A quartet of Black Jewish actresses earned nods, along with HBO’s adaptation of the play “Oslo,” about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The Primetime Emmy Awards, for excellence in original broadcast and streaming programs, will be presented on Sept. 19 (CBS; 8PM). Years ago, some Primetime categories, like technical awards (sound, etc.), and guest acting roles, were moved to the separate Creative Arts ceremony.
Here are verified Jewish Emmy nominees in categories that will be presented in the “main” ceremony.
Lead actor, comedy series: MICHAEL DOUGLAS, 76, “The Kominsky Method”; Lead actress, comedy series: TRACEE ELLIS, 48, “Blackish”; Lead actress, drama series: JURNEE SMOLLETT, 34, “Lovecraft Country” Supporting actor, comedy: BRETT GOLDSTEIN, 40, “Ted Lasso” AND PAUL REISER, 65, “Kominsky”; Supporting actress, comedy: HANNAH EINBINDER, 26, “Hacks”; Lead actor, limited series/TV movie: DAVEED DIGGS, 39, “Hamilton”.
Best Series (Comedy and Drama)
All but two of the following persons are “best series” Emmy nominees, but I also note (see asterisk) two Jewish writers who aren’t Emmy nominees, but wrote books or films a nominated series was based on.
Comedy series: ““Emily in Paris” created by DARREN STAR, 60; AND “Kominsky”, created by CHUCK LORRE, 68; AND “Pen15”, co-created by SAM ZVIBLEMAN, 38; and “Cobra Kai”. The Cobra Kai series was created for TV by HAYDEN SCHLOSSBERG and JON HURWITZ, both 43. It is based on the “Karate Kid” films written by ROBERT MARK KAMEN*, 73.
Drama series: “Boys”, developed for TV by ERIC KRIPKE, 46; AND “The Crown”, created by PETER MORGAN; 58; and “The Mandolorian”, created by JON FAVEAU, 54; AND “Pose”, co-created by BRAD FALCHUK, 50; AND “This is Us”, created by DAN FOGELMAN, 45; AND Bridgerton”, based on novels by JULIA QUINN*, 51.
Best Limited series: “The Queen’s Gambit”, created by SCOTT FRANK, 60; AND “WandaVision”, created by (Ms.) JAC SCHAEFFER, 42.
Directing/Writing: Comedy series, Drama series, Limited series (these Emmys cite a specific episode, which I have omitted)
Comedy: JAMES BURROWS ,80,”B Positive”, AND ZACH BRAFF,46, “Ted Lasso”; AND SUSANNA FOGEL, 40, “The Flight Attendant”, Drama: LIZ GARBUS, 51, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; AND Jon Favreau, “The Mandalorian”, Limited series/TV movie: THOMAS KAIL, 43, “Hamilton”; AND Scott Frank, “The Queen’s Gambit”; AND MATT SHAKMAN, 43, “WandaVision”.
Drama: Peter Morgan, “The Crown”; AND Jon Favreau, “The Mandalorian”; AND Brad Falchuk (co-writer), “Pose”; Limited Series/TV movie: Scott Frank, “The Queen’s Gambit”, AND Jac Schaeffer, “WandaVision”.
Creative Arts Corner
The Creative Arts Primetime Emmy awards were presented on Sept.11-12 and the ceremony will be aired on FXX on Sept. 18. Here are the guest role Jewish acting nominees: Comedy series, actor: DAN LEVY, “SNL”; actress: MAYA RUDOLPH, “SNL”, Drama series: SOPHIE OKONEDO, 53, “Ratched”.
Other “Creatives” Worth Noting: Best Voice-Over Performance: JESSICA WALTER (1941-2021), “Archer”; Outstanding TV Movie: “Oslo”, about the 1993 Israel/Palestine peace talks; Best Animated Series: “Primal”; created, directed, and written by GENADY TARTAKOVSKY, 51; AND “Big Mouth”, co-created by NICK KROLL, 43, ANDREW GOLDBERG, 43, and MARK LEVIN, 53.
