Will Kerry Washington (‘Scandal’) make Emmy history?

Kerry Washington could soon make Emmy history – twice. As the star of ABC’s political thriller “Scandal,” she is poised to become the fifth African American actress ever nominated for Best Drama Actress. And, if she goes the distance in September, Washington could become the first to win.

Debbie Allen cracked this glass celling for her role on the syndicated musical drama “Fame” with a bid in 1982 and contended three more times. In 1986, Emmy darling Alfre Woodard was nominated for “St. Elsewhere”. Six years later, Regina Taylor received the first of two consecutive bids for her work on the family drama “I’ll Fly Away”. And in 1995, Cicely Tyson was cited for the short-lived legal drama “Sweet Justice”.

2012 was a career-defining year for Washington. In addition to a supporting role in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning spaghetti western homage “Django Unchained,” her role as political fixer Olivia Pope, loosely based on real life crisis manager Judy Smith, on “Scandal” gave her huge prominence on television. She is the first African American woman since the late Teresa Graves (“Get Christie Love!,” 1974) to be the sole lead on a broadcast network drama.

While Washington was not nominated for the Golden Globe or SAG Award, she is still a strong Emmy contender. It was a surprise she was snubbed by the Globes as she fits their mold — a beautiful woman on a hot new show. As for SAG, “Scandal” lacks the prestige of some of the other shows nominated but she can overcome this. 

She can contend at the Critics’ Choice TV Awards in June. These kudos, from the newly established Broadcast Television Journalist Assn. (BTJA) award, could give her momentum just when Emmy ballots are being completed. 

In the two-year history of these awards, they have nominated newcomers snubbed by other kudos. Anna Torv (“Fringe,” 2011) and Emmy Rossum (“Shameless,” 2012) contended here first. While they did not reap Emmy bids, Washington’s show doesn’t suffer from genre bias — sci-fi for Torv and the “Roseanne” effect for Rossum.

Who are Washington’s strongest competition at the Emmys? 

All of last year’s nominees are eligible again, except for Kathy Bates (“Harry’s Law”) who saw her show cancelled.  

-ADDPREDICTION:98:162:Click to predict Drama Actress Emmy:ADDPREDICTION-

Last year’s champ Claire Danes (“Homeland“) is a lock for a slot. Likewise, 2011 winner Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) is all but certain to represent network television in this category. And Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”) was pivotal to the third season of the Brit hit that just finished its run on PBS’ “Masterpiece Theater” to record audiences.


While two-time category winner Glenn Close (“Damages”) and perennial nominee Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) are also in the running, they are not sure bets.

Close had the only bid for “Damages” last year, and may have had a boost from her Oscar bid for “Albert Nobbs.” The final season played out last summer – could it be forgotten by the time of Emmy balloting in June?

And Moss could go supporting once again. The sixth season of “Mad Men” does not begin airing until April 7. The show has fallen out of Emmy favor, losing all 17 of its bid last year.

In addition to Washington, other high profile newcomers include Emily Mortimer (“The Newsroom”), Kerri Russell (“The Americans”), and Robin Wright (“House of Cards”) to consider.

However, Washington’s biggest threat for a bid could come from another ABC star, Connie Britton, who headlines the critically acclaimed musical drama “Nashville”. Having been nominated at the Emmys for each of her roles since 2010 (“Friday Night Lights,” 2010, 2011 and “American Horror Story,” 2012). “Nashville” boasts major awards pedigree in Oscar-winning scripter Callie Khouri (“Thelma and Louise”) and her musican husband T-Bone Burnett.

What “Scandal” lacks in pedigree, it makes up for with red-hot buzz! The show has been breaking its own ratings records. The cast and creator Shonda Rhimes have taken to Twitter to interact with the vocal fan base. Come Thursday night at 10 pm and you are sure to see the hashtag #Scandal in your timeline. It is how Oprah Winfrey became a fan. She even devoted an episode of “Oprah’s Next Chapter” to the show.

Moving from the procedural “scandal of the week” to serialized storytelling has played a huge part in its surge in popularity and quality. Critics have praised this shift. Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix calls the show “an enormous amount of fun, thanks to the writing and the performances”, while Entertainment Weekly says its “a reliable, thinking woman’s soap opera”.

The success of “Scandal” is reminiscent of the rise of Rhimes’ “Grey’s Anatomy.” That drama series also amped up its storytelling in its sophomore season, became a pop culture phenomenon, had a highly rated post Super Bowl episode, and reaped 11 Emmy nominations, including five for acting. 

And Washington’s rising profile is sure to help. Last year, she announced the Emmy nominations with host Jimmy Kimmel. Since then, she has been everywhere. One of EW’s 2012 Entertainers of the Year, she has landed covers and red carpet coverage to gain a visibilty far beyond her competitors.

