CBS estimates the viewership number should increase slightly when Nielsen’s count of people who watched outside of their homes is included. Those numbers weren’t immediately available on Monday.
Awards shows of all types have struggled in the ratings the past couple of years, victims of television’s trend toward streaming and viewers deciding what they want to watch and when.
Streaming services were celebrated at the Emmys, where Netflix tied a record for most individual awards in a year, helped primarily by “The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” The comedy “Ted Lasso” is on the Apple TV+ service.
Emmy telecast producers Ian Stewart and Reginald Hudlin are still fuming over Seth Rogen’s unplanned comedy routine at the start of Sunday’s ceremony, in which he roasted the show for a perceived lack of COVID protocols behind the scenes.
The routine was delivered a bit tongue-in-cheek, but with enough credulity to cause a stir on social media — where viewers took the cue to lambast the Emmys. Stewart confirms that Rogen went off script and surprised them in the booth.
Stewart and fellow executive producer Hudlin spoke with Variety late Monday to discuss the Rogen flap, as well as one more disappointing moment — when limited series drama winner Scott Frank took on the telecast with a lengthy acceptance speech, ignoring multiple musical hints to wrap up his time. They also cleared the air over whether there was an ADA-compliant ramp on stage.
On a much brighter note, the duo celebrated this year’s ratings uptick, which they hope is a positive sign for all awards shows. They also addressed Conan O’Brien’s also very unexpected show interruptions — which were very much welcome — and what we didn’t get to see (including Bernie Sanders) as the telecast went long.
But what got traction at the start of the night was Rogen’s chastising of the ceremony. What steams Stewart is that Rogen had participated in a rehearsal earlier that day, and very well knew the tent setup for this year’s show and how the COVID safety precautions had been put in place.
“We have worked for months and months to make that a safe space,” Stewart said. “We’ve worked with all the health authorities. We were signed off by LA County, we came up with a plan with them. Those tables were distanced. Everyone was vaccinated. Everyone was negative tested in that audience. And also he had rehearsed. So he knew exactly what it was. So, I just felt it was an unfortunate misdirect from him. Because it wasn’t just our decision. This is the health authorities’ decision as well, to say that it’s a completely safe environment if you do all those things.”
Kicking off with the first award of the night, Rogen jumped into a standup chunk on the fact that the Emmys had gathered 500 to 600 people together in a large tent. “What are we doing? They said this was outdoors. It is not. They lied to us,” he said. “We’re in a hermetically sealed tent right now. I would not have come to this. Why is there a roof?”
The show producers quickly made sure that host Cedric the Entertainer and the night’s DJ, Reggie Watts, spelled out the lengths the producers went to keeping the tent — which was still much more flexible for safety concerns than holding it inside a theater — and its attendees were compliant. But the damage was already done.
“It made three months of very hard work and many, many discussions to get it absolutely right feel a little bit wasted, really,” Stewart says. “And then we just sort of played catch up. Because we wanted the audience to know how safe it was in there. We work in this industry, we’re desperately aware of COVID. I’ve done 50 productions nearly in COVID and not have people get sick. So, it’s deeply frustrating.”
As for Frank’s speech, from the time his name was announced until the time he left the stage, it was over four minutes (longer than Cedric the Entertainer’s monologue). That’s because he took time to hug people (which, insiders note, included his competitors in the category as a sign of gratitude) on the way to the stage, and then didn’t acknowledge multiple attempts by the producers to raise the music and tip him off that he needed to wrap things up.
“I don’t want to go through that again,” Stewart said. “It’s a simple equation. These people are professionals. They understand what’s going on, it’s their industry. It’s not a sports awards. So they know what they are doing and the simple fact is, they know there’s only a finite amount of time. I’d love them to be able to speak for half an hour if they wanted to. But we don’t have that time. So it’s a simple equation. If you think that you have to speak for four or five minutes, that means somebody else can’t. It’s just incredibly disrespectful to your fellow nominees.”
Stewart said he doesn’t cut microphones, however, because you never know if that’s the moment the acceptance speech is about to get emotional or personal. “They just won a very important award. And also, of course, you don’t know what they’re about to say. That’s the problem with cutting the mic or playing the play off music over them, when they may be saving the very poignant thing to say to the end, and you’ll just ruin the moment for them,” he said. “It’s a very tricky balance to achieve. What you sort of hope is that at least when they hear the music, which wasn’t overpowering, they’d say, ‘ OK, my time is up, I probably should get off here.’ As I say, just out of respect to your fellow nominees, there’s just a thing called time. And there’s only a finite amount of it.”
Meanwhile, Stewart also wanted to clear up the confusion over whether there was an ADA-compliant ramp connected to the stage. On Sunday, disability rights advocate James LeBrecht said he was “furious” with CBS after he didn’t see a fully accessible, visible ramp on the Emmys stage. After earlier filing an ADA complaint about the telecast, LeBrecht had been told there would be one. But after the show, he told Variety that the network “lied to me.”
