History was made tonight, and we at Broadway Black are thrilled. As the creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, I debated for quite a while about whether I would watch the 2015 Emmy Awards. The lack of inclusion of people of color, both as nominees and as presenters, has long troubled me. But because this is the most diverse set of nominees that the Emmy Awards have had in years, I decided to tune in. I was not disappointed. At the end of the night, three Black actresses and one Black actor had won awards, in addition to a slew of Creative Emmy Awards for “Bessie,” the HBO movie starring Queen Latifah. Here are the highlights:
Queen Latifah and the Flavor Unit Entertainment crew won four Creative Arts Emmys for the HBO Films movie, Bessie, a project she starred in and produced. As we previously announced, Latifah will be playing The Wiz on The Wiz Live! airing on December 3 on NBC. The four Creative Arts Emmy wins for Bessie were: Outstanding Television Movie; Outstanding Cinematography For A Limited Series Or Movie; Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or A Special (Original Dramatic Score); and Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Limited Series Or A Movie.
Reg E. Cathey won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Freddy Hayes in Netflix’s House of Cards. Cathey, who made his Broadway debut in The Green Bird, also played the role of Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding in the Wyndham Theatre’s stage presentation of The Shawshank Redemption in London.
Three Black women were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series of Movie. They were: Mo’Nique as Ma Rainey in “Bessie,” Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree in “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” and Regina King, who played Aliyah Shadeed in American Crime. The award went to actress and director King, her first Emmy. In her speech, she thanked her sister, mother and grandmother “who have taught me the power and the blessing of being a woman.” Here is her entire speech:
The Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series went to Uzo Aduba for her portrayal of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” With this win, her second consecutive, Aduba made history as the first woman and just the second person to win an Emmy in both the Comedy and Drama categories for the same character (Ed Asner was the first with “Lou Grant”). Aduba is a classically trained vocalist and first garnered recognition for her acting in 2003, when her performance in “Translations of Xhosa” at the Olney Theatre Center for the Arts earned her a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play. In 2007, she made her Broadway debut, portraying Toby in Coram Boy. From 2011 through 2012, she sang “By My Side” as part of the original revival cast of Godspell at the Circle in the Square Theatre. As we’ve previously reported, Aduba will portray Glinda the Good Witch in NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” on December 3rd. In her speech, she thanked show creator Jenji Kohan “for putting belief back in my heart” and her team: “I love you mostly because you let me be me.”
But the highlight of the night was Viola Davis winning Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Annalise Keating in the Shonda Rhimes’ hit “How To Get Away With Murder.” Both Davis and Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon on “Empire”) were nominated in this category and it was Henson standing in the aisle to give Davis a heartfelt embrace as she approached the stage. After graduating from Juilliard, Davis began her career on the stage, and in 1999, she won an Obie Award for her performance as Ruby McCollum in Everybody’s Ruby. She is a three-time Tony Award nominee and has won twice, for her role as Tonya in the 2001 production of King Hedley II, and for her role as Rose Maxson in the 2010 revival of Fences. As we previously reported, Davis will star in the film version of Fences, which will be directed by Denzel Washington. But it was her Emmys speech, which evoked both Harriet Tubman as an ancestor and Meagan Good as the next generation, which brought tears to the eyes of many. Davis spoke of opportunities for women of color, using her platform in this historic moment as the first Black woman to ever win an Emmy in this category. No words can do justice to her speech but her own, so watch here:
Awards shows, Hollywood, and the media have a long way to go before they are truly inclusive and representative of the people who patronize them. Our country is a tapestry woven from the threads of many communities, many of which still remain marginalized. But with these historic wins tonight, we move just a little bit closer to recognizing the richness of our diversity.