Uzo Aduba makes history at SAG Awards with Comedy Actress win for ‘Orange is the New Black’

Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black“) became the first African American to win Best TV Comedy Actress at the SAG Awards after being only the second to even contend in this category; Vanessa Williams lost her 2007 bid for “Ugly Betty” to Tina Fey (“30 Rock”).

While it is heartening to see this color barrier broken, it is worth noting that neither woman was the star of her show. Unlike its film awards, SAG does not differentiate between lead and supporting on the TV side. 

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Aduba is used to making history, having been the first African American to win Comedy Guest Actress at the Emmys last summer. Among those she edged out was co-star Laverne Cox. Prior to their bids, only four African American women had even contended in this category since the TV academy introduced it in 1989:

Diahann Carroll (“A Different World)
1989: lost to Colleen Dewhurst (“Murphy Brown”)

Whoopi Goldberg (“A Different World)
1991: lost to Colleen Dewhurst (“Murphy Brown”)

Ruby Dee (“Evening Shade”)
1993: lost to Tracey Ullman (“Love and War”)

Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live”)
2012: lost to Kathy Bates (“Two and a Half Men”)

With Aduba having claimed Comedy Guest Actress, that leaves two categories in which there has yet to be an African American winner: Drama Actress and Drama Supporting Actor. 

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Aduba had been submitted as a guest star, despite being a defacto series regular, due to her billing. However, at the upcoming Emmys, look for her to be entered in Comedy Supporting Actress. Only one African American has won that award: Jackee Harry (“227,” 1987). She defended her title the following year but lost to Estelle Getty (“The Golden Girls”). 

Six other African Americans, including Vanessa Williams, have been nominated 11 times in all for Best Comedy Supporting Actress at the Emmys: 

Marla Gibbs (“The Jeffersons”)
1981: lost to Eileen Brennan (“Private Benjamin”)
1982: lost to Loretta Swit (“M*A*S*H*”)
1983: lost to Carol Kane (“Taxi”)
1984: lost to Rhea Pearlman (“Cheers”)
1985: lost to Rhea Pearlman (“Cheers”)

Paula Kelly (“Night Court”)
1984: lost to Rhea Pearlman (“Cheers”)

Lisa Bonet (“The Cosby Show”)
1986: lost to Rhea Pearlman (“Cheers”)

Keshia Knight-Pulliam (“The Cosby Show”)
1986: lost to Rhea Pearlman (“Cheers”)

Alfre Woodard (“Desperate Housewives”)
2006: lost to Megan Mullally (“Will & Grace”)

Vanessa Williams (“Ugly Betty”)
2007: lost to Jamie Pressley (“My Name is Earl”)
2008: lost to Jean Smart (“Samantha Who?”)
2009: lost to Kristen Chenoweth (“Pushing Daisies”)

Take a look below at our recent webcam chat with Aduba who talks candidly about this breakthrough role. 

6 thoughts on “Uzo Aduba makes history at SAG Awards with Comedy Actress win for ‘Orange is the New Black’

  1. I’ve seen Uzo Aduba on Broadway and now on television. She was my favorite on Broadway and now she is exploding all over television. It’s time for her to conquer movies! Watch out Academy Awards – Uzo is on her way!

  2. My immediate reaction is ‘who cares that she is African-American’. It somehow bothers me that we are still making race a thing. She is good…period. She won…period. Maybe someone can enlighten me , but why are we paying attention to what race she is, in this day and age where we put so much emphasis on everybody being the same?

  3. Christine — it’s important because opportunities for non-whites in Hollywood is not the same as those for whites in Hollywood. That’s an unfortunate fact, but it is a fact. The prevailing mindset in Hollywood is that blacks can only take on certain types of roles or, as stars of their own shows, will inherently have limited appeal. So the networks and cablers don’t produce a lot of shows with non-white leads.

    And we’re paying attention to this because, stemming from those lack of opportunities, it’s a comparatively rare occurrence for blacks to win SAG Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars. And when you’re a young black aspiring actor or actress and you see such a thing on TV, it’s inspiring because it’s so noteworthy.

    What I wish you were bothered by was the fact that after 21 years of the SAG Awards, Aduba was only the second nominee and the first winner in the female comedy category.

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