Emmy Episode Analysis: Laverne Cox (‘Orange is the New Black’) makes history with Comedy Guest Actress bid

Laverne Cox became the first-ever transgender Emmy nominee with her Best Comedy Guest Actress bid for playing inmate Sophia Burset on the breakout first season of “Orange is the New Black.”

Cox’s submission is “Lesbian request Denied” (the same one submitted by rival nominee Uzo Aduba); and we break down the pros and cons of this episode below.

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SYNOPSIS: After the prison reduces Sophia’s dose of exogenous estrogen due to budget cuts, she asks her wife to smuggle pills into the prison but she flatly refuses.

In flashbacks, Sophia, her wife and child struggle to adjust to Sophia’s gender transition and we learn that she commited credit card fraud to finance her gender reassignment surgery.


The episode opens on what many voters will think is Cox appearing as she would have before pre-gender reassignment surgery as a firefighter (it is actually her twin brother playing this role in this very brief scene). We then see her progression as she slowly morphs into the woman she has now become, and we learn about her family dynamic in her scenes with Tanya Wright as her wife. If it was all about character arcs, Cox would have this in the bag.

Cox shows a wide range of emotions, which is one of the keys to winning an Emmy. She is indignant (at being denied her medication), heartbroken (her child and wife struggle to live with her decisions), and happy (when she starts becoming the person she wants to be).

As with rival nominee Joan Cusack, she’s part of the season’s main storyline – her backstory — instead of being the interesting comedic relief B-story that co-star Aduba features in.


Not having the benefit of laugh-out-loud hilarity (like “Saturday Night Live‘s” Tina Fey and Melissa McCarthy or her “Orange is the New Black‘s” co-star Uzo Aduba is definitely an issue for Cox. I would go as far to say this is a flat out dramatic performance.

Speaking of dramatic performances, they don’t win this category very often. The last time a more dramatic showcase won in an hourlong dramedy like “Orange is the New Black‘s” was the late Kathryn Joosten in “Desperate Housewives‘s” back in 2008.

According to Gold Derby’s Experts, Editors and Users, Cox is currently in second place to win the category with 1/10 odds. If voters don’t mind not rolling in the aisles over this performance, and maybe even appreciate her historic nomination, then Cox is a major threat here for the win.

Predict Best Comedy Guest Actress below using our easy drag-and-drop menu, then discuss all the episodes in our Emmy forums.

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