Spread out over two nights this weekend, the Creative Arts Emmys are a celebration of technical and artistic achievements across a wide range of categories and genres. Covering everything from animation to stunts, casting and guest acting, there are a slew of worthy TV shows and individuals within the bumper list of nominations, most of whom who rarely get their due.
We've picked out ten nominees we hope will win, but this list only scratches the surface, with hair, makeup, and production design all on the menu (costume design is covered in-depth here). You'll be able to see highlights of the Creative Arts Emmys when they air September 21 at 8:00 PM ET on FXX.
Outstanding Animated Program: Big Mouth
Big Mouth is equal parts sweet and disturbing, capturing the wild swings and messy transitions that come with hormones and growing up. The animated series from Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, and Jennifer Flackett hit new heights in its second season with the submitted episode, “The Planned Parenthood Show.” Told in a series of vignettes, this ambitious outing explores sexuality, sexual health, and women’s reproductive rights. It even features a smoking diaphragm taking part in a Bachelor-style contraception contest. Often overlooked, Big Mouth manages to be incredibly heartfelt, timely, and a reminder of how gross (and terrifying) adolescence can be.
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program: Luke Hull (Chernobyl)
Listening to HBO's official Chernobyl podcast, it's clear that creator Craig Mazin’s attention to detail played a vital role in creating the show's atmosphere of dread. The original location was, of course, out of the question, so Luke Hull recreated the RBMK reactor in both its pre and post-explosion states, as well as the surrounding areas circa 1986. Everything from the interiors of apartments, to the atmosphere of the hospital has a distinct aesthetic, transporting the viewer back in time, while make sure there are no anachronistic distractions. Chernobyl has received a total of 19 Emmy nominations, including several Creative Arts Emmys.
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series: Alexa L. Fogel, CSA (Pose)
Casting director Alexa L. Fogel is nominated twice this year, bringing her lifetime total to 12 nominations (with three wins). She last won for True Detective in 2014, which ushered in a new era of movie stars entering the TV fray, but with Pose the emphasis is less on casting marquee names and more about launching new ones. Billy Porter is the kind of talent that should have been recognized years ago, but it took Pose to make this a reality. Since then, Indya Moore has appeared on the cover of Elle (the first trans person to do so) and Angelica Ross has been cast as a regular on American Horror Story: 1984. Being part of the Ryan Murphy acting troupe is clearly good for one's career. Not only that, but the hit FX show has the largest ensemble of trans actors to ever star in an American series. This alone deserves to be celebrated.
Outstanding Commercial: A Great Day in Hollywood (Netflix)
Inspired by the 1958 photograph by Art Kane, “A Great Day in Harlem,” featuring 57 jazz musicians posing for Esquire, Netflix borrows this concept to showcase 47 black actors, writers, showrunners, and producers. It's an effective and strong visual, featuring creatives and talent from projects including Orange Is the New Black, When They See Us, and Dear White People. The voiceover, as delivered by Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin begins, “This is a new day built from the ground broken by legends. A day for our generation to see untold experiences of our blackness, representing a limitless range of identity. Playing kings and queens of our neighborhoods.” Looking to the past, present, and future, this commercial is part of Netflix’s “Strong Black Lead” campaign.
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie: Christopher Fulton (Fosse/Verdon)
The Fosse/Verdon spotlight could easily have fallen on the incredible makeup by Debbie Zoller and her team, as the aging process impacts the entire look of an actor. However, recreating Bob Fosse’s combover, Gwen Verdon’s red curls, and Liza Minnelli’s iconic Cabaret hair to a degree that is authentic without distracting is a monumental task. Making wigs look less like a spy prop and more like natural hair isn’t easy. When you're covering multiple decades, dying and constant curling aren't the best options. When you look at Michelle Williams playing Gwen Verdon, you see Gwen, and the wig is a big part of that initial impression. Watching Fosse/Verdon feels like stepping back in time, capturing a glimpse of movies like Cabaret while they were being made, and the ‘70s hairstyles play a huge part in setting the mood.
Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie: Michelle Radow (Sharp Objects)
Emmy nominee Amy Adams doesn’t have puffy skin, but as Camille Preaker in Sharp Objects, she looks like someone who doesn’t get enough sleep, chugs vodka like it's water, and inhales cigarettes. Her lips are dry, her skin is flaky, and she has permanent bags under her eyes. Glamorous, this is not. But makeup on screen isn’t meant to be red carpet ready, as Michelle Radow proves with her work on the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects. Camille looks washed out and clammy. Meanwhile, her sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) is often the picture of adolescent dewy skin, even if she too has her moments of drug abuse and sickness. Only Adora (Patricia Clarkson) is perfectly put together all of the time, not even the humid atmosphere is going to wreck her face. Now that's a talent.
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music: Nicholas Britell (Succession)
Theme songs aren't given the respect they deserve, as streaming platforms encourage us to skip this integral element. Enter Succession, which continues HBO’s long and storied history of iconic theme songs. Nicholas Britell’s opening number has already taken its position as one of the very best. Britell was Oscar-nominated for his work with Barry Jenkins on Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, but this is his first Emmy nomination. Succession's theme is an earworm that evokes exactly the kind of privilege and power most viewers will only ever experience on TV. It's a theme that needles its way through episodes, with Britell occasionally upping the strings in order to increase emotional resonance. However, it's the balance of contemporary electronics with traditional piano in the title music that makes it so memorable, nodding to both the new and old world orders via sound.
Outstanding Music Supervision: Brienne Rose (Russian Doll)
Only in its third year, Music Supervision is a much-needed addition to the Emmy roll call. Last year’s winner Robin Urdang is nominated once again for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but it is a show that uses the same song on repeat that is the worthy recipient. Every time Nadia’s (Natasha Lyonne) day restarts in Russian Doll, “Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson accompanies her bathroom wake-up. This was written into the script by co-creator Leslye Headland, but Brienne Rose’s job is more than picking the perfect track. There are also the legalities of clearing a song, which in this case plays such a vital part in Nadia’s journey. Nilsson's tune isn't the only one that helps set the tone. Rose submitted the opening episode, which also features the wonderfully trippy “Morning After” by Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood and Light Asylum’s “Shallow Tears” as it smashes to the closing credits. The latter should encourage any viewer to click “watch credits” and avoid Netflix’s efforts to truncate everything about the TV watching experience.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Luke Kirby (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Playing a convincing drunk isn't easy. Playing a public figure who was renowned for his boozing is even harder. Luke Kirby has the tall task of playing iconic mess Lenny Bruce, alongside a cast of fictitious characters who are also performing stand up. This version of Lenny still drinks too much, but he's also a source of advice for Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) in a world she's still getting to know. In the Season 2 finale (Kirby’s submission), Lenny seeks Midge's counsel when he is at a low point, showing vulnerability while still cracking jokes. It's also impossible to ignore just how magnetic Kirby and Brosnahan are when sharing a scene, so much so that you can’t help but want this witty banter to evolve into something more. He even gets to sing in the finale, and for a brief time, it becomes The Marvelous Mr. Bruce.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Michael Angarano (This is Us)
Two elements This is Us plays on are emotions and mystery. It's a show that wants to keep you guessing and make you cry. As Jack Pearson’s (Milo Ventimiglia) younger brother Nicky, Michael Angarano was a big piece of the Season 3 puzzle. Believed to have been killed in the Vietnam War, the truth is, of course, far from what it seems. Nicky is the soldier that fell further into self-destructive despair, self-medicating with drugs as a means of escape. Except he ends up in a far worse place after the accidental death of a young Vietnamese boy. This is Angarano’s first Emmy nomination (he should have received one for The Knick) and his episode submission, “Songbird Road: Part One” showcases a man teetering on the edge of oblivion.
Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.
TOPICS: 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Amazon, FX, FXX, HBO, NBC, Netflix, Big Mouth, Chernobyl, Fosse/Verdon, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Pose, Russian Doll, Sharp Objects, Succession, This Is Us, Luke Kirby, Michael Angarano, Nick Kroll