#EmmysSoWhite: Backlash as All 12 Acting Awards Go to White Actors

Billy Porter, Mj Rodriguez, Michael K. Williams

Despite boasting its most diverse nomination field in history, the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards fell into a familar pattern on Sunday night as all the major acting trophies went to white actors.

A record 49 people of color were nominated across the acting and reality competition categories, yet not one of them received an award in a major acting category. This included top contenders such as Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez (Pose), the late Michael K. Williams (Lovecraft Country), and Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live).

Instead, the ceremony was dominated by The Crown, Ted Lasso, and Mare of Easttown, shows with predominantly all-white casts and creative teams. Netflix’s The Crown swept up with its stars Gillian Anderson, Tobias Menzies, Josh O’Connor, and Olivia Colman, all taking home trophies.

Meanwhile, Kate Winslet, Evan Peters, and Julianne Nicholson all won big for HBO drama Mare of Easttown. And Jean Smart (Hacks) and Jason Sudeikis also picked up lead acting wins in the comedy categories, with Sudeikis’ co-stars Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein won in supporting.

The hashtag #EmmysSoWhite began trending online during the ceremony, with many viewers calling out the awards show.

“White people winning the majority of awards for writing stories about white people that have already been told, generation after generation…..while original stories of POCs are overlooked….is the most #EmmysSoWhite thing ever,” wrote one viewer.

“The fact that the #Emmys2021 has so many Black and brown people hosting, and so few winning, is another example of performative ‘commitments’ to representation,” tweeted Rashad Robinson, president of the Color of Change campaign movement. “It’s not just about who gets a trophy – awards like the Emmys determine who gets their projects funded and more.

“This is about celebrating diverse stories in Hollywood,” he continued, “but more than that, it’s also about creating pathways for creatives from marginalised communities – Black, brown, indigenous, LGBTQ+, women and more – to have a seat at the table.”

Community actress Yvette Nicole Brown also shared her thoughts, writing, “Every chance they had to make history in a meaningful way, they passed on it. Just said, “Naw, son.” Mmkay. Got it.”

While people of color were shut out of the major acting categories, the ceremony did see I May Destroy You writer, star and director Michaela Coel win for Outstanding Writing for a Limited/Anthology Series or Movie, making her the first Black woman to win the category.

And RuPaul’s Drag Race host and executive producer RuPaul Charles accepted the trophy for Outstanding Competition Program, making him the winningest Black person in Emmys history. The long-serving host recently picked up his sixth straight win for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program, taking him to 11 Emmys overall.