With a Lead-Actress Emmy Nomination, Sandra Oh Just Made History

On Thursday morning, the Television Academy announced its nominees for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards. As usual, snubs and surprises abound—but one nomination in particular stands out as historic. Sandra Ohs nomination for lead actress in a drama represents the first time an Asian woman has ever been given the opportunity to compete in that category.

This is not the first time Oh has received praise from the Academy; during her time on Greys Anatomy, the actress received five supporting-actress nominations, although she never won. (The only actress to win a major Emmy for her performance on the show was, ironically enough, Katherine Heigl.) But this nomination matters for a much bigger reason: Asian actors have historically received shockingly little recognition at awards shows generally, but especially at the Emmys. In fact, only two Asian actors have ever taken home gold statuettes: Archie Panjabi was the first in 2010, when she won for supporting actress in The Good Wife. And last year, Riz Ahmed became the second, when he received lead-actor recognition for his stellar turn in HBOs The Night Of.

Of course, Asian representation and awards recognition—especially East-Asian representation—isnt scarce only at the Emmys. Within TV and Hollywood more broadly, Asian actors remain heavily marginalized, as parts designed for Asian characters continue to be whitewashed on the screen. Even when Asian actors do land roles, receiving equal treatment to their white counterparts can still be an uphill battle. Last year, both Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park left CBSs Hawaii Five-0 after the network reportedly refused to raise their salaries to match their white co-stars. And while Ohs nomination doesnt negate that history, its certainly a step forward.

Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.

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