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Did You Really Think Kerry Washington Would Win The 'Lead Actress In A Drama Series' Emmy?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act September 23, 2013 at 10:17AM

Apparently, a lot of folks really did, if reactions on social media sites last night are any indication.
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Apparently, a lot of folks really did, if reactions on social media sites last night are any indication. 

Words like "snubbed," "fuck the Emmys," and "robbed" were used quite a bit, after Claire Danes' name was called to collect her trophy for winning the Lead Actress In A Drama Series Emmy award, the same category in which Kerry Washington was nominated.

Even her Scandal co-star, Columbus Short, joined in the consternation stating, on Twitter:

Robbed. Robbed I tell you. ROBBED. @kerrywashington is without question the MOST OUTSTANDING. Well see you next year Emmys. @scandalabc

And there were so many others, both celebrities and fans of the series, commiserating.

I wasn't expecting her to win, I'm sorry to say. Not because I don't appreciate Kerry's talents as an actress in general, but competition in that category was strong, and, as I noted in a previous post, while I wouldn't say her chances of winning were slim, I did impress upon you just how tough her competition was: Connie BrittonClaire DanesMichelle DockeryVera FarmigaElisabeth Moss, and Robin Wright. Most of them star in TV series that already have a history of critical acclaim and awards behind them, like HomelandMad Men, and Downton Abbey; or series that immediately drew acclaim after they initially aired, like House Of Cards and Bates Motel.

Scandal can't claim either, unfortunately. 

No matter how rabid fans of the series have been since its debut, it still hasn't quite reached critical darling status (in the same way the other series I mentioned above have), which is, in effect, a strike against Kerry. Just take a look at the list of past Primetime Emmy awards winners in the acting categories. You'll notice that, the nominees and winners are almost always in dramas or comedies that are also nominated for Best Drama and/or Best Comedy. It's been a rare occurrence when an actress wins the Emmy in any of the leading acting categories - in this specific case, Lead Actress In A Drama Series - and the show she stars in isn't at least nominated. 

Going back the last 13 years to 2000, winners in the Best Drama Series category have included critically-acclaimed series like Homeland, The Good Wife, Mad Men, Damages, The West Wing and The Sopranos; And the list of winners in the Leading Actress In A Drama Series category have included names of actresses who star in those series, like Claire Danes, Julianna Margulies, Glenn Close, Eddie Falco, Allison Janney, and others.

Not that there haven't been instances in which an actress has won in that specific category, even though the series she starred in wasn't nominated in its category (see Kyra Sedgwick in 2010, winning for The Closer, which wasn't nominated in the Best Drama Series category), but, as I noted, it's a rare occurrence when this happens, meaning, the odds were heavily against Kerry Washington winning.

Fans might argue that Scandal should've been nominated in the Best Drama Series category; in response I'll say, that's obviously above my paygrade. Take that up with the Emmys if you feel the show is strong enough to compete with the likes of Mad MenBreaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and others. I would say it's definitely not, which isn't a popular opinion around here, I'm sure. But, really, it's just not as strong as those other series folks!

It doesn't mean it couldn't be, however.

Also keep in mind that cable TV dramas continue to dominate when it comes to original scripted programming during awards season. Scandal is on network TV.

And it's worth noting that a Shonda Rhimes-created series has been nominated just twice. Grey's Anatomy was nominated in the Best Drama Series category in 2006 and 2007, but it didn't win in either year.

So, ultimately, the point here is that Kerry's chances of winning were slim, given all that was stacked against her.

Another year in TV history passes, and a black actress still hasn't won the Leading Actress In A Drama Series Emmy award. It has never happened, and we'll have to wait until next year to see whether it will. As it currently stands, given all the new shows premiering this season, it looks like Kerry will likely be the only black actress considered in that category in 2014.

On Twitter, Washington thanked series creator Shonda Rhimes: 

“WOW! Im so grateful &humbled…I’ll spend the rest of my life saying this and it won’t ever be enough but... THANK YOU @shondarhimes XOXOXOX”

By the way, Don Cheadle (who was nominated in the Lead Actor In A Comedy Series category - his 6th nomination total) didn't win either. And neither did Alfre Woodard, who I thought provided the best opportunity for a black actor to win an Emmy last night; she was nominated for her performance in Steel Magnolias, in the Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie category. I didn't feel that competition in that category was all-that strong.

And last, but not least, Paris Barclay, who was nominated in the Directing For A Comedy Series category, for directing Diva, the thirteenth episode of Glee's fourth season, didn't win either.

So no black nominees in any of the major categories won last night. Ho-hum.

I'm sure there'll be the usual articles lamenting the lack of diversity in terms of nominees and eventual winners - a waste of time in my humble opinion. We can't expect there to be diversity during awards season, when there's no diversity in the shows themselves, which is where it starts. So until that changes, expect more of the same during each upcoming awards season.

Also look to black TV networks like BET as potential homes for TV comedies and dramas that will eventually provide better opportunities for black talents to shine when TV awards seasons come around each year. BET is not quite there yet (unless you're willing to make the argument that a show like The Game is Emmy-caliber material); but I like the strides the network is making, specifically its original scripted programming push recently. 

Although some would argue that we shouldn't look to the Emmys to recognize black talent and ability. After all, BET has its own awards show, as does the NAACP, where black performance is acknowledged and feted. 

But for many, that's simply not nearly enough, and there's still much work to be done.

This article is related to: TV News, TV Features, Kerry Washington


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