Oprah Winfrey (‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’): Why did the Emmys snub her for acting?

Oprah Winfrey used to be an Emmy darling for her daytime talk show. She won so many awards as host and producer of her popular talk show that she eventually decided enough was enough and so she stopped submitting herself for consideration so other people could win. Winfrey seemed to make it clear when she ended her talk show that acting was what she hoped to do with her career as she went forward in her life. She has met with mixed results in this so far. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” seemed designed to delight Emmy voters. It was a socially conscious TV movie which aired on HBO and gave Winfrey a juicy role to play as the title character. Those elements usually spell Emmy glory but the TV movie only received one nomination (as Best TV Movie) and Winfrey herself was noticeably snubbed for Best Movie/Mini Actress.

Granted Winfrey faced extremely tough competition what with the Oscar winners from “Feud” (Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon) and “Big Little Lies” (Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon) filling out the category. The remaining two slots went to Carrie Coon of “Fargo” (which wasn’t a big surprise given the show’s popularity with Emmy voters and the large number of acting nominations the show has received over the years) and Felicity Huffman‘s third nom for “American Crime.”

Huffman’s beating out Winfrey for a nomination is the surprise here. Although Huffman is an Emmy vet and was nominated for the first two seasons of “American Crime,” her role was greatly reduced in size this season and the show itself was cancelled. Emmys voters don’t usually feel the need to honor shows that have been given the ax by their networks.

Winfrey was in a similar situation in 2013 when she received a number of precursor nominations for her supporting turn in the film “The Butler” but then failed to make the final five on Oscar nomination day. Ironically her place that time was probably taken by her personal friend and frequent talk show guest Julia Roberts (“August: Osage County”) who was nominated in supporting for a clearly leading role in one of the recent cases of category fraud which seem to plague that particular Oscar category.

SEE 2017 Emmy nominations list: All the nominees

Winfrey also has had some trouble seeing her proposed acting projects come to fruition. A film set behind the scenes of a home shopping channel and starring Winfrey, Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock never made it into production and a Broadway revival of the play “Night, Mother” which Winfrey was to star in with multiple Tony winning actress Audra McDonald never got off the ground either, with Winfrey saying she found the play too depressing to do eight shows a week.

While Oprah Winfrey isn’t exactly a person one needs to feel sorry for considering her legendary television success, it is interesting to note how the acting business has presented such hurdles for a woman who received an Oscar nomination for “The Color Purple” which was the first time she even tried to act.

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