Stewart, however, said that’s “quite simply wrong. The ramp was signed off by an engineer as ADA compliant. It was then signed off by the city’s building and safety as ADA compliant. And then we have an independent ADA expert come in just to triple check it as well. And it always been in the plans. I didn’t quite know where that’s coming from.
“My brother is in a wheelchair, my granny was in a wheelchair her whole life. The director’s father is in a wheelchair,”he said. “You’ve got the most empathetic producer in the world here who thinks about those things at the beginning, not the end. So, I just wish these people had just reached out and said, ‘What are your plans?’ and we would have joyfully shown them, ‘This is what we’re going to do, we’re going to treat everyone with the same respect.’ It was there. No one needed to use it, otherwise it would have been on screen. He’s very welcome to see the footage of it. We’ve shot it. I’ve lived with people in wheelchairs, the whole of my life. I’m really aware of their needs and also the fact that their needs are often not met.”
(In response, LeBrecht wrote on Twitter: “I was told by CBS’s lawyer that the ramp would be apparent for the live audience and the cameras. My point was about compliance and it was about a visible sign of inclusion & the law… There is a big difference between compliance and asking that CBS discontinue designing a stage that was clearly all steps. Ramp or no ramp, which I couldn’t see, that stage was a tribute to exclusion and inaccessibility… You can be empathetic and still refuse to show the world that you want people with disabilities to be part of the industry.”)
Beyond clearing the air over those moments and issues, Hudlin and Stewart were in good spirits Monday, after ratings ticked up from last year, averaging 7.4 million viewers — up 16% from 2020.
“I’m grateful for awards shows, period, that we got that ratings bump,” Hudlin said. “For the benefit of all awards shows. We love them, and we want to see them evolve and prosper. A lot of our work has been, how do we continue to reinvent this genre and make it relevant to today’s audience? We’re just happy to see that as we try things, it seems to be working.”
Quips Stewart: “I think a lot of people on your side of the industry had probably already written most of the articles, that ratings drop again. So, I assume there were some hastily rewrites… This is a nice glimmer of ‘Actually, perhaps this isn’t dead yet.’”
Here are a few more secrets and tidbits from Sunday’s Emmy telecast:
• Conan O’Brien’s heckling of TV Academy CEO Frank Scherma was completely unexpected (as was his stage bombing of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” team). “It was such a surprise to us, that our cameras were pointing forward, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Stewart said. “And Frank is such a professional and he speaks so well, for him to sort of stop, we were like, ‘what? what is happening?’ And it wasn’t until that point that they spun around and found that Conan had entered the fray. I mean it was fun, and Frank took it in such good humor. I love those moments, that’s what we love as producers. When those things happen that you didn’t know was going to happen. And you know he was only doing it in good humor.”
• Hudlin approached Rita Wilson about rapping in the “Just a Friend” opening — along with LL Cool J, Lil Dicky and others — after the writers noted her hip-hop skills. “We’ve served on a board together at UCLA, and I just knew she was a really wonderful person,” he said. “And I also knew she had this unexpected talent for rap… What’s the last thing you expect? Rita Wilson with flow and swagger. And that’s when you put the remote down. You go, ‘OK, I’ve committed!’”
• Cedric the Entertainer’s monologue was held back until the telecast’s second act in order to get to the first awards quicker. “I’ve actually done the math a lot, and it normally takes between 12 and 16 minutes to get to an award, and it’s a TV award show,” Stewart said. “Our thing was, can we set the scene as, ‘this is a party. We’re here to celebrate, start celebrating.’ We still wanted Ced to have time, but even he was like, ‘I want to keep this really short. I just want to go out there and tell some jokes and get on with it as well.’”
• Producers also sped things up by, in many cases, showing nominations packages before bringing out presenters to announce the winners. “That way they don’t have to speak twice, which keeps it moving,” Stewart said. “We all know we’ve got to get a lot of awards done.”
• The producers know that you saw random people walking in the background and other unexpected things on screen, but that was a function of the space. “Nowhere was safe, because we were shooting in every direction, all the time,” Stewart said. “It was both a party, an awards show, and a crew space of people doing their jobs. And also some of those people walking in the back of shots were literally people coming back from the toilet. We had intended it to be a bit loose. But also you can’t always dictate where someone’s going to walk or talk either. Sometimes you’re spinning around seeing things that you’d rather not see.”
• Hudlin directed the pre-tape sketch featuring Zooey Deschanel, Jason Alexander, Scott Bakula, Fred Savage and others lamenting their lack of an Emmy win, with Cedric the Entertainer as therapist. Originally Savage was going to direct, but had a prior commitment. “All spectacular actors, some of them dramatic, some of them comedic, but they all got the joke,” Hudlin said. “And I was especially impressed by Dr. Phil, because he had to button a scene with a murderer’s row of fantastic actors, and he spiked the landing, he was fantastic.”
