Our Highly Selective Guide to the Emmys Is All About the Black Nominees

Because it’s still special when black stars win awards, here’s a list of the categories to watch.

Top row: Viola Davis in How to Get Away With Murder; Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in Confirmation. Bottom row: Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story; Beyoncé in Lemonade.
Top row: Viola Davis in How to Get Away With Murder; Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in Confirmation. Bottom row: Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story; Beyoncé in Lemonade. Top row: ABC; HBO. Bottom row: FX; HBO.

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards arrive on Sunday (8 p.m. on ABC), and while some of my favorite shows, like Game of Thrones and Veep, are expected to walk away with a boatload of trophies, there are several nominated performances by African-American stars for whom I’m rooting. And because we all love to see black people win awards, here are the categories you should watch—with my predictions on how the nominees will do.

Lead Actress in a Drama

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
Taraji P. Henson, Empire (Fox)
Claire Danes, Homeland (Showtime)
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black (BBC America)
Robin Wright, House of Cards (Netflix)
Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)

This is déjà vu all over again for Davis and Henson, who were both nominated in the category last year. Davis made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win in this category, and she gave a speech for the ages (which caused a flood of white tears).

Who will win: Viola Davis, though this is a close call because Robin Wright took Claire Underwood’s conniving misdeeds to a whole new level on the fourth season of House of Cards.

Who should win: Tatiana Maslany, who is the hardest-working woman on TV for her ability to give each and every one of those clones she plays on Orphan Black such distinct and quirky personalities.

Lead Actor in a Comedy

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish (ABC)
William H. Macy, Shameless (Showtime)
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon)
Will Forte, Last Man on Earth (Fox)
Aziz Ansari, Master of None (Netflix)
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley (HBO)

This is Anthony Anderson’s second nomination for his role on Black-ish, and since he’s unlikely to win, we’ll just have to appreciate his priceless reaction to his nomination.

Who will win: Jeffrey Tambor. He won last year for his incredible performance as a transgender woman whose family struggles to deal with the new reality. He was even better in the second season, as Tambor’s Maura grappled with the complexities of womanhood.

Who should win: Tambor.

Lead Actress in a Comedy

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish (ABC)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Laurie Metcalf, Getting On (HBO)

Homegirl Tracee Ellis is the first black woman in 30 years to be nominated in this category. She joins five legendary black women­—Diahann Carroll (Julia), Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons), Nell Carter (Gimme a Break!) and Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show)—to be nominated in the category at all.

Who will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She’s won the award two years in a row and pretty much has a stranglehold on it.

Who should win: Louis-Dreyfus.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Fox
Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Ty Burrell, Modern Family (ABC)
Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
Louie Anderson, Baskets (FX)
Matt Walsh, Veep (HBO)

Who will win: Tony Hale, because Veep is going to win everything.

Who should win: Keegan-Michael Key. The final season of K&P was one of the best, and throughout the show’s run, Key created some of the most memorable characters, from Luther, Obama’s anger translator, to the substitute teacher who can’t pronounce white kids’ names.

Comedy Series

Black-ish (ABC)
Modern Family (ABC)
Veep (HBO)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Transparent (Amazon)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Master of None (Netflix)

Who will win: Veep. The political comedy won for the first time last year after four nominations, and it will repeat this year.

Who should win: Transparent.

Limited Series

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
Roots (History)
American Crime (ABC)
Fargo (FX)
The Night Manager (AMC)

Who will win: The People v. O.J. Simpson. As someone who lived through the real Simpson trial, I was blown away by how well this miniseries made this story seem fresh and exciting, driven mainly by several excellent, Emmy-nominated performances (more on that).

Who should win: The People v. O.J. Simpson.

Television Movie

Luther (BBC America)
Confirmation (HBO)
All the Way (HBO)
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix)

Who will win: All the Way, because Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson is Emmy-voter catnip.

Who should win: Confirmation, because the retelling of Anita Hill’s story, with Kerry Washington in the starring role, forced everyone who doubted Hill’s version of events to take a good look in the mirror.

Lead Actor in a Limited Series

Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
Idris Elba, Luther (BBC America)
Cuba Gooding Jr., The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
Bryan Cranston, All the Way (HBO)
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager (AMC)

Who will win: Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran was, hands down, the best thing about this miniseries and one of the best performances on TV this year.

Who should win: Vance.

Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo (FX)
Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
Jesse Plemons, Fargo (FX)
Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager (AMC)
David Schwimmer, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
John Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

Who will win: Sterling K. Brown’s sensitive portrayal of Christopher Darden forced people to rethink their original feelings about the embattled prosecutor, who was labeled an Uncle Tom throughout the O.J. trial.

Who should win: Brown. But Bokeem Woodbine was an absolute scene-stealer as an erudite enforcer working for a Kansas City crime syndicate in Fargo.

Lead Actress in a Limited Series

Kerry Washington, Confirmation (HBO)
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (HBO)
Kirsten Dunst, Fargo (FX)
Felicity Huffman, American Crime (ABC)
Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
Lili Taylor, American Crime (ABC)

Who will win: Sarah Paulson because she truly was great as Marcia Clark.

Who should win: Washington’s depiction of Anita Hill was definitely Emmy-worthy, but I think Paulson has the edge.

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Regina King, American Crime (ABC)
Melissa Leo, All the Way (HBO)
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
Jean Smart, Fargo (FX)
Olivia Colman, The Night Manager (AMC)

Regina King’s win last year gave us one of the all-time great displays of black sisterhood when Taraji P. Henson gleefully announced King’s name. It was King’s first nomination and win.

Who will win: Olivia Colman … probably. This is one of those categories that is so stacked, it could go to anyone.

Who should win: King, because I believe in #BlackGirlMagic.

Variety Sketch Series

Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
Drunk History (Comedy Central)
Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Portlandia (IFC)
Documentary Now! (IFC)

Who will win: Inside Amy Schumer.

Who should win: It would be great if Key & Peele’s final season could go out with a big win, but I think we’re just going to have to settle for the series finale’s best skit, “Negrotown.”

Directing for a Variety Special

Kahlil Joseph, Beyoncé Knowles Carter, Lemonade (HBO)
Chris Rock, Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo (HBO)
Beth McCarthy-Miller, Adele Live in New York City (NBC)
Louis J. Horvitz, 58th Grammy Awards (CBS)
Thomas Kail, Alex Rudzinski, Grease: Live (Fox)
Glenn Weiss, The Kennedy Center Honors (CBS)

Who will win: Grease: Live because Emmy voters have no taste.

Who should win: Lemonade. I don’t need to tell you why Beyoncé’s visual album was one of the best things on TV this year. Lemonade received four nominations but has already lost three of the creative arts Emmys, which were handed out last week. This category is the last chance for Queen Bey’s Lemonade to snag an Emmy.

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