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This Year's Creative Arts Emmy Awards Were Surrounded By Black Excellence


The Creative Arts Emmy Awards don't usually get a lot of attention. They're given out more than a week before the big network TV awards show for mostly technical categories like hairstyling, sound editing and stunt coordination. But this year, the Creative Arts Emmys, held over two nights this weekend in Los Angeles, made all kinds of news. And here to talk about what happened is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Hi, Eric.


SHAPIRO: The comedian Kathy Griffin has called these awards the Shmemmys (ph) because they're not on network TV. They're much lower-profile. So why all of the excitement this year?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, in particular, this year's Creative Arts Emmys felt like a showcase for black excellence. I mean, for the first time, we saw black actors win every major guest acting award in drama and comedy - so Tiffany Haddish on "Saturday Night Live," Katt Williams on FX's "Atlanta," Ron Cephas Jones on NBC's "This Is Us" and Samira Wiley on Hulu's "A Handmaid's Tale." And Wiley even had a really special thank you in her acceptance speech for a special someone. Let's check it out.


SAMIRA WILEY: And my wife, Lauren Morelli, who every day shows me what real passion is for your work and every hour gives me a reason to breathe. Thank you.

DEGGANS: So Wiley's speech highlighted how diversity took many different forms among the winners. RuPaul won his third Emmy as best reality TV host in his show. "RuPaul's Drag Race" won four Emmys overall. Netflix's "Queer Eye" revival won three awards, including best structured reality program.

SHAPIRO: And another show that highlighted a very diverse cast - the NBC live production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" took home five Emmys.

DEGGANS: I know, and it made star and executive producer John Legend the first black man to hit that coveted EGOT status. He's won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards. And we've got a clip of the show, which sounds pretty cool. Let's check it out.


JOHN LEGEND: (As Jesus Christ, singing) Why should you want to know? Why are you obsessed with fighting times and fates you can't defy?

DEGGANS: Now, you can't see it, but I'm, like, boogying it in the studio.


DEGGANS: But it's a testament to the increasing diversity in television to see all this diversity in the Creative Arts Emmys. And the Emmys have gotten better at recognizing that diversity in the industry with nominations and awards.

SHAPIRO: You mentioned that John Legend became an EGOT last night. So did a couple of other people.

DEGGANS: Yeah, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who wrote the music and lyrics to the original "Jesus Christ Superstar," were executive producers on NBC's version, so they got EGOT status, too. So now we've got 15 people - just 15 people who have attained this status.

SHAPIRO: A sadder note - I saw that the late CNN host and author Anthony Bourdain was up for several awards last night.

DEGGANS: Yeah, Anthony Bourdain's CNN show "Parts Unknown" won five Emmys, which had to be a bittersweet victory for everybody who works on that show. Bourdain killed himself in June while filming an episode. And the show's already won awards like a Peabody Award for its exploration of culture and cuisine. And even the show's digital platform, "Explore Parts Unknown," won an Emmy at the Creative Arts this year.

SHAPIRO: Finally, I want to ask you about a series close to my heart that did not win. That series was called "An Emmy for Megan" - for comedy writer Megan Amram - two nominations, no love.

DEGGANS: I know. Part of me was pulling for her because it would've been just so meta. But in this case, you know, maybe the cliche really is true, and it was an honor for her just to get nominated (laughter). But in case you want to see the highlights, there's going to be a broadcast of highlights on FXX on Saturday - the FXX cable channel.

SHAPIRO: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans - thanks, Eric.

DEGGANS: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.