More Info on Some Nominees
As usual, almost all nominees are American. But there is a sprinkling of “tribe members” from other places. Dan Levy, like his famous father, EUGENE LEVY, 74, is a Canadian.
Genady Tartakovsky was born in Russia, but moved to the States when he was 7 years old. His parents had good jobs in the former Soviet Union. His father was a top dentist whose patients included the Soviet hockey team. His mother was an assistant principal. But, like so many others, they feared the effect of growing anti-Semitism on their children and came to America.
Peter Morgan (“The Crown”), is a Brit, as are Sophie Okonedo (“Ratched”) Brett Goldstein (‘Ted Lasso”) and Sophie Okonedo (“Ratched”).
Goldstein was born into a middle-class London Jewish family and had his bar mitzvah at the Wimbledon synagogue. He long had a “middling” career: he did stand-up, wrote for comedy shows, and he had a 2015 Brit hit with “SuperBob”, a low-budget comedy flick he starred in and wrote. He was supposed to be “just” a “Ted Lasso” writer, but fate intervened and he was cast in a big role. Well, “Ted Lasso” became a huge, surprise ratings and critical hit and Goldstein is now pretty famous.
Okonedo is not “just” a Brit, she is one of five “Jews of color” to be Emmy-nominated this year. All have a black, non-Jewish parent and a white, Jewish parent. Each one of these nominees has a somewhat different story in terms of their relationship to their “Jewish side.” Okenedo was raised by her (white) English Jewish mother and by her Yiddish-speaking grandparents. She was brought up Jewish and heralds both her “sides”. She once said, “I feel as proud to be Jewish as I feel to be black”.
“Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs has a similar story. He was raised in Berkeley by a black father and a white Jewish mother. From an early age, he said, he was comfortable with both his race and religious backgrounds and saw little conflict between them. This is reflected in a great Hanukkah video he created for Disney in 2020—it featured child actors of apparent inter-racial background celebrating Hanukkah. Its obvious Diggs has some formal Jewish religious background, but he hasn’t provided details in interviews.
Maya Rudolph, the former “SNL” star, was a guest (2016) on the PBS family history show “Finding Your Roots”. The episode revealed that her white Jewish father, DICK RUDOLPH, a music producer/songwriter, came from an Orthodox family with an interesting history. However, he was estranged from his family and he never told Maya much about his background. It was clear that the actress was surprised by the history of her “Jewish side” and sad that it was withheld from her. Her mother, African-American singer Minnie Riperton, died when she was just 8.
Tracee Elllis Ross (“Black-Ish”) is the daughter of Diana Ross, the famous African-American singer, and ROBERT ELLIS SILBERSTEIN, 75, a music business manager. In a 2015 interview, she said her father wasn’t a practicing Jew and December holidays were celebrated with a Christmas tree and a menorah. One Jewish highlight was a trip to Israel with her parents when she was in her early ‘20s. She said she feels comfortable with both identities. She’s never been married or had children, so religion has not been an “at-home” issue for her.
By the way, it’s not a surprise that Rudolph and Ross are the children of showbiz couples. Entertainment was/is a field historically much more “open” to these groups. So, Jewish and black folks met, and sometimes married.
Jurnee Smollett (“Lovecraft Country”) is the child of a white, Jewish father and a black mother. She represents a not-uncommon story in the history of marriages between American Jews and African-Americans. Dating back to the 1920s, Jews and blacks formed the backbone of activists for leftist/liberal causes like civil rights and “a better world” free of hate and discrimination. There is a long history of Jewish and black activists marrying.
Smollett’s parents were civil rights activists when they met in the early ‘60s and, according to the actress, they remain activists. Their six children, including Journee, have been active in social justice causes. My sense is that the family has always been secular.
Finally, I have to sing a song of praise for Scott Frank, who should be much more of a household name than he is. He created, directed and wrote the Emmy-nominated “Godless” (2017), a feminist Western. It was a big hit and easily the best Western series in the last decade. This year, he wrote and directed “The Queen’s Gambit”. This drama about a woman chess player was a critical hit, and, amazingly, a huge ratings hit. Frank is a shining talent and that talent should be rewarded with Emmy wins and more public acclaim.