Leslie Jones is the first African American woman from the “Saturday Night Live” cast to earn an Emmy nomination with her bid for Best Comedy Supporting Actress. Should she prevail on Sunday, she will be just the second black winner, following a victory by Jackée Harry (“227”) way back in 1987.
Marla Gibbs was the first African American actress to break this barrier, reaping five consecutive bids for her scene-stealing role as Florence on “The Jefferson” beginning in 1981. Paula Kelly (“Night Court”) scored a single nomination in 1984 overlapping with Gibbs. In 1986, Keisha Knight Pullam (“The Cosby Show”) made history as the youngest nominee ever at just six-years-old and was joined by her co-star Lisa Bonet.
Harry lost her bid the following year and the category would then go almost two decades without a black contender until Emmy darling Alfre Woodard reaped a bid for her one season on “Desperate Housewives” in 2006. Vanessa Williams (“Ugly Betty”) scored three consecutive nominations from 2007-2009. And Niecy Nash (“Getting On”) was nominated in both 2015 and last year.
For Jones to win she’ll have to get past two of her ““SNL” castmates: last year’s winner Kate McKinnon and for her last season Vanessa Bayer. This trio of talents could easily cancel each other out. In 2009, “SNL” players Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig scored Best Comedy Supporting Actress nominations but lost to Kristen Chenoweth (“Pushing Daisies”). While Poehler and Wiig competed under a panel vote with a ranked ballot, McKinnon, Bayer and Jones contend under a plurality vote, which was introduced last year.
Of the three “Saturday Night Live” nominees, McKinnon is the favorite in our Emmy predictions having won last year. Her profile was heightened even further this season as she impersonated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and many members of Donald Trump’s Cabinet. At the end of 2016, McKinnon even won the Critics Choice Award for Best Comedy Actress over five-time Emmy champ Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”).
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