Top 15 most surprising first-time Emmy nominees: John Travolta, RuPaul, Louie Anderson …

The Emmys are often criticized for nominating the same stars and shows year in, year out. But they welcomed a lot of new blood in this year’s nominations. But what’s most surprising about some of the nominees is that they had never been nominated before. Consider the following contenders and their unusually long road to the Emmys.

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Louie Anderson, “Baskets”
The longtime comedian is a two-time Emmy champ in daytime for his voice-acting work in “Life with Louie” (1997-1998), but his Best Comedy Supporting Actor turn as Christine Baskets is his first ever primetime recognition

Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”
Ansari is a first, second, third and fourth-time nominee this year, with nominations for writing, directing, producing and starring in Netflix’s breakthrough comedy “Master of None.” But he was never nominated for any of his comedy specials, or even once for his seven-season stint as Tom Haverford in “Parks and Recreation,” even though that show was nominated twice for Best Comedy Series.

RuPaul Charles, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
It took them long enough. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has been a cult hit since the reality competition series debuted on Logo in 2009. Seven years later its dynamic star is finally a nominee for Best Reality Host.

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Olivia Colman, “The Night Manager”
Though she isn’t as well known in America, Colman is a British TV darling, winning three BAFTAs: two in 2013 (Best Supporting Actress in “Accused” and Best Female Comedy Performance in “Twenty Twelve”), and one in 2014 (Best Actress in “Broadchurch”). “Broadchurch” also earned her an International Emmy nom and, most importantly of course, a Gold Derby TV Award nom, but this is her first time at the Primetime Emmys.

Cuba Gooding Jr., “The People v. O.J. Simpson”
The “Jerry Maguire” Oscar-winner is best known for his work on the big screen, but he’s also done his fair share of TV in recent years, including the Emmy-nominated “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story” (some smart producer should commission a sequel about Carson’s recent presidential bid ASAP). But even though the TV academy usually loves to honor Oscar-winning movie stars, he’s never been in contention before now.

Steve Harvey, “Little Big Shots”
Harvey has been on TV for decades, including his own sitcom from 1996-2002. Since then he has won three Emmys in daytime for producing his self-titled informative talk show (2014-2015) and for hosting the game show “Family Feud” (2014). His nomination for Best Reality Host for “Little Big Shots” is his first recognition from primetime voters.

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Martin Mull, “Veep”
How has Mull never been nominated for an Emmy before? He has had an exceptional TV career that includes roles in Emmy-winning shows like “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “Roseanne,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Arrested Development,” in addition to many, many other TV credits. It took a guest-starring role as Bob Bradley in the fifth season of “Veep” to finally get him into the Emmy race.

“The Office” alums: Melora Hardin, Ellie Kemper and Oscar Nunez
“The Office” won Best Comedy Series in 2006, but the TV academy was fairly stingy to its cast. Only three of its stars were ever nominated: lead actor Steve Carell and supporting actors Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer, none of whom won. This year, three “Office” alums made the cut for their latest roles: Ellie Kemper for her lead role in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Melora Hardin for her guest role in “Transparent,” and Oscar Nunez for his performance in the short-form “The Crossroads of History.”

Jesse Plemons, “Fargo”
Plemons contends for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for his role as a mild-mannered butcher caught up in a criminal enterprise in “Fargo,” but at just 28-years-old he has already run the gamut of roles, as a shy student in a football town in “Friday Night Lights” as well as a monstrous sociopath in “Breaking Bad,” Both of those series won acting Emmys, but this is first recognition.

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Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, “The Americans”
Rhys and Russell had to wait four season to earn their first Emmy nominations for “The Americans,: but they could have been nominees years before the show even started. Rhys co-starred for five seasons on “Brothers and Sisters,” where his co-stars Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths were nominated (Field won Best Drama Actress in 2007), but Rhys wasn’t nominated. Neither was Russell during her four-season run as the title character in “Felicity,” even though she won a Golden Globe for the role in 1998.

Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”
“Black-ish” is the first role to put Ross on the Emmy radar, but she starred in another sitcom, “Girlfriends,” for eight whole years on UPN and the CW, racking up Image Award nominations and wins, but no Emmys.

John Travolta, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”
Travolta got his big break in TV, playing Vinny Barbarino in “Welcome Back, Kotter” from 1975-1979, but he was never nominated for an Emmy, despite the show’s Best Comedy Series bid in 1976. During the show’s run Travolta became a movie star with roles in “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) and “Grease” (1978), and he mostly left TV behind. He returned to play vain lawyer Robert Shapiro in “People v. O.J. Simpson,” and has repeated Emmy benefits for the first time.

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