Donald Glover, the creator, writer and breakout star of the hit FX comedy series “Atlanta,” could be on his way to a historic night at the 2017 Emmy Awards. With a win for Best Comedy Actor as struggling music manager Earnest “Earn” Marks, Glover would become just the second black actor to win the category in the 69-year history of the Emmys. Over 30 years ago Robert Guillaume became the first (and to date, the only) black actor to win for his role as Benson DuBois in the ABC comedy series “Benson” (1985). Since then Tim Reid (“Frank’s Place”), Bernie Mac (“The Bernie Mac Show”), Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”), and Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) have earned nominations, but fell short of winning. And prior to Guillaume’s historic victory Bill Cosby (“The Bill Cosby Show”), Lloyd Haynes (“Room 222”), Redd Foxx (“Sanford and Son”), and Sherman Hemsley (“The Jeffersons”) were nominated, but ultimately denied as well.
The Emmys are often resistant to brand new shows, but it is not unheard of for voters to hand out kudos to an actor for the first season of a groundbreaking series like “Atlanta.” Just two years ago Jeffrey Tambor won the first of his back-to-back Emmys for the Amazon series “Transparent.” Fourteen years ago Tony Shalhoub was given the same award for a brand new series called “Monk.” Not only were those first-year shows, they were also edgy departures for the Emmys in terms of their networks and content. And on the women’s side of comedy Julia Louis-Dreyfus not only won for her first season of the HBO series “Veep,” she also hasn’t stopped winning. That began her dominant streak of five wins in a row, and now she’s jockeying for a sixth.
The awards buzz for Glover started last year. At the end of 2016 he took home the Critics’ Choice Award for Best TV Comedy Actor. He started out 2017 with two more big wins for Best Comedy Actor and Best Comedy Series at the Golden Globes. Proving he is no one-trick pony, Glover also won two Writers Guild Awards – Best Comedy Series and Best New Series – for penning the show. And after earning a Directors Guild nomination for directing the episode “B.A.N.” and winning a Producers Guild Award for Best Comedy, Glover could reap Emmy bids for acting, writing, directing and producing “Atlanta.”
Quadruple threats have become a more common trend on television in recent years. Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”), Louis C.K. (“Louie”), and Lena Dunham (“Girls”) have each earned nominations for writing, directing and acting in the same year for series they produced and created. Those three didn’t win their acting prizes, but history has shown that if Emmy voters nominate you in four categories, you are likely to win at least one. Ansari won his bid for writing last year. Louis C.K. also took home the writing prize in 2012 and 2014. Unfortunately for Dunham, despite earning seven Emmy nominations between 2012 and 2014, she has yet to win in any category. But it’s not all bad news: multi-hyphenate Tina Fey frequently contended as a writer, producer and actor for her series “30 Rock,” and she won Best Comedy Actress in 2008. Fe won in all three fields, actually.
Should Glover win an Emmy for directing he would be the first black director to do so in comedy. And he would be only the second black writer to win for comedy, following Larry Wilmore for “The Bernie Mac Show” in 2002. The list of black producers who have won Best Comedy Series is just one name as well: Winifred Hervey for “The Golden Girls” in 1987. But despite his many talents off screen, Best Comedy Actor could still be Glover’s best chance to take home an Emmy this year. Other strong contenders in the contest include the aforementioned Tambor (“Transparent”), Anderson (“Black-ish”)and Ansari (“Master of None”), as well as William H. Macy (“Shameless”), and Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”).
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