Will Giancarlo Esposito be first African American to win Drama Supporting Actor Emmy?

By Marcus James Dixon
By Marcus James Dixon
Jun 25 2012 05:21 am
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As nefarious drug kingpin Gus Fring on "Breaking Bad," Giancarlo Esposito was responsible for some of the year's most shocking TV moments. But if Esposito wins an Emmy in the race for Best Drama Supporting Actor, he could pull off the biggest jaw-dropper of all by becoming that category's first-ever black winner.

Yes, you read that right: an African-American actor has never claimed victory in the Drama Supporting Actor category. From the time this trophy was first awarded to Dennis Weaver ("Gunsmoke") in 1959, up through and including reigning champion Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones"), there has been a noticeable lack of diversity amongst the winners.

Can Esposito -- who was born to an Italian father and an African-American mother -- be Emmy's first?

Gold Derby's Experts, Editors and Users currently have Esposito in second place (7/2 odds) to claim Emmy gold, meaning this year's Emmys could be one for the record books. Esposito is positioned between 2011 champ Dinklage (17/10 odds) and 2010 winner Aaron Paul (11/2 odds), who co-starred with Esposito on "Breaking Bad." Rounding out the top six are John Slattery ("Mad Men"), Mandy Patinkin ("Homeland") and Alan Cumming ("The Good Wife").

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What's the reason for the absense of black winners in this category? The simple answer could be that Hollywood just isn't writing enough roles for African Americans in the first place. The Emmy voters aren't solely at fault here; in fact, they've nominated several black actors in the Drama Supporting Actor race throughout the years. It's just startling to realize that none ever prevailed.

The most recent African American nominee in this category was Andre Braugher ("Men of a Certain Age," 2010 and 2011), who notably already has two Emmys on his shelf in the lead actor categories, for "Homicide: Life on the Street" (Drama Actor, 1998) and for "Thief" (Miniseries Actor, 2006). Braugher contends again this year for the final season of his cancelled TNT drama. Perhaps if he'd entered in the Lead Actor race instead, he would have won already for his "Men of a Certain Age" role.

Over the past two decades, the Emmys nominated only a handful of other African American supporting actors, including Dule Hill ("The West Wing," 2002), Steve Harris ("The Practice," 1999 and 2000), Eriq La Salle ("ER," 1995, 1997, 1998), James McDaniel ("NYPD Blue," 1996) and James Earl Jones ("Under One Roof," 1995).

But Gold Derby thinks Emmy voters have overlooked many award-worthy African American supporting actors throughout the years. The most egregious snubs were Adawale Akinnuoye-Agbaje ("Lost"), Dennis Haysbert ("24"), Ernie Hudson ("Oz"), Michael B. Jordan ("Friday Night Lights"), James Pickens Jr. ("Grey's Anatomy"), and most of the entire cast of "The Wire."

Are there any other African-American actors that deserved a Drama Supporting Actor nomination -- and possibly a win? Give us your picks in the comments section below!

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