Darren Criss (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace”), Aidy Bryant (“Saturday Night Live”) and Kenan Thompson (“SNL”) earned their first Emmy nominations for acting this year, but these aren’t their first nominations overall. All three of them recently contended for songwriting. And they’re far from the only ones who have crossed the threshold between music and other fields at the Emmys. Far from it.
Criss rose to fame as an actor on “Glee” before earning his first acting nomination, Best Movie/Mini Actor for playing killer Andrew Cunanan in the limited series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” But “Glee” is what brought him his very first Emmy recognition. He earned a nom for Best Music and Lyrics in 2015 for writing the song “This Time” from the series finale episode “Dreams Come True.” But he lost that prize to Kyle Dunnigan and Jim Roach, who wrote “Girl You Don’t Need Makeup” for “Inside Amy Schumer.”
Bryant was a surprise nominee for Best Comedy Supporting Actress this year for playing various characters as a cast member on “SNL,” but this is her second time around the Emmy block too. She was nominated in 2014 for penning the comic Christmas song “Home for the Holiday (Twin Bed),” which she shared with co-writers Eli Brueggemann, Chris Kelly, Sarah Schneider and Bryant’s Comedy Supporting Actress rival Kate McKinnon. Alas, they lost to Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda for “Bigger!” from the 67th Annual Tony Awards telecast. But if you have to lose a songwriting award to anyone, it may as well be Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Despite an unprecedented 15 years as a full-time cast member on “SNL,” Thompson hadn’t earned an Emmy acting nomination until this year: he’s up for Best Comedy Supporting Actor. But his first bid was actually last year when he, Brueggemann, Chance the Rapper and Will Stephen contended for their song “Last Christmas” from “SNL.” They didn’t win, though. The academy went with Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins for “Letter to the Free” from the Netflix documentary “13th.”
Criss, Bryant and Thompson aren’t the only past songwriting contenders who are in the running in other categories this year. For instance, the aforementioned Lin-Manuel Miranda is nominated this year for his guest spot on HBO’s comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Tina Fey is an Emmy staple thanks to her work on “SNL,” “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” She’s currently nominated for Comedy Guest Actress for “SNL” and Comedy Series for “Kimmy Schmidt,” and among her many previous plaudits she previously earned a nom for writing the song “Rural Juror” from the “30 Rock” finale in 2013.
Seth Meyers and John Mulaney are both nominees for writing this year: Meyers for Best Variety Series Writing (“Late Night”) and Mulaney for Best Variety Special Writing (“Kid Gorgeous at Radio City”). But they previously shared a Best Music and Lyrics win for co-writing “Justin Timberlake Monologue” for “SNL” in 2011.
Sarah Silverman is a current nominee for Best Variety Sketch Series for “I Love You, America,” but a previous winner for “I’m F*cking Matt Damon” from “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in 2008.
Seth MacFarlane is a two-time nominee for Best Character Voice-Over Performance this year for both “American Dad” and “Family Guy.” He has been nominated three times for songwriting for “Family Guy,” winning in 2002 for “You’ve Got a Lot to See.”
Even David Lynch has made beautiful music for Emmy voters. He was nominated with composer Angelo Badalamenti for the song “Into the Night” from the first season of “Twin Peaks” back in 1990. Now he’s up for Best Movie/Mini Writing and Best Movie/Mini Directing for the 2017 Showtime revival.
So at the Emmys it pays for actors, writers, and directors of all stripes to flex their musical muscles with an original song. Now Criss, Bryant, and Thompson could graduate from nominated songwriters to winning actors.
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