Emmys 2021: The Crown, Mare of Easttown off to a great start
Feel-good comedy Ted Lasso started off on a high note at Sunday's Emmy Awards, with castmates Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein earning the evening’s first honors.
An ebullient Waddingham, winner of the best supporting actress award for a comedy, said series star and producer Jason Sudeikis “changed my life with this, and more importantly my baby girl’s."
Goldstein, who won the counterpart award for supporting actor, said he had promised not to swear and either mimed or was muted for a few seconds, then called the show the “privilege and pleasure” of his life.
Gillian Anderson and Tobias Menzies of the British royal drama The Crown were honored for their supporting performances.
Anderson, who played British political leader Margaret Thatcher, used her acceptance speech to thank her manager of 20 years for her mentorship and believing in her talent before she did.
Menzies who plays Prince Philip, didn’t attend the ceremony, which included a London gathering for The Crown nominees.
Before announcing the winner in his category, presenter Kerry Washington saluted another nominee, Michael K. Williams of Lovecraft County. Williams died September 6 at age 54.
“Michael was a brilliantly talented actor and a generous human being who has left us far too soon,” Washington said.
Julianne Nicholson and Evan Peters claimed best supporting acting honors for the limited series Mare of Easttown, about crime and family dysfunction.
“The script was ‘true to the horror and beauty of ordinary people’s lives,’ particularly the lives of women,” said Nicholson. Both she and Peters saluted star Kate Winslet.
“Man, you’re good at acting. But turns out you’re good at caring for a whole production,” Nicholson said.
The show opened with a musical number that featured host Cedric the Entertainer rapping a modified version of the Biz Markie hip-hop hit Just a Friend with lyrics like “TV, you got what I need.” LL Cool J bounded from the audience as stars like Rita Wilson, Mandy Moore and more dropped verses celebrating the breadth of television.
Seth Rogen presented the first award, throwing some cold water on the celebratory vibe by noting that the Emmys were being held in a giant tent. “There’s way too many of us in this little room,” he exclaimed in what seemed to be an attempt to be funny that fell flat.
“Why is there a roof? It’s more important that we have three chandeliers than make sure we don’t kill Eugene Levy tonight. That is what has been decided.”
The show's producers promised the show will be a celebration for all. But it could be much more rewarding, even historic, for some.
That includes Netflix's drama The Crown and Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso. Each is considered a frontrunner Sunday for top series honors in their respective categories, and their casts received armloads of nominations.
More than the shows on streaming would benefit. Victories in both the best drama and comedy series categories would mark a first for streaming services and reinforce their growing dominance, to the dismay of competitors.
But the TV industry overall, including the broadcast networks that still field popular shows but are largely eclipsed at the Emmys, will be honored, say those in charge of the event airing on CBS.
“Sometimes, programs that can be called ‘niche’ walk off with the awards and a lot of people .... are going, ‘What the hell is that?’” said Ian Stewart, executive producer of the ceremony with Reginald Hudlin. “So we’ve been really mindful of that, and bring in big stars that everyone knows and loves.”
Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy, Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson (black-ish), and LL Cool J (NCIS: Los Angeles) are among the presenters.
Roughly 500 people attended the Emmys in downtown Los Angeles, with fashion standout Billy Porter sporting large wings attached to the sleeves of his black trouser look and Sudeikis walked the red carpet in a velvet suit of soft blue.
The producers' ultimate goal is a ceremony that is upbeat and acknowledges how much TV's importance grew during the pandemic and its lockdowns.
The top nominees include the British royal drama The Crown and the Star Wars-universe derived The Mandalorian, which received a leading 24 nominations each.
On the comedy side, the feel-good comedy Ted Lasso is competing with black-ish; Cobra Kai; Emily in Paris; Hacks; The Flight Attendant; The Kominsky Method and PEN15.
Other drama series contenders include past winner The Handmaid’s Tale and Lovecraft Country, which was canceled after a single season but yielded nods for cast members Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Aunjanue Ellis and Williams.
They're part of a diverse field of nominees. Of the 96 acting nods for drama, comedy and miniseries, nearly 44% — a total of 42 nominations — went to people of color. Their rise echoes the change in the U.S. population, with the number of people who identify as white shrinking for the first time in census history.