Canadian Sandra Oh makes history with Emmy nomination

Ottawa native Sandra Oh made history Thursday as the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Emmy Award for lead actress in a drama series, a category that includes another Canadian: Tatiana Maslany.

Tatiana Maslany, also Canadian, is nominated alongside Oh for playing multiple clones on Orphan Black

Ottawa's Sandra Oh is one of two Canadians nominated for best actress in a drama series. She portrayed a secret service operative on BBC America's Killing Eve. (Jordan Strauss/BBC America/Invision/Associated Press)

Ottawa native Sandra Oh made history Thursday as the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Emmy Award for lead actress in a drama series, a category that includes another Canadian — Tatiana Maslany.

Oh, 46, is a contender for playing an MI5 operative hunting down a female assassin on BBC America's Killing Eve, which debuts in Canada on July 22 on Bravo.

She was previously nominated for five Emmys for her supporting role in the medical drama Grey's Anatomy, in which she endeared herself to audiences with her portrayal of steely perfectionist Dr. Cristina Yang for 10 seasons.

I think my mother at this moment may actually be satisfied.- Sandra Oh, Emmy-nominated Canadian actor

In a written statement, Oh said she feels "tremendous gratitude and joy with this nomination. I am thrilled for [creator] Phoebe Waller Bridge's nomination and for the entire cast/crew of Killing Eve. I share this moment with my community.

"P.S. I think my mother at this moment may actually be satisfied."

In a recent phone interview from London, where she's shooting season two of Killing Eve, Oh said, "I love the style, I love the genre of thriller."

"I love playing a character that is able to express an entire range and an entire rainbow of, not only emotions, but depth in characteristics and qualities."

A study of the 2015-16 season released last year concluded that characters of Asian or Pacific Islander descent remain underrepresented on television, even on shows set in major cities.

Meanwhile, Regina-born Maslany is in the running for playing multiple clones on the fifth and final season of the sci-fi series Orphan Black, which wrapped last August on Space. She won the Emmy in the same category in 2016 and was nominated in 2014.

Maslany is now starring in the off-Broadway Tracy Letts play Mary Page Marlowe, which began previews on June 19 and was set to open Thursday.

In a statement, she said her nomination was "completely unexpected." She paid homage to the show's fan base as well as her fellow contenders, who also include Claire Foy for The Crown, Keri Russell for The Americans, Elisabeth Moss for The Handmaid's Tale, and Evan Rachel Wood for Westworld.

"So excited to be sharing the category with all these amazing women," Maslany said.

"So happy Sandra Oh's phenomenal work is being recognized!!"

Game of Thrones snags most nominations

Game of Thrones roared back onto the Emmy battlefield, topping Thursday's nominations with 22 nods. HBO's fantasy saga is a two-time best drama winner that sat out last year's Emmy Awards because of production delays.

It's returning to face formidable competition: The Handmaid's Tale, the dystopian sci-fi series that claimed top drama honours last year, drew 20 bids, with Westworld close by with 21.
This image released by HBO shows a scene from Game of Thrones. The program received 22 Emmy nominations Thursday. (HBO/Associated Press)

The nominations for the 70th Primetime Emmys held a clear sign of how much the ground is shifting under the TV industry. Streaming service Netflix captured the most nominations overall, 112, taking away a title that HBO held since 2001 and giving broadcast TV more reason to fear its future in awards and viewers.

HBO claimed 108 bids.

Game of Thrones helped boost the premium cable service's total and became the most-nominated series of all time, with its 129 nods topping the 124 nominations earned by ER.

Donald Glover's Atlanta is the top comedy with 16 bids. It will face newcomers including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry, starring Bill Hader.

The newbie comedies aced out long-time Emmy favourite Modern Family, a five-time winner and perennial nominee since it debuted in 2009 on ABC. Its absence leaves just one network contender for best comedy, ABC's Black-ish, which also earned nods for Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, who noted his urban California roots.

"Being a kid from Compton, one could only dream of moments like this, so it's truly a humbling experience right now," Anderson said.

The short-lived reboot of Roseanne, cancelled because of star Roseanne Barr's racist tweet, drew only one major nomination — a supporting actress nod for Laurie Metcalf.

Another revival, Will & Grace, got Emmy love for nominees Megan Mullally and Molly Shannon but the main stars and series itself were snubbed.

Saturday Night Live, riding high with its relentless pillorying of the Trump administration, was rewarded with 21 nominations.

The previous high for Game of Thrones was 24 nominations in 2015. It got 23 nods in 2016 but wasn't eligible last year because of a production delay.

