When nominations for the 75th annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced last Wednesday morning, the results were historic — and groundbreaking. HBO broke an unmatched record since 1992 as four of its shows were nominated for best drama series — including the tense family corporate drama Succession. For the first time ever, three of the nominees for best lead actor are from the same show. Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, and Brian Cox are all nominated for best actor in a drama for their work on “Succession”; four of the supporting actor nominees also hail from the HBO drama.
In the comedy category, Abbott Elementary was the only primetime series to pick up any nominations. Show creator and star Quinta Brunson (who made history last year as the first Black woman to win for best writing on a comedy series) is up for best actress in a comedy. (She’s also nominated for best guest comedy actress, for her role hosting Saturday Night Live.) Her co-star Tyler James Williams scored a nod for best supporting actor for his performance as Gregory. And both Janelle James and Sheryl Lee Ralph are nominated for their supporting roles as Ava and Barbara, respectively. They are joined in this category by Ayo Edebiri (from The Bear) and Jessica Williams (Apple TV’s Shrinking). There are four Black women contending for best supporting actress in a comedy — the most ever in any acting category.
And 10-year-old Keivonn Woodard secured a nomination for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for his work on HBO’s post-apocalyptic zombie series The Last of Us. Woodward is the first deaf Black actor ever nominated for an Emmy. He is also the youngest-ever nominee in the category.
But the ceremony may not even happen. The Screen Actors Guild (the actors’ union) voted early last Thursday to go on strike. After weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), SAG-AFTRA voted unanimously to strike. They joined writers on the picket lines beginning last Friday. It’s the first time that union actors and writers have gone on strike together since 1960.
A work stoppage that affects 160,000 performers began, which means that actors who belong to SAG cannot work on film or TV sets, do interviews about completed films or promote films (not even on social media). They also may not attend film festivals, film premieres, or even awards shows.
This obviously throws the Emmys into flux. Fox and the Television Academy both are considering moving the awards from their Sept. 18 date. But when? The Academy would like to shift the show to November, while Fox appears committed to January. The actors, meanwhile, seem committed to holding the picket line. Their sticking points include increased pay (and benefits) along with residuals (streaming series reportedly pay less residual income). They also are concerned about generative AI, with tools that could be used to mimic or even replace actors, and self-taped auditions. (These audition tapes used to be funded by studios and casting offices; SAG says having the actors pay to make them is “burdensome.”)
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher made the union’s case in a fiery speech at last week’s press conference:
“We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly: How far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs,” she said angrily. “It is disgusting. Shame on them.
They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment. We stand in solidarity, in unprecedented unity. Our union and our sister unions and the unions around the world are standing by us,” she continued. “You cannot keep being dwindled and marginalized and disrespected and dishonored. The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI.”
“This is a moment of history and is a moment of truth. If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble,” Drescher added, her voice breaking with emotion. “We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines and big business who cares more about Wall Street than you and your family. Most of Americans don’t have more than $500 in case of an emergency. This is a very big deal, and it weighed heavy on us. But at some point you have to say, ‘No, we’re not going to take this anymore.’”