EMMYS 2022

Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Reaction to Her Emmy Nom Is 50 Years in the Making

Sheryl Lee Ralph wearing an orange dress and grinning
Courtesy of Jeremy David

No one is having a better day than Sheryl Lee Ralph. On Tuesday, the beloved veteran actor answered the phone to discover that she’d just marked a career milestone: her first nomination for an Emmy Award. She’s nominated in the Comedy Supporting Actress category for her standout performance as Barbara Howard, the only competent teacher at a poorly funded Philadelphia school in Quinta Brunson’s ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary. (Kate McKinnon, Hannah Einbinder, Alex Borstein, Juno Temple, Hannah Waddingham, and Ralph’s Abbott Elementary costar Janelle James round out the category.)

The news comes nearly 50 years into a career that she began pursuing in her teens and lead to her breakout moment in the first Broadway run of Dreamgirls back in 1981. She earned further mainstream acclaim for her roles in Moesha and Sister Act 2. And yet, she’s barely been officially recognized for her talents along the way; the last time she got such a prominent nod was a Tony nomination for Dreamgirls. Naturally, Ralph was thrilled to learn that she’s received the “delicious honor” of an Emmy nom. And fortunately, her son, Etienne Maurice, was there to document the moment she found out. The one-minute, nine-second video he shared on Twitter finds Ralph in joyous shock, clutching her chest, spinning in circles, and frantically waving her hand.

Upon Abbott Elementary’s premiere on ABC late last year, reviewers quickly came to a consensus that Brunson had singlehandedly reinvigorated the network sitcom. Naturally, then, the show’s star and creator also started off her Tuesday with some good news. Brunson has been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series; what’s more, Abbott Elementary is up for Outstanding Comedy Series. No wonder it’s been renewed for a season 2.