win, Ellis was the first Black woman to be nominated for the award in 30 years; Phylicia Rashad was nominated in 1986 for The Cosby Show. Ellis was only the fifth Black woman ever to be nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

Inclusivity also prevailed behind the camera. Comedian Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang won Best Writing for a Comedy Series for Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None. (Ansari was also nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.) Women directors were honored: Jill Soloway won Best Directing for a Comedy Series for Amazon’s Transparent, and Susanne Bier won Best Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special for AMC’s The Night Manager.

Diverse narratives are gaining more traction. Transparent actor Jeffrey Tambor won Best Actor in a Comedy Series for the second consecutive year for his role as a transwoman.

It was good to see some progress made this year in terms of inclusion, but there’s still a long way to go.



Thursday Trends: Recognizing Actors for Portraying Transpeople

Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman in 'Transparent' (Business Insider)

Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman in ‘Transparent’ (Business Insider)

Last week at the Golden Globe Awards, actor Jeffrey Tambor received the award for Best Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy. Tambor plays Maura in Amazon Studios’ “Transparent,” a transgender woman who’s always identified as a woman, and how it affects her three adult children. (The series also won the Golden Globe for Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy.)

Tambor, who dedicated his award to the trans community, is the latest actor to be recognized for his work in playing a transperson. Though some actors before him have achieved recognition in portraying trans characters, the awards and nominations have come few and far between. But Tambor’s award comes less than a year since Jared Leto won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a transwoman in “Dallas Buyers Club.” This suggests that the trans community is rapidly gaining in visibility, and portrayals of the community members’ nuances are beginning to be normalized onscreen.

The first film actor to be nominated for portraying a trans person was Chris Sarandon for “Dog Day Afternoon” back in 1975. Sarandon played Leon Shermer, the pre-operative trans wife of bank robber Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino). The character was based on the real-life Elizabeth Eden, initially born Ernest Aron. Sarandon received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his work.

The first film actor to win an award for playing a trans person was Hilary Swank, portraying Brandon Teena in 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry.” Swank won the Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama Golden Globe and the Best Actress Oscar.

Last year, the Emmys made history when it nominated its first transgender acting nominee. Laverne Cox, who plays hairdresser/inmate Sophia Burset in Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” was nominated for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series. (Though she didn’t win, Cox later scored another first as the first openly trans person to grace the cover of “Time” in June.)

It’s important to note that previous to Cox, all the actors nominated were cisgender, and this has occasionally become a point of contention. After Leto won the Oscar in 2014, discussions arose around transgender actors portraying trans characters.

With actors receiving recent recognition in portraying trans characters, the trans community’s visibility is rapidly rising. As more audiences watch trans stories, mainstream acceptance should spread.