The Emmys Are Making Two Huge Changes To Their Awards Process

Emmys Performer Documentary
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Come 2022, the Emmy Awards telecast are going seem a little different. As Variety reports, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which governs the Emmys, is implementing two changes that will make the awards a fairer and more inclusive process. The ATAS is ending a loophole that allows documentary films to be submitted for Emmy and Academy Award nominations, as well as acknowledging the outstanding talent of non-binary and gender-diverse individuals in TV. Winning talent can now ensure that their Emmy statue and certification reflect their gender identity with the “performer” label, rather than “actor” or “actress.”

“No performer category titled ‘Actor’ or ‘Actress’ has ever had a gender requirement for submissions,” said the ATAS in a statement. “Now, nominees and (or) winners in any performer category titled ‘Actor’ or ‘Actress’ may request that their nomination certificate and Emmy statuette carry the term ‘Performer’ in place of Actor or Actress.”

In other words, the Actor and Actress categories aren’t going away, the ATAS is just offering an alternative ad-hoc solution for performers outside the gender binary. Variety notes that in 2017, non-binary Billions star Asia Kate Dillon penned a letter to the ATAS, asking why “‘actor’ and ‘actress’ denote anatomy or identity and why it is necessary to denote either in the first place?” In the current iteration of the Emmys, they concluded that “there is no room for my identity within that award system binary.”

There is still discussion over whether such award categories should be separated by gender in the first place. And this is a very small step towards inclusivity, though hopefully, it will spur other awarding bodies to reconsider how they present their awards in a way that recognizes all genders.

Additionally, the Emmys will also clamp down on documentary double-dipping. Although many documentaries are feature-length films, they are sponsored and funded by TV channels, such as BBC’s Planet Earth or ESPN’s The Last Dance. The loophole allowed these films to be considered studio films and TV projects — particularly if they are shown in theaters — and thus eligible for the Emmys and Oscars. Under the new rule, documentaries submitted for Oscars consideration cannot be eligible for Emmys.