• This year’s Emmy Awards went longer than usual, partly because three more categories were added to the show. Per Hudlin, that usually adds around six minutes per category — stuffing at least 18 more minutes onto the already jam-packed show.
Among the things that had to be cut were more of Cedric’s “Year in Review” pre-tape sketches, including one in which he played a “mitten man” who sold Bernie Sanders his iconic mittens at the inauguration.
“You know you’re not going to get everything,” Hudlin said. “I like to come in with too much stuff. Not everything’s going to make it. I try to be respectful to the viewer, most of all, and not be too long. Usually our shows end on time, but we had a really ambitious schedule because we added the categories, and Cedric the Entertainer is just so funny. We had an amazing writing staff that just kept generating jokes, so we had a lot of material, and I’m grateful for it.”
• If you noticed a bit more enthusiastic screaming during acceptance speeches, starting with first winner Hannah Waddingham, you’re not alone: The producers did too. “I just want to say thank you to Hannah,” Hudlin said. “Her enthusiasm, her sincerity, was so wonderful. It just set the tone for the evening as much as the opening number. We can do whatever we do in terms of putting the show together, but the heart of the show are the winners, and her spirit was so joyous. It just lifted the whole room.”
• The producers early on decided to end the night with the limited series category, and it paid off. While “Ted Lasso” was clearly in line for the comedy award, and “The Crown” dominated drama, the limited series award was a bit of a mystery to the very end, when “The Queen’s Gambit” won.
“There was a time when you always ended it with drama,” Stewart said. “The limited category this year, there were incredible nominees. And then we thought, balanced maybe we put comedy and drama in an act together, and then pay it off just a little differently, finally with limited.”
A day after the show, Stewart and Hudlin said they were happy to pull off a party in the room — that, yes, led to longer speeches, as the crowd of celebrities and producers were a bit looser than usual. (Perhaps the wine on the tables helped as well). But “there was a feeling in that room of the industry supporting the industry, and people were genuinely happy for other people when they were winning,” Stewart said. “The people who attended were as happy to put on posh frock and a snazzy suit as anybody. They had fun in there, which is a lovely thing.”
Greetings from Variety Awards Headquarters! Today is Sept. 17, 2021, which means it’s now just 2 days until the Primetime Emmys telecast on Sept. 19.
And this is it! The weekend we’ve all been waiting for. All will be revealed on Sunday night. Will the season-long “Ted Lasso” and “The Crown” dominance hold? What will be the surprises? Who will be celebrating on Monday morning? And who will be on Variety’s famed day-after Emmy cover this coming week? All things I can’t wait to find out! (Especially the last one, since I’ll be scrambling to write that story on Monday morning!)
We continue to live in bizarre times, and yet this weekend has a weird sense of normalcy attached to it. Even though press isn’t allowed at the actual Emmys ceremony on Sunday night — we’ll be covering it remotely again, for the second year in a row — there are plenty of other events happening this weekend that are, believe it or not, in person. I’ll be attending the Television Academy’s Performer Nominees reception at its North Hollywood headquarters on Friday night, as well as the Creative Coalition’s Humanitarian Awards gathering on Saturday (hosted by our own Marc Malkin!) and then the MPTF’s Evening Before the Emmys event later that evening. That’s a lot!
Most of these events require COVID-19 testing, which is a good thing. Just be careful who you go with, as you might not get your results back in time. I’m still fuming that I couldn’t join my colleagues backstage at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend because Carbon Health didn’t get my results back in a prompt, timely manner. It was quite disappointing, and I ended up covering the Sunday events from home. Thankfully, the Television Academy’s Twitter feed was quick to announce the winners in the room. But I would have liked to, well, see the room.
But I digress! Speaking of the room, this year’s Primetime Emmys will once again look and feel different, and I think that’s a good thing. I’m a proponent of mixing up the tried-and-true awards show format, and that’s what Reggie Hudlin and Done+Dusted are trying to do. I talk to Reggie and D+D’s Ian Stewart below, and we’ve got plenty of details on how this year’s show will have a party atmosphere. So without any more ado, let’s get going!
I caught up with Emmys producers Reggie Hudlin and Ian Stewart (of Done+Dusted) to give me the latest on how this Sunday’s show is shaping up, and they’re promising a party. Cedric the Entertainer, music by the inventive Reggie Watts, and MC Lyte as the show’s announcer. But they’re also mixing up the expected order of the show (with an acknowledgement that the Oscars ran into a bit of trouble trying to do the same thing), and bringing more elements like music into the mix. Here’s our chat:
AWARDS HQ: How are you guys describing this year’s show?
REGGIE HