Emmys 2015: ‘Empire,’ ‘Transparent’ nods signal new age of TV diversity

There won’t be any need for an #EmmysSoWhite hashtag.

The 67th Emmy Awards nominations announced Thursday underscored TV’s push into diversity over the past year, with nods for the transgender-themed comedy “Transparent” and for minority lead actors such as Viola Davis in “How to Get Away with Murder” and Taraji P. Henson in “Empire.”

The nominations didn’t represent quite the diversity coup that some observers were expecting. “Empire,” a soap opera set in the hip-hop world that turned into a major hit for Fox, had to settle for just three nominations, including Henson’s scene-stealing turn as archvillain Cookie. That was a long way from the 24 nods for HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones,” the most-nominated program of this year’s pack.

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There was no mention of Terrence Howard, who plays the tortured patriarch on “Empire” - in fact, the lead dramatic actor category was entirely white, featuring such repeat nominees as Kyle Chandler, Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey. And no major nods went to “Jane the Virgin” or “Fresh Off the Boat,” two other much-talked-about series that featured Latina and Asian American lead characters respectively.

Even so, the balance generally on display throughout the roster still provided an illuminating counterpoint to, say, the Academy Awards, where the monochromatic nature of the nominees this past year led to an #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.


This year’s Emmys allowed for such surprises as Anthony Anderson entering the best lead comedy actor ring for “black-ish,” ABC’s take on a contemporary African American suburban family. “American Crime,” ABC’s series about a racially charged murder, drew 10 nominations, including for creator John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”).

After years of tokenism - minority actors traditionally relegated to “buddy” roles in shows created by and aimed at white people - television is embracing diversity amid a larger creative renaissance. Part of the reason is financial, at least for broadcasters. As affluent whites have abandoned free TV for premium outlets such as HBO and Showtime, programmers have reaped the benefits of creating shows, such as “Empire,” that reveal other sides to culture.

The sense of TV as a medium now embracing multiple cultures and identities has been growing for a while. Last year, “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix’s drama that reinvented the cliched and exploitative girls-in-prison genre with biting wit and a famously diverse cast, received eight nominations, eventually winning three Emmys. (This year, it’s back with four nods.)

Among the most-nominated programs was HBO’s movie “Bessie,” a biopic of the blues pioneer Bessie Smith that earned 12 nods, including one for star Queen Latifah.

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT


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