clock menu more-arrow no yes

6 Emmy milestones that show how the industry is changing

New voices are being heard, and in new ways.

69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room
Donald Glover became the first black director to win an Emmy.
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards didn’t have any shocking live-television moments — nobody fell down or gave out the wrong prize — but they did deliver when it came to setting new milestones for both the awards themselves and the television industry more broadly.

Here are six ways the 2017 Emmys set new records and milestones for awarding excellence in television. If the awards were any indication, the future of the Emmys is going to be more diverse — and less bound to traditional means of distribution.

Donald Glover becomes the first Emmy-winning black director

Glover netted two wins at the Emmys, both for the FX show Atlanta, which he created and stars in. Glover won an Emmy for his performance in the show, but also won for directing the episode “B.A.N.,” in which Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry) appears on Charlie Rose’s talk show. With that win, he became the first black director in TV history to win the category.

Besides those two categories, Glover was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy, and the show was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series. It didn’t take home either of those prizes, but the nominations themselves broke a record: Glover was the first black actor to be nominated for all of them.

Master of None’s Lena Waithe is the first black woman to win for comedy writing

69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Show
Lena Waithe accepts the award for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None alongside her co-writer Aziz Ansari.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing when the Netflix show’s episode “Thanksgiving,” which she co-wrote with series co-creator Aziz Ansari, took home the prize for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The episode is based on her experiences coming out as a lesbian to her family. And in an eminently classy move, Ansari — who won in the category last year alongside Alan Yang — stood to the side while Waithe gave her acceptance speech.

The Night Of’s Riz Ahmed is the first man of Asian descent to win for acting

In 2010, Archie Panjabi won an Emmy for her supporting actress role in The Good Wife. But Ahmed — whose parents moved to England from Pakistan before he was born — became the first man of Asian descent to win for acting. He took home the prize for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series, for his performance in the HBO drama The Night Of.

Reed Morano becomes the first woman in 22 years to win for directing

The last time a woman won an Emmy for directing, it was 1995, when Mimi Leder won for her work on ER. Morano is best known as a cinematographer, with a career that spans everything from Frozen River to Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the upcoming Joan Didion doc. But she stepped out from behind the camera to direct several episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, and won an Emmy for “Offred,” the pilot episode.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus broke records by winning again for Veep

It was quite a night for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who took home two Emmys for her work on the HBO comedy Veep: her sixth for her role as former President Selina Meyer, and her third as a producer on the series. She’s now the record holder for Emmys won for a single performance in one role, after having been tied with Candice Bergen, who received five Emmys for playing Murphy Brown.

But the wins netted Louis-Dreyfus a few other records too. She now holds a total of eight Emmys as a performer, having also won for her work on Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine, which ties her with former acting record holder Cloris Leachman. And combined with her previous work, Louis-Dreyfus now has 11 Emmys, which breaks a record previously held by Carl Reiner: She now holds the most Emmys of anyone who’s won at least one for performance.

69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Show
Julia Louis-Dreyfus accepts her sixth consecutive Emmy for playing Selina Meyer on Veep.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Hulu becomes the first streaming network to take home the Emmy for Outstanding Drama with The Handmaid’s Tale

Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix have been steadily chipping away at the hegemony that broadcast and cable networks have long held at the Emmys. Netflix nabbed a few awards for The Crown, Master of None, and Black Mirror’s “San Junipero,” but it was Hulu’s highly praised series The Handmaid’s Tale that cleaned up in a huge way.

Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, the show took home prizes for directing (Reed Morano), writing (Bruce Miller), and acting (Ann Dowd and Elisabeth Moss). But most importantly, The Handmaid’s Tale took home the award for Outstanding Dramatic Series — making Hulu the first streaming-only network to win the top prize at the Emmys. It’s a huge win for Handmaid’s, but maybe an even bigger win for Hulu, which spends about a third of what Netflix does on original content.

Article updated to reflect Riz Ahmed’s Emmy win.