The 2020 Emmy Awards saw a noticeable uptick in the number of nonwhite acting winners, with “Watchmen” star Regina King’s fourth Emmy win and a surprise nod for “Euphoria” star Zendaya leading the way.
Out of the 19 performer categories — including the guest, short form and voice-over categories from last week’s Creative Arts Emmys — 10 went to Black actors. In addition to King and Zendaya, other winners included “Mrs. America’s” Uzo Aduba, King’s co-star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, “Saturday Night Live” guests Maya Rudolph (a double winner for voice acting on Netflix’s “Big Mouth”) and Eddie Murphy, and two of the stars from Quibi’s “#FreeRayshawn,” Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones.
Zendaya, the youngest person to win the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series award, is also only the second Black actress to claim the title after Viola Davis for “How to Get Away With Murder.” Rudolph’s two wins this year marked the first of her career.
Overall, the winners represent a significantly more diverse group than last year, when just two of 19 winners were performers of color.
The year prior, four Black actors — Tiffany Haddish, Samira Wiley, Ron Cephas Jones and Katt Williams — swept the guest acting categories, while nonwhite winners on the main broadcast were limited to just three: Regina King for “Seven Seconds,” Thandie Newton for “Westworld” and Darren Criss for “American Crime Story.”
The 2020 Emmy nominations came under significant scrutiny in the months since nominations were announced back in July, with some praising the Television Academy’s increased recognition of Black actors, while others called out voters for shutting out Latinx performers.
Nonwhite performers made up 49 out of the 118 acting nominees this year, with Black actors making up the largest portion. “The Handmaid’s Tale” actress Alexis Bledel was the only Latinx actor to score a nomination, drawing condemnation from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a boycott from actor John Leguizamo.
Sunday’s broadcast featured a number of callouts to topical issues like the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming presidential election. King, while claiming her award for “Watchmen,” appeared in a shirt bearing the image of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman who was fatally shot by police officers in her home earlier this year.
“Black-ish” star and Emmys presenter Anthony Anderson also made reference to the fact that the awards show’s record number of nominations for Black actors unfortunately came in a year when nominees could not celebrate in person.
“This isn’t what it should have been,” Anderson said. “But I’m still rooting for everybody Black, because Black stories, Black performances and Black lives matter.”