Emmys 2021: Meet 8 Asians Who Have Made History
From Sandra Oh to Riz Ahmed and Shohreh Aghdashloo, here are the Asian actors and actresses that made history at the Emmy Awards
The fact that this list can be summed up easily goes to show that Asians are still underrepresented in TV. While we've seen the most diverse Oscars roaster recently with Chloé Zhao and Youn Yuh-jung, there's still a long way to go.
With the recent Emmy Awards nominations, it's once again highlighted how little representation there is on TV. It's not for the sake of approval but for the recognition of the talented actresses, actors and creators that put their passion into the craft as well as the current and next generation, growing up to see faces that look like them on screen, knowing their stories and experiences are highlighted.
We put the spotlight on the history-making Asians at the Emmy Awards throughout the years and hope that more can be added to the list—or better, a list like this isn't needed.
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Grey's Anatomy)
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Killing Eve)
- Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Saturday Night Live)
- Outstanding Variety Special, Live (76th Gloden Globe Awards)
Sandra Oh is no stranger to making history when she gets an acting nod or takes home the award—she's the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for the lead actress in a drama series category at the Emmy Awards. But beyond that, she's also the first Asian Canadian woman to host Saturday Night Live and just the third actress of Asian descent to do so. She's also the first Asian woman to win two Golden Globes.
Oh is best known for her role as Cristina Yang on the hit medical series, Grey's Anatomy which earned her acting nomination at the Emmy Awards. But her role as Eve Polastri in the spy thriller, Killing Eve, received critical acclaim, earning her a lead actress nomination.
- Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Saturday Night Live)
Bowen Yang also made history when he officially joined the cast of Saturday Night Live after a year of being a writer. He made history again as the first Chinese American actor to be nominated for a principal acting category (not as a guest star). He's also the first featured player (a cast member who joined for two seasons) from SNL's history to be nominated for an Emmy.
- Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (The Night Of) — Won
- Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Girls)
Riz Ahmed boasts a stunning acting portfolio—the first Asian and first Muslim to win an acting Emmy for The Night Of, he followed that up as the first Muslim actor to bag a Best Actor nomination in the Oscars for Sound of Metal. Ahmed initially started off with indie films and eventually got his big break in Nightcrawler (2014).
Since then, he has appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as Jason Bourne (2016) and Rogue One (2016).
- Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Mr. Robot)
Well before BD Wong made history as the first Chinese American actor to receive an Emmy nomination as a guest actor in a drama series for Mr. Robot, he also wrote his name in history books when he won a Tony Award for his performance as Song Liling in M. Butterfly. But that's not enough—Wong is the only actor in Broadway history to receive several awards such as the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and others for the same role.
Besides his acting and theatre career, Wong has also done voiceover work as such that of Captain Li Shang from the Disney animated film, Mulan.
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Master of None)
- Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Master of None) — Won with Alan Yang
- Outstanding Director for a Comedy Series
Aziz Ansari made history as the first Indian American and Asian American to win the Golden Globe for best actor and with his Emmy win as a writer for Master of None, this made him one of the few Asian actors to win a writing award. As for his nomination as lead actor, he's the first South Asian to ever be nominated for a leading role.
Ansari is best known for his role in Parks and Recreation as Tom Haverford in addition to Master of None.
- Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (This Time — Glee)
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (The Assassination of Gianna Versace: American Crime Story) — Won
Darren Criss is perhaps most well-known for his role as Blaine Anderson in Glee, he subsequently received a nomination for writing the song, This Time, which is one of the few original songs in the series. He was then cast as Andrew Cunanan in the second season of American Crime Story where his performance earned rave reviews from critics.
He became the first Filipino American actor to win an acting award at the Emmys. The same role earned him a Golden Globe Award.
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (The Good Wife)
Beyond making history as the first-ever Asian to win an Emmy for acting for The Good Wife, Archie Panjabi has other a number of other awards to her name, including the Chopard Trophy at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. For The Good Wife, she was nominated three times and won in 2010.
Panjabi has taken on various roles both across the UK and US including Life on Mars, East Is East and Yasmin.
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (House of Saddam)
Shohreh Aghdashloo achieved acclaim for her 1977 movie, The Report, as well as Broken-hearted (1978) and subsequently took on roles in movies such as Twenty Bucks (1993), Surviving Paradise (2000) and Maryam. (2002). She eventually made history as the first Irian woman to win an Emmy award for House of Saddam and earn an Oscar nomination for House of Sand and Fog.
Aghdashloo started off as a theatre actress and then made her US film debut Guests of Hotel Astoria (1989), since then, a slew of critically acclaimed roles followed.