Ryan Eggold (left) and Samira Wiley speak at the 70th Primetime Emmy nominations announcements on Thursday in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzell/Associated Press)
The Emmys ceremony airs Sept. 17 on NBC with Colin Jost and Michael Che of Saturday Night Live as hosts.

Actors Samira Wiley of  The Handmaid's Tale and Ryan Eggold, who starred in  The Blacklist, read this year's nominees.

The nominees for best drama series include:

  • The Americans.
  • The Crown.
  • Game of Thrones.
  • The Handmaid's Tale.
  • Stranger Things.
  • This Is Us.
  • Westworld.

The nominees for best comedy series include:

  • Atlanta.
  • Barry.
  • Black-ish.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  • Glow.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
  • Silicon Valley.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, hosted by the titular Toronto-born comedian, also received a nod for Outstanding Variety Talk Series.

The nominees for best actor in a drama series include: Jason Bateman, Ozark; Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us; Ed Harris, Westworld; Matthew Rhys, The Americans; Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us and Jeffrey Wright, Westworld.

Canadian director Kari Skogland, seen at a press conference for the film Fifty Dead Men Walking Sept. 10, 2008 in Toronto, received a best directing Emmy nominee for her work on The Handmaid's Tale. (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)

Other Canadian nominations

Other Canadian Emmy nominees this year include Ottawa-born Kari Skogland for best directing in a drama series on the second season of The Handmaid's Tale.

Inspired by Toronto author Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel, the Canadian-shot Bravo and Hulu series has struck a chord in the #MeToo era with its focus on women's role in society.

"When you're working on a project that is really resonating around the world, I think you feel the power of that," Skogland said by phone Thursday from Toronto.

"And you're also very humbled by being involved with something that is making such a strong statement in such a powerful way."

This is the first Emmy nomination for Skogland, whose previous projects include Boardwalk Empire, The Borgias and Vikings. Her competition includes Toronto native Jeremy Podeswa and Ottawa-raised Alan Taylor for HBO's Game Of Thrones.

Earlier this year Skogland won a BAFTA trophy for directing on season 1 of The Handmaid's Tale. She said the show, along with the #MeToo movement, have helped take her career to a new level.

"Until the #MeToo movement, I would say I arm-wrestled my way into every project to get noticed," Skogland said.

Several other Canadians who worked on The Handmaid's Tale also scored Emmy nods for makeup, sound mixing and visual effects.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, hosted by the titular Toronto-born comedian, got a nod for best variety talk series.

Bee is also up for best writing in a variety series — a category that includes two other Canadians: Montreal's Barry Julien, a writer on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and Toronto-raised Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.

Martin Short, who grew up in Hamilton, Ont., is nominated along with Steve Martin for writing in a variety special for Netflix's Steve Martin & Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life.

Bee is also nominated in that category, for a special in which she travelled with her show to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. She scored another nod for best interactive program for her series.

Additional Canadian nominees include:

  • Canadian composers Mychael and Jeff Danna for their score on CBC-TV's adaptation of Atwood's novel Alias Grace.
  • Danna for best original main title music for the now-cancelled period drama The Last Tycoon.
  • Toronto producer John Weber for best children's program for the Netflix adaptation of A Series Of Unfortunate Events.
  • Montreal production designer Elisabeth Williams for work on two episodes of The Handmaid's Tale.
  • Craig Mann of Oakville, Ont., for sound mixing on Paramount Network's miniseries Waco.
  • Ottawa-born Vice Media co-founder and executive producer Shane Smith for best information series or special for Vice on HBO.
John Legend (centre) plays the role of Jesus Christ on the NBC production Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert. Legend was nominated Thursday for an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie. (Virginia Sherwood/NBC/Associated Press)

Musicians in the mix

Music stars in competition for Emmys this year include John Legend, Bruno Mars and Sara Bareilles.

Legend and Bareilles each earned acting nods for their roles in NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert. Mars earned a nomination for outstanding music direction for his first TV special, CBS's Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo.

Legend, who has won several Grammys, an Oscar and a Tony, could become a so-called EGOT if he takes home outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie.

The term EGOT refers to someone who has won one of all the major awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are also on their way to EGOT status: The composing duo earned a nomination for outstanding original music and lyrics for In the Market for a Miracle from Fox's A Christmas Story Live!

Reality shows

The nominations for outstanding reality competition show are: The Amazing Race, American Ninja Warrior, Project Runway, RuPaul's Drag Race, Top Chef and The Voice.

The field is identical to last year when The Voice took home the Emmy statuette.

The Voice and RuPaul's Drag Race tied for most nominations for a reality program with 10 each.

With files from Associated Press.