LOS ANGELES, USA. September 23, 2019: Quinta Brunson at the HBO post-Emmy Party at the Pacific Design Centre. Picture: Paul Smith/Featureflash (Shutterstock)
By Variety and Michelle Garcia, NBC News
Quinta Brunson has made Emmy history with “Abbott Elementary.”
Landing three nominations for outstanding comedy series, lead actress in a comedy and writing for a comedy series (for the “Pilot”), she is the first Black woman to earn three nominations in the comedy categories in the same year. At 32, Brunson is also the youngest Black woman ever nominated in the comedy acting category.
Brunson tweeted she was “still speechless” after hearing about the nominations and congratulated the rest of the cast and crew of the show Tuesday morning.
Crying shaking and throwing up has new meaning to me because I real life did all three.
Still speechless. Congrats to the entire staff and cast of Abbott Elementary. And I want to share this moment with all of the people who watch and love the show. Emmy nominated, baby!
— quinta brunson (@quintabrunson) July 12, 2022
In the ABC sitcom set in Brunson’s hometown of Philadelphia, the actress plays Janine Teagues, a hopeful and determined elementary school teacher in a beleaguered, underfunded school.
In addition to Brunson’s nominations, both Sheryl Lee Ralph, who plays the stern and capable Barbara Howard, and Janelle James, who plays delightfully shady principal Ava Coleman, are nominated for supporting actress in a comedy series. Tyler James Williams, who plays the reluctant classroom teacher Gregory Eddie, is nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy. The show has also earned an Emmy nomination for its casting.
Both lead actress in a comedy and writing for a comedy series have only had one Black woman winner each in the Emmys’ 74-year history — Isabel Sanford won in 1981 for her iconic role as Louise in CBS’ “The Jeffersons” and Lena Waithe, alongside co-writer Aziz Ansari, in 2017 for Netflix’s “Master of None.”
In 2020, we saw history made with the first two Black women nominated for both comedy series (as producers) and lead actress in a comedy — Issa Rae for HBO’s “Insecure” and Tracee Ellis Ross for ABC’s “Black-ish.” (Rae was nominated again for lead actress this year.)
The inclusion of Black creatives has been trending upward, but there’s a long way to go. Despite the past two years delivering two comedy series with Black producers recognized (2021 with “Black-ish” and “Cobra Kai” and 2020 with “Insecure” and “What We Do in the Shadows”), only one Black person has won the Emmys’ top comedy category ever — Winifred Hervey for “The Golden Girls” in 1987. “Abbott Elementary” is among the eight nominated shows for outstanding comedy series and would be the first broadcast network show to win the category since “Modern Family” in 2014.
The series is also executive produced by Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker of Delicious Non-Sequitur Productions. The series is produced by Warner Bros. Television and 20th Television, a part of Disney Television Studios.
The 74th Emmys will air on Sept. 12.