We’re here. We’re queer. We’re the best thing on television!
by Donalevan Maines
Laverne Cox could make history this month as the first transgender Emmy Award winner, for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black. The Time magazine cover girl is the very model of “what’s possible” at this year’s TV kudofest. The 2014 ceremony is practically The Gay Emmys, anyway—just about every category boasts a gay nominee and/or gay role in a show that spotlights various aspects of gay American life.
Game of Thrones, with its assortment of sexual provocations, leads the field with 18 nominations including Best Drama Series.
Among other LGBT frontrunners are Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons—and they’re just the ones from Houston.
Parsons hopes to repeat as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, but he’s also one of four finalists from The Normal Heart for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. He played Southern queen Tommy Boatwright opposite fellow nominees Joe Mantello as Mickey Marcus, Alfred Molina as Ben Weeks, and Bomer, who was a revelation as Felix Turner. As Turner’s lover Ned Weeks, Mark Ruffalo is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. Ruffalo was a 2010 Oscar contender as Paul in The Kids Are Alright.
His character in Heart is based on gay activist/writer Larry Kramer, whose adaptation of his hard-hitting 1985 play The Normal Heart is one of the TV movie’s 16 nominations, which include a best-director nod to out director Ryan Murphy.
Murphy’s American Horror Story: Coven tied last year’s haul of 17 nominations for Asylum with a bid for out actress Sarah Paulson and perennial awards-magnet Jessica Lange in the race for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
Co-stars Angela Bassett, Frances Conroy, and Kathy Bates (who plays gay in the current film Tammy) duke it out in the supporting-actress category with Oscar winners Julia Roberts as Dr. Emma Brookner in The Normal Heart and Ellen Burstyn as Olivia in Flowers in the Attic—along with my favorite, Sugar Land’s own Allison Tolman as Deputy Molly Solverson on FX’s Fargo.
Burstyn won last year as the grandmother of a gay man in Political Animals, which was created by openly gay Greg Berlanti. This is Tolman’s first major role, having played the butch stage manager in Logo’s Sordid Lives: The Series. Her three-episode arc saw Ty (Jason Dottley) making his acting debut in a nudie gay play at a small theater in Los Angeles.
Orange Is the New Black might like to parlay its whopping 12 nominations to derail Modern Family as Outstanding Comedy Series, but, seriously, how will it compete against Cam and Mitchell’s “gay wedding of the year”? For planning The Big Day, can anyone top out actor Nathan Lane’s Pepper Saltzman, nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series? As Mitchell Pritchett, out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson is up for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy along with Andre Braugher as gay cop Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, while breakout (and out) comedienne Kate McKinnon is nominated on the distaff side for playing various characters on Saturday Night Live including her impersonation of America’s favorite lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres.
In Orange Is the New Black, Cox is a nominee for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series as an inmate who doubles as a hairdresser in a women’s prison. She faces co-stars Natasha Lyone as Nicky Nichols and Uzo Aduba as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, Saturday Night Live guest-hosts Tina Fey and Melissa McCarthy, and Joan Cusack as Sheila Jackson on Shameless. (Cusack won an Academy Award nomination as the fiancée that Kevin Kline left at the altar in the 1987 hit comedy In & Out, after Kline’s character was outed in a Oscar telecast.) Taylor Schilling (the show’s stand-in for bisexual Piper Kerman, author of the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison) is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Two of Orange’s writers, Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan, compete against life partners David Crane and Jeffrey Kalick (Episodes) for the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.
In the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series category, out director Paris Barclay (nominated for Glee) squares off against Jodie Foster (nominated for Orange Is the New Black). Foster is a two-time winner of Best Actress at the Academy Awards.
In addition to the aforementioned LGBT bumper crop, nominee Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood in House of Cards has sex with both men and women, although he’s never identified as gay or bisexual. Former Montrose resident and out stage director Michael Wilson helmed The Trip to Bountiful, the Lifetime movie version of Horton Foote’s 1953 teleplay. It became a Broadway hit in 1954, Geraldine Page’s Oscar-winning vehicle in 1985, and winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for Cicely Tyson, who’s an Emmy nominee for recreating the role opposite Vanessa Williams.
Project Runway, with its slew of gay contestants and judges, vies for Outstanding Reality Competition Program, and out fashion guru Tim Gunn pairs with Heidi Klum against out actress Jane Lynch (Hollywood Game Night) for top TV host.
Lynch is also cited for narrating Penguins: Waddle All the Way in a category that includes comedian Whoopi Goldberg for her look back at pioneering lesbian comic Moms Mabley. That HBO show, Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley, was also nominated for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
In the category of Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Beau Bridges scored as a closeted professor hell-bent on changing his sexual orientation in Showtime’s Masters of Sex. Allison Janney, who plays his repressed ’50s wife, is nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
Flipping Out, which stars out designer Jeff Lewis, is a nominee for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program.
What:The 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards is to be televised live from the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Hosting for the first time is Seth Meyers.
When: Monday, August 25, 7 p.m.
Donalevan Maines also writes about Kelly Lauren in this issue of OutSmart.