There’s a lot to unpack when Emmy nominations are announced, from the painful snub of one of its announcers (who created, writes, and stars in her own fantastic comedy series), to the same old snoozefests getting showered with Outstanding Drama nominations, to the infuriating classification of a mediocre, regular-ass TV show as a “Mini-Series,” to what in the actual fuck happened with Orphan Black?
So let’s just focus on one small category that is positively bursting with trailblazers: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Outstanding Guest is traditionally the low (wo)man on the totem pole of Series Acting Awards, lacking the glamor and sparkle of Outstanding Actress, and the character and charm of Outstanding Supporting Actress. Which is why it’s even more impressive that this little band of six performers has more root-ability than any single actor in any other category. In case you missed it, the nominees for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy are:
Natasha Lyonne, Orange Is the New Black
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Laverne Cox, Orange Is the New Black
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Joan Cusack, Shameless
Let’s go in order.
Natasha Lyonne plays Recovering-Heroin-Addict and Queer-Gal-With-Many-Feelings Nicky Nichols on Orange Is the New Black. She loves hard, she fucks up hard, and then she busts her ass trying not to fuck up hard again. Add a dash of leering sexual energy and an apparently talent for fisting, and it’s literally impossible not to love her character. Not to mention, it was only about eight years ago that she was on fucking Gawker death watch for a drug, alcohol, and getting arrested habit that could have rivaled Lindsay Lohan’s spin-out had the two been contemporaries. Started from But I’m a Cheerleader, NOW WE HERE, BAE.
Uzo Aduba plays Fellow-Queer-Gal-With-Many-Feelings Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on the same series, and besides her category-mate and co-star Laverne Cox, she’s the only other woman of color out of 18 actresses nominated across all Comedy categories. (Scandal’s Kerry Washington is the sole woman of color of the 18 actresses in the Drama categories.) Between Uzo-as-Suzanne’s Shakespearean turn in the “scared straight” teens episode (stemming from her deep desire to “play a role, like Desdemona, or Ophelia”), her spoken word love poetry, and her deep monologue likening cleaning the floor to cleaning her feelings, she’s got my heart. She lights a fire inside me, she’s my chocolate-and-vanilla swirl, etc, etc.
Laverne Cox, on the other hand, probably has everyone else’s heart, and with good reason. She’s the first trans individual ever to be nominated for an Acting Emmy in the history of the Awards. Her visibility is a godsend, her humility is remarkable, and her advocacy work is beyond commendable. Personally, I think that Lea Delaria is the unsung hero of the OITNB cast, while Black Cindy remains the most underrated character, but I’m willing to let 2014 continue being The Year of Laverne. (Just this one, though, then she has to share.)
Tina Fey gets props for being an OG queen of modern comedy: a baller writer/actor/executive producer with her own production company and an investment in finding new lady comedic talent. Plus, she’s holding it down as a woman over 40.
Also holding it down for women over 40 is Fey’s OG Comedy Queen contemporary Melissa McCarthy, who’s bringing plus-size representation to the mix.
And Joan Cusack, whom you probably aren’t watching on Shameless, because it’s the most under-watched series on TV right now, is doing some of the most crafted acting on premium cable, if not of her entire career, playing agoraphobic germophobe Sheila Jackson. Cusack (women over 50, holla!) has been nominated for the role four consecutive times: every season the show has been on the air. (Fun fact: she replaced Allison Janney, who first played Sheila in the pilot, but had to drop out when the time commitment became too great for her to continue. Though she’s probably not kicking herself too hard; Janney’s nominated in the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama category for her role on Masters of Sex.)
So, can we just dub this category “Actresses Owning Intersectionality”? How are we supposed to choose between the monster talents of six beloved women who (not-incidentally) worked their asses off to bring us dynamic, impactful diversity in a tragically white-washed, straight-washed, cis-washed, thin-washed television landscape? And will the Primetime Emmy Awards ever have a single category representing so many different types of marginalized women and marginalized characters ever again? Let’s hope this isn’t just a fleeting snapshot, and that this kind of Emmy voting bleeds into its other categories soon.
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