For the first time, the Emmys nominated three Black men in Best Drama Supporting Actor in the same year. Giancarlo Esposito (“The Mandalorian”), O-T Fagbenle (“The Handmaid’s Tale“) and Michael K. Williams (“Lovecraft Country”) all made the eight-man field on Tuesday, which means there are three chances for the Emmys to finally award the first Black winner in the category.
Best Drama Supporting Actor, which was formally established in 1970, has the dubious distinction of being the only acting category left without a Black champ — even the short form acting categories, which were created in 2016, have awarded Black performers. Best Drama Actress was another long-running acting category without a Black winner, but it got that monkey off its back when Viola Davis made history in 2015 with “How to Get Away with Murder.” Zendaya joined her last year with her victory for “Euphoria.”
Counting this year’s bids for Esposito, Fagbenle and Williams, 13 Black actors have received 23 nominations between them in drama supporting actor. Until now, there had never been more than two Black nominees in one year, which has happened three times previously, including last year. Of the three, Esposito is the only who’s been nominated in this category before. He received his first one in 2012 for “Breaking Bad” and then was shortlisted in 2019 and 2020 for “Better Call Saul.” His bid for “The Mandalorian,” for which he was nominated in guest actor last year, makes him the second person to be nominated in this category for three different shows after his “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” co-star Jonathan Banks.
SEE Giancarlo Esposito’s ‘Mandalorian’ Emmy nomination puts him in a very exclusive club with Jonathan Banks
Fagbenle is a first-time Emmy nominee, while Williams is on his fourth career nomination following three mentions in the limited/TV movie supporting actor category for “Bessie” (2015), “The Night Of” (2016) and “When They See Us” (2019).
Esposito and Williams were predicted to make the cut this year, with the former, who won the Critics Choice Award, in in first place, but Fagbenle was in 10th place. However, “The Handmaid’s Tale” returned with a vengeance, amassing 21 nominations for its fourth season, 10 of which are for acting. The show basically took over the supporting categories, producing four nominees in actress and three in actor (Bradley Whitford and Max Minghella are nominated alongside Fagbenle).
Best Drama Supporting Actor is one of the few categories that doesn’t feel like a sure thing for series frontrunner “The Crown,” which only has Tobias Menzies nominated here. He could easily get swept up in the “Crown” love, but the openness of the race bodes well for all the nominees. In the early winner odds, Williams is in first place. The “Wire” alum is also helped by the fact that “Lovecraft Country,” which was canceled by HBO after voting closed, grabbed 18 nominations and he’s someone whom many feel ought to be a winner already. Will that be enough for him to make Emmy history?
Esposito is fourth place, behind also Whitford and Menzies, and Fagbenle is in sixth, with John Lithgow (“Perry Mason”) in between him and Esposito. Chris Sullivan (“This Is Us”) is in seventh and Minghella is in eighth.
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