Television Academy Opens Door for ‘Performer’ Emmy, and Solves the Documentary Double-Dipping Conundrum For Good

The Television Academy is making a small, but meaningful change in how it recognizes gender-nonbinary performers in the Emmy competition. Effective immediately, nominees and/or winners in any performer category can request that their nomination certificate and Emmy statuette carry the term “performer” in place of “actor” or actress.”

The org isn’t abolishing its actor, actress, supporting actor or supporting actress categories, but it is acknowledging that “no performer category titled ‘actor’ or ‘actress’ has ever had a gender requirement for submissions.”

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The move comes several years after “Billions” star Asia Kate Dillon, the first gender-nonbinary performer to play a nonbinary character on a major TV show, first asked the TV Academy in 2017 to clarify its gender distinctions. Ultimately, Dillon asked to be entered into the “supporting actor” category at the Emmys.

Last year, in an open letter to the SAG Awards, Dillon asked that kudocast to also drop its gendered acting categories, and said they now realize “that being submitted or nominated within categories that reinforce the gender-binary should have been met with my outright rejection of those nominations, alongside calling for change.”

Already, the MTV Movie & TV Awards and the Television Critics Assn.’s TCA Awards have non-gendered categories. Whether this sets the stage for an eventual conversation about doing away with gendered awards and moving to a performer Emmy remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the TV Academy has also further clarified the eligibility for documentaries, which may further end the question of projects that have “double dipped” in both Oscar and Emmy contention.

Starting in 2022, documentary films placed on the AMPAS viewing platform will be ineligible for Emmy consideration. In other words, “Any film placed on the AMPAS viewing platform will be deemed a theatrical motion picture and thus ineligible for the Emmy competition.”

The move comes just days after Variety wrote about the documentary conundrum. Last year, the Television Academy appeared to have finally resolved this issue of double dipping by firmly ruling that “effective in 2021, programs that have been nominated for an Oscar will no longer be eligible for the Emmys competition.”

That meant this year’s Oscar winner “My Octopus Teacher” couldn’t enter — and neither could the other four other nominees. But docs that had campaigned for an Oscar yet didn’t make it to the list of five nominees were able to try again. That’s why back in the hunt at the Emmys for the exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking award are entries including Apple TV Plus’ “Boys State,” Netflix’s “Dick Johnson Is Dead” and Amazon’s “All In: The Fight for Democracy.”

All those docs were among the 15 that made it on the 93rd Academy Awards documentary feature shortlist, which made them frontrunners for Oscar contention. That brought up a question of why they get a do-over, but Oscar nominees including Netflix’s “Crip Camp,” PBS/Independent Lens’ “The Mole Agent” and Amazon’s “Time” couldn’t.

In the past, the platform confusion came out of the fact that it’s often TV outlets such as HBO, PBS or Nat Geo commissioning and funding the projects to air on their networks — making them, arguably, TV projects. But if they’re screened in theaters, the Oscars could claim them too. Now, those outlets will have to decide at the outset whether they want to compete at the Oscars or the Emmys — much like they do with scripted fare.

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