Four performers of color are nominated in a single Emmy category (supporting comedy actress) for the first time

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Since the category of supporting actress in a comedy series was launched at the Primetime Emmy Awards in the mid-1960s, only 13 African American performers had been nominated in total leading up to this year. Just two had won: Jackee Harry for “227” in 1987 and Sheryl Lee Ralph last year for “Abbott Elementary.” But the category, and the Emmys in general, received a radical shake-up this morning when four Black actresses cracked the lineup of nominees: Ralph and Janelle James for “Abbott,” Ayo Edebiri for “The Bear” and Jessica Williams for “Shrinking.” That’s more than half the seven slots allotted to the category. There have never been more than two in that lineup previously.

Indeed, if that seems like a lot, it should. No Emmy performer category has ever featured four women of color in the same year and precious few have ever included three. Consider that the count for African American actresses in comedy supporting was collectively zero until Marla Gibbs was honored for “The Jeffersons” in 1981 and wound up nominated for five consecutive years. She was joined by Paula Kelly of “Night Court” in the nominee lineup in 1984, the first year that the category featured a pair of Black actresses. It happened again in 1986, when Lisa Bonet and Keshia Knight Pulliam both were tabbed for “The Cosby Show.”

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Harry was nominated in ’87, winning for “227.” But after that, there was a nearly 20-year drought before the category featured another Black nominee: Alfre Woodard for “Desperate Housewives” in 2006. Vanessa Williams joined the Emmy nomination party in 2007, ’08 and ’09 for “Ugly Betty, Niecy Nash in 2015 and ’16 for “Getting On” and Leslie Jones for “SNL: in 2017 and ’18. The others were Zazie Beetz for “Atlanta” in 2018 and Yvonne Orji for “Insecure” in 2020 prior to Ralph and James last year.

You’ll find the complete list of this year’s Emmy nominees here.

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