If nominated, can Washington win?

Yes, if she submits With “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”, a pivotal installment in the “Who Shot Fitz” arc. In the episode, Olivia deals with the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Fitz (Tony Goldwyn). The flashback episode recalls the early days of their relationship and gives Washington ample material to play and she’s stellar. The scene in the garden where Fitz and Olivia are struggling with their feelings for one another is a stand out. The episode is thrilling and works well as a standalone for those voters unfamilar with the show.

15 thoughts on “Will Kerry Washington (‘Scandal’) make Emmy history?

  1. Great article about one of my favorite actress of the moment! I really hope to see Washington nominated this year, and I think the momentum is there. I disagree with the heft you’re giving to Connie Britton, however, as I just don’t see the support for Nashville. The series did nab a few nominations at the Golden Globes, but it is right in the Globes’ wheelhouse. I think it lacks caché to be considered a serious contender at the Emmy Awards, even considering Britton’s previous nominations. Time will tell, though, and you’re definitely right have her as a part of the discussion! Good luck to Washington!!

  2. The “Roseanne Effect” (think Tom mentioned it once) is a show lacking “snob appeal” “Roseanne” is a landmark in television comedy and it NEVER got a series nomination despite its comercial and critical success and the actors getting in.

    And thanks David! I’ll give you Connie. I was writing that in the frame of mind still thinking it was fall lol. The show does seem to have fallen off, but I fear another nomination. I LOVE CONNIE, but if they can nominate her for her worst performance to date (“AHS”), then I wouldn’t put it past them to nominate her for this (which is also a lesser work).

  3. Kerry Washington is wonderful and “Scandal” is ON FIRE right now. Tony Goldwyn, Jeff Perry, Joshua Malina, Bellamy Young and Debra Mooney all deserve nominations — as does the show and the writers.

    I hope Emmy is paying attention. Those fuckers.

  4. It is such a shame the nominating members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences didn’t vote a lead-actress nomination to Regina King in “Southland” (which premiered on NBC in 2009 and is now on TNT). She’s consistent and compelling in the role.

    It’s also unfortunate whoever handles nominations at HBO’s “Treme” didn’t seek out a lead-actress nomination for the tough, soulful work of Khandi Alexander. (She’s been entered in supporting.)

    Right now the only Emmy voted to an African-American female lead dates back to 1981. That was Isabelle Sanford, for playing Louise Jefferson, on CBS’ “The Jeffersons.”

  5. Emmy Winner Kyra Sedgewick is also elidgible this year for Best Actress Drama Series as the final 6 episodes of “The Closer” aired in June and July of 2012.

  6. What is the fixation on her making history. There are several articles on Gold Derby about that. I think it is being kept in the forefront in hopes of a nomination. What about talent. Popularity and ratings don’t make it a quality show. And you really can’t compare her acting to that of some of the other possible nominees. The material isn’t that good. It’s a ridiculous soap opera. I keep hearing about race, but I haven’t heard anyone say anything about talent. If she is nominated it will only be as a token, charity or sympathy nominee. Award shows are not in the business of making history. Let her be nominated for a Golden Globe they will give those to anybody. Who takes them seriously.

  7. Here we go! With RIDICULOUS comments like Daniell it’s ASSUMED that any nomination for a black person is “sympathy”??? REALLY?! As it is, Kerri is terrific and as worthy as ANY other nominee. If YOU don’t agree, fine! But don’t insult our intelligence because there are those who do. She got the vote on merit. Not every academy member lives to make a “statement”. Some actually like the shows they submit on their ballot. Imagine that!

  8. Kerry Washington being nominated was appalling. Scandal is a soap opera and a ridiculous one at that. She shamelessly campaigned for that nomination. Her PR team was disgusting. She was on the cover of magazine after magazine , article after article saying the same things over and over, on every red carpet event there was, on every talk show saying nothing. So that is how you get a nomination ingratiate yourself. I keep hearing “Buzz” and “Hype”. What does that have to do with actual talent? Because the show is popular and the finale received big ratings does that mean it is a quality show. Hopefully Tatiana Maslany and Keri Russell will have their turn next year. How can anyone seriously compare her acting skills to Claire Danes or the above named actresses. The material is not there. She over acts and over enunciates. Just because there has not been a Black lead Actress to be nominated or win in long time does not mean they should give it to her. The Emmy’s are suppose to be about outstanding performance. Do you think her performance is outstanding? There are so many articles on Gold Derby. It’s like they are pushing her. Is this a popularity contest? I also hope the Emmy’s do not make a statement.

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