MJ Rodriguez Makes History As Emmy Nominations Are Announced

Photo from NBC News.

By Terrance Turner

July 13, 2021

MJ Rodriguez became the first trans woman ever nominated for best actress when the Primetime Emmy Award nominations were announced this morning. Her portrayal of Blanca Rodriguez on the FX drama “Pose” earned her a nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

“I do believe this is a pivotal moment. There’s never been a trans woman who has been nominated as a leading outstanding actress and I feel like that pushes the needle forward,” Rodriguez told Variety. Her “Pose” co-star Billy Porter is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of ballroom emcee Pray Tell. Porter won the prize in 2019; he’s the first openly gay Black actor ever to win the award.

Rodriguez (left) and Porter in a scene from “Pose”. Photo from CNN.

For the first time, actors of color comprise at least half of the nominees for lead drama actors. Rodriguez is nominated alongside Uzo Adoba (“In Treatment”) and Jurnee Smollett (“Lovecraft Country”). Porter is recognized along with Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”), Jonathan Majors (“Lovecraft Country”), and Rege-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”). Page is the son of a Zimbabwean nurse and an English preacher; Rodriguez is Afro-Latina, with a Black mother and Afro-Puerto Rican father.

Variety points out that “Pose” and “Lovecraft” are the first shows to have two Black leads nominated. The now-canceled “Lovecraft” made history in another way, per The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s also the first piece of visual art to have a Black actor nominated in every eligible acting category, with Michael K. Williams and Aunjanue Ellis also picking up mentions.” Both shows are nominated for best drama series, and “Pose” director Steven Canals — a self-described “queer Afro-Puerto Rican boy” is nominated for best director.

After its omission sparked outrage last year, the searing HBO series “I May Destroy You” has received 9 Emmy nominations. The drama about the aftermath of a sexual assault is nominated for Best Limited Series. Other nominations include best supporting actor (Pappa Essiedu), best casting, directing, writing, and music supervision for a limited series/movie.

Michaela Coel — a Black woman who created, co-directed, and starred in the show — is nominated for best actress in a limited series. She also wrote the show, based on her own experiences with sexual assault. (According to Rape Crisis, 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 in England and Wales.)

Photo from BBC.

Coel is nominated alongside Cynthia Erivo (who played Aretha Franklin in the miniseries Genius: Aretha).

In the comedy categories, “Black-ish” stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are nominated for best actor and best actress, respectively. In their categories are two double nominees: Kenan Thompson is up for best actor for his show “Kenan”; Aidy Bryant is up for best actress for her show “Shrill”. But both are also nominated for supporting actor/actress — both for “Saturday Night Live”.

Bowen Yang is the first Asian actor nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy (for “Saturday Night Live”). Puerto Rican actress Rosie Perez is up for best supporting comedy actress (for “The Flight Attendant”) — only the third Latina in history to be recognized in that category.

“Black actors represented three of five nominees in both of their guest categories. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s Don Cheadle, Lovecraft‘s Courtney B. Vance and The Mandalorian‘s Carl Weathers will compete in drama,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. In comedy, Morgan Freeman is up for best guest actor for “The Kominksy Method”, alongside Dave Chappelle and Daniel Kaluuya (both for “Saturday Night Live”). For guest comedy actress, Maya Rudolph (SNL) competes with Yvette Nicole Brown and Issa Rae (both for “A Black Lady Sketch Show”).

This is a developing story.

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