When the Emmy Awards air Sunday, it could be a night of firsts for LGBTQ performers and producers.
In July, Mj Rodriguez became the first transgender actor nominated for an Emmy as a series lead. For three seasons, Rodriguez played Blanca, the HIV-positive mother of the drag ball House of Evangelista in the 1980s-set “Pose” from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals.
“For a long time, I didn’t feel like I was deserving of these things,” Rodriguez said of her historic nomination in an interview with Entertainment Weekly last month. “There’s so much stacked against us when we identify as trans. I had all these insecurities. I fell into my boyfriend’s arms and I just started crying. It feels like I have finally stepped into a place where people can understand me as a human being.”
In a statement, GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said Rodriguez’s nomination was “a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood and a long-overdue recognition for her groundbreaking performance over the past three seasons of ‘Pose.’”
Rodriguez’s co-stars say they’re eager for her to take the award home.
“Sis worked hard and deserves this nomination and deserves to win just as much as the other nominees who we know to bring such power to leading roles,” Angelica Ross, who played Blanca’s rival, Candy Ferocity, on “Pose,” posted on Instagram. “Her performance is profound, layered, and consistently strong throughout the entire season.”
In 2014, Laverne Cox became the first transgender person nominated for an acting Emmy, when she was up for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for her role as Sophia Burset in Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.”
“Pose,” which wrapped in June, is also up for outstanding drama series, while Rodriguez’s co-star Billy Porter, who played the acerbic emcee Pray Tell, has been nominated for the third time in the lead actor category. His win in 2019 was the first time an out Black gay man was nominated or won in a lead acting category.
Another groundbreaking nomination this year went to “Saturday Night Live” actor Bowen Yang, who is up for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series. It’s the first time a “featured player” (as opposed to a “repertory player”) from “SNL” has gotten a nod in the show’s 46 years. If he wins, he would be the second gay cast member to earn an Emmy after Kate McKinnon, who won in 2016 and 2017.
Yang is also one of the few Chinese Americans recognized by the Emmys’ governing body, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. (In 2017, out actor B.D. Wong was nominated for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for “Mr. Robot.”)
After debating whether to submit an episode in which he appeared in more sketches, Yang opted for one from April that features one of his most beloved performances — playing the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
“The whole process of owning it was so much fun,” he told Variety, crediting “SNL” head writer Anna Drezen for the character’s genesis. “It was so much about what we could get away with.”
Yang isn’t this year’s only LGBTQ nominee from “SNL”: McKinnon is up for supporting actress again, while “Schitt’s Creek” co-creator Dan Levy was nominated for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for hosting the show’s Feb. 6 episode.
Other LGBTQ nominees include Samira Wiley in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hannah Einbinder and Carl Clemons-Hopkins in “Hacks” and Jonathan Groff for his role as King George in the Disney+ movie musical of “Hamilton.”
From “The Crown,” queer nonbinary performer Emma Corrin is nominated for outstanding lead actress in a drama for her performance as Princess Diana, with bisexual actor Gillian Anderson getting a nod for her take on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
At the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony Sept. 12, the fifth season of “Queer Eye” won for outstanding structured reality program. Co-stars Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness, however, lost out to RuPaul in the best host category — the drag icon’s sixth consecutive win in the category.
The show’s behind-the-scenes spinoff, “RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked,” snatched the crown for best unstructured reality program.
If “Drag Race” picks up the Emmy for best reality competition Sunday night, RuPaul, who executive produces, will break the record for the most Emmys won by a Black artist, with a lifetime total of 11 trophies.
At the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony, RuPaul thanked the small public access station in Atlanta that gave him his first break decades ago.
“They were so kind to me to have me do my hard yards there years ago, and I want to thank them for being so kind to me and all the people in this business who’ve been kind,” he told the audience, Deadline first reported.
The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards will air live Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS and will be streamed on Paramount+.