We did it! We made it through four nights of the Creative Arts Emmys in the middle of the week, in the middle of a pandemic. But, there’s still two nights to go, including the live Primetime Emmys on Sunday. Let’s take a look at how those first four days went, who won and what we can expect this weekend.
The first night of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Monday were genuinely fun. We knew that it was going to be pre-recorded, including the winners’ speeches, but I think most of us were ready to excuse it in the service of doing the best, and the most, the show producers and director could during such an unprecedented time. Host Nicole Byer came out in front of the Television Academy in Los Angeles in a gorgeous blue gown, was her jovial and goofy self. “There’s nothing normal about 2020, it’s wild,” she said. “If you don’t like me now, you’re not going to like me for the next four days, I’m sorry!” Although she never really came through on that promise and remained remarkably restrained. Maybe the Television Academy was too scared to live with comedian. Byer joked about two created categories for this year, including Outstanding COVID-19 Compliance (with fake nominees like The Masked Singer and At Home with Amy Sedaris) and part one of the In Memoriam montage that featured who was lost in the realm of television this year. Then the same exact joke and In Memoriam came with night two. And night three. And night four.
The repetition and canned speeches took their toll and the excitement for an awards show dropped faster than the stock market during corona. Why wouldn’t they create different montages for each night? Why was the In Memoriam night after night and not broken out or given more weight? Each night brought more missed opportunities than the last and while the shows all ran less than an hour (even with a commercial), I wanted more. We’ve seen some extraordinary and complicated work accomplished during this pandemic from the Disney Sing-a-longs to the Sondheim Birthday Special and most recently, the MTV Video Music Awards, who turned out one of their best shows in years. The Creative Arts are always the stepchild of the Primetime Emmys but it felt extra ignored this year. What was the need to spread this out, mid-week, over four nights when it could have been a much tighter one or two-night event? If the effort wasn’t going to be there, we didn’t need it dragged out for four hours.
But let’s take a look at some of the winners from the first four nights that covered the majority of technical categories across all fields as well as gave us our first acting winners.
To no one’s surprise, HBO’s Watchmen and The Mandalorian from Disney+ came out on top with five wins so far. Each are expected to earn more on Saturday and Sunday and for The Mandalorian it was the first Emmy wins for the streamer, which isn’t even a year old yet. The Star Wars spinoff took home the expected awards for visual effects (Baby Yoda, c’mon) as well as cinematography where it competed in the half-hour category against traditional comedies (although not a single episode of The Mandalorian is 30 minutes or less). For Watchmen, it gave Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross their third letter of EGOT. Winning the Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score), which they added to their Oscar for the score of 2010’s The Social Network and their Grammy for the soundtrack of 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek and HBO’s Succession won the Casting Emmys this week, very good clues as to who could take home the series prizes on Sunday. While the Drama Series Casting award isn’t that connected to the top prize, the last five shows to win here on the comedy side went on to win Comedy Series so it was a pretty big get for the farewell season of Schitt’s Creek.
But something else happened that could be a bellwether of things to come Saturday and Sunday. When the Emmy nominations came out, 35% of all of the acting nominees were Black, setting a record for the 72-year old organization. For the first time ever, every single acting category had a Black nominee, be it lead, supporting, guest or short form. And young nominees, too. Zendaya, Jeremy Pope and Jovan Adepo sit alongside their seasoned counterparts for their first nominations, even in the face of more heavily-predicted contenders. Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series has five Black actors nominated – Mahershala Ali, Kenan Thompson, William Jackson Harper, Andre Braugher and Sterling K. Brown – out of eight nominees. Watchmen dominated the Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie nominations with three Black actors: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Louis Gossett Jr. and Adepo. In Actor in a Short Form Series, four of the five nominees were Black. Night Four of the Creative Arts gave us our first acting/performance wins and with them, history.
Maya Rudolph, a triple nominee this year, won the Emmy for Character Voice-Over for her work on Netflix’s Big Mouth as Connie the Hormone Monster. She is the first person of color to win this award since its creation in 2009 when it became a competitive Emmy. The Short Form acting Emmys went to Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones, both for Quibi’s #FreeRayshawn.
Next up will be the guest acting Emmys on Saturday night. That’s where Ron Cephas Jones, father of new Emmy winner Jasmine Cephas Jones, could make history by winning another trophy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his work on This Is Us, making him the only actor ever to do so for the same show. This is his fourth nomination for the show overall, his third in a row for Guest (he was nominated in Supporting for the show’s first year). He’s got stiff competition from all sides, with double nominee Giancarlo Esposito in The Mandalorian, previous Emmy winner James Cromwell in Succession and Andrew Scott in Black Mirror‘s “Smithereens,” where’s basically a lead in a TV Movie (how BM was moved to Drama here is truly a mystery). Check out our predictions in this category here.
16-time Emmy nominee and 3-time winner Cicely Tyson will try to score one more on her 5th and last chance for ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. She’ll go up against Laverne Cox, on her 4th and final nomination for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and Phylicia Rashad, on her 5th nomination without a win so far. They’ll go up against two previous winners here: Alexis Bledel in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (for this show, role and category) and Cherry Jones in HBO’s Succession. Check out our predictions in this category here. Two women have won this category twice for playing the same role: Patricia Clarkson for Six Feet Under in 2002 and 2006 and Margo Martindale for The Americans in 2015 and 2016.
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series feels like as clear a path for Eddie Murphy to complete his Saturday Night Live comeback as there is. SNL is the best performing show in this category with five wins and this would be Murphy’s first win in five nominations. But the other thing this category likes is repeat winners. Unlike on the drama side, winning more than once here is pretty common, even consecutively. That makes Luke Kirby (Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) a real threat. Although the Emmys aren’t the most sympathetic awards body, there’s still an outside chance for a posthumous win for Fred Willard of ABC’s Modern Family. Check out our predictions in this category here.
Maya Rudolph is already an Emmy winner from night four and on Saturday will compete against…herself in Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Before making history with her win last night, Rudolph made Emmy history by becoming the first person to be double-nominated in the same year in this category. While some think she’ll cancel herself out, others see a real path for her to win. But for which role and show? It’s the final season of NBC’s The Good Place, and her second consecutive nomination here. But her other one, for NBC’s Saturday Night Live, has her playing (now) Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris in on her most loved performances. Now, if the election in November goes Biden/Harris, you can bet we’ll be seeing a lot more of Rudolph in this role. Plus, she’ll have more chances when the show returns for its 46th season this fall. Rudolph’s stiffest competition probably comes from 14-time nominee and one-time winner Wanda Sykes for playing legendary comedian Moms Mabley on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Check out our predictions in this category here.
Keep an eye out for more analysis and predictions soon plus recaps of the four nights of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards below.