Emmys 2021: All the snubs, surprises and history-making nominations

This year marks the most Black nominees in the history of the awards

Nominees for the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards have been announced and this year’s list is Blacker than ever. 37 Black creatives nabbed nominations, setting a record for people of color being recognized on television’s biggest night — and it’s about time. 

We went in rooting for Lovecraft Country to get the shine it deserves, especially after HBO announced it wouldn’t be bringing back the groundbreaking series for a second season. 

"Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn" World Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals
Jurnee Smollett-Bell attends the “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn” world premiere on Jan. 29, 2020. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Fortunately, the show helmed by Misha Green earned a whopping 18 nominations at this year’s Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Jurnee Smollett), Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Jonathan Majors), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Michael K. Williams), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Aunjanue Ellis), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Courtney B. Vance), and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Misha Green).

MJ Rodriguez made history as the first transgender woman to be nominated for a major acting category at the Emmys, nabbing a nod for Outstanding Lead Actress for her work as Blanca in FX’s Pose.

MJ Rodriguez thegrio.com
Mj Rodriguez attends The 2020 MAKERS Conference on Feb. 12, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)

“I felt so seen…I felt represented and I felt seen,” the first-time nominee said from Cannes after the news broke. “And … more accepted than I have felt in a long time. I felt like my colleagues now see me, my acting colleagues see me, and the people who are surrounded by the arts see me, and how much I want to give the world the love to my craft and my art.”

The series also nabbed a nomination for Best Drama and Billy Porter was nominated for Lead Actor in a Drama series. Porter is one of four Black men nominated in that coveted category, along with Regé-Jean Page for Bridgerton, Sterling K. Brown for This Is Us, and Jonathan Majors for Lovecraft Country.

With so much to celebrate, there were still a few peculiar picks, some serious snubs, and a few shocking surprises in this year’s list of nominees.

Some fans may have been searching for Insecure stars on the list, but the show wasn’t snubbed. The HBO series, which just wrapped production on its final season, didn’t qualify this year because of the timing cutoff. 

And even Don Cheadle doesn’t seem to understand why he was nominated for his 98-second cameo in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. “Thanks, well wishers. sorry, haters,” the nominee wrote on Twitter. “I don’t really get it either. buuuuuuuuuut on we go…”


Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix series Bridgerton made quite an impact on fans, but it’s pretty shocking that the show was nominated in the Best Drama category. The show was many things, but a drama? That’s a stretch. We would have loved to see something a bit more substantive nab their spot in the coveted category like The Chi, perhaps? Or maybe Snowfall

Barry JenkinsUnderground Railroad received a well-deserved nomination for Best Limited Series, but we’re still wondering why the show’s lead actress, Thuso Mbedu, was left off the list. 

Another shocker comes from the fact that Master of None: Moments in Love didn’t get any love from the Emmys this year, especially considering the show is always a favorite and this season was especially powerful and innovative.

We also expected Chris Rock to get some shine for his starring spot in Fargo, but he didn’t make the cut.

The Emmys also missed the mark when it failed to nominate The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel for Best TV Movie, but we’re glad to see Sylvie’s Love is a contender in that category. 

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Sylvie’s Love (Amazon Studios)

Another surprise is that Hamilton earned eight acting awards even though it isn’t new material and is basically a five-year-old performance that finally made it to the small screen.

Kudos to all of the nominees from that brilliant musical, but it seems a little like overkill since the actors were nominated in the Limited Series categories while people like Noma Dumezweni, who deserved a nomination for her supporting role in The Undoing, got overlooked.

Overall, this year’s list of Emmys contenders looks a lot more right than wrong and the changes being made in Hollywood are starting to show up in big ways. Let’s just hope this is the beginning of a new era and not a knee-jerk response to recent pressure. 

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