Four years ago, Billions’ Asia Kate Dillon—who, at the time, had been receiving considerable Emmy buzz for their work on the Showtime series—publicly questioned the Television Academy’s use of gendered acting categories for the Emmy Awards and whether or not the organization’s insistence on using “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” meant that people who identify as nonbinary were being consciously excluded. The TV Academy responded that there actually aren’t any gender requirements of any sort for any category, so anyone could theoretically put themselves up for contention in either the Actor or Actress category. Dillon eventually chose to be entered as Best Supporting Actor due to that word’s less-gendered roots (the word “actress” was first used in 1586, according to Merriam-Webster, whereas “actor” had been around for a century at that point).
Now, the Television Academy is… kind of changing how its gendered categories work, specifically in terms of what gets engraved on your Emmys statue. According to Variety, the TV Academy announced today that nominees and winners in any of the acting categories can now have their statuette or nomination certificate say “performer” instead of “actor” or “actress.” The categories during the ceremony will still be gendered, and not necessarily every performer will choose the non-gendered label for the statue or certificate, but this will at least allow each person to choose how they want to be identified. It’s a good change, even if it feels like a half-measure that doesn’t really address why there are gendered categories in the first place, and it could be a step closer in the direction of awards shows like the MTV Movie & TV Awards (which already doesn’t have gendered categories).
In less-meaningful news that is still fairly noteworthy, Variety says the TV Academy also changed its documentary rules to prevent “double-dipping” at the Academy Awards—like how Free Solo won the documentary Oscar in 2018 and a bunch of Emmys. Starting in 2022, any documentary that is submitted for consideration to the Oscars will be ineligible from winning Emmys, meaning documentary filmmakers have to choose whether they’re making a movie or a TV movie (which comes up a lot in this particular category because a lot of theatrical documentaries are funded by TV networks like HBO or PBS). Unlike a lot of awards show rule changes, this one might actually have a noticeable impact on the life of the average movie/TV fan, since this should theoretically double the amount of documentaries people hear about in a given year (instead of hearing the name Free Solo at one awards show and then hearing it again a few months later at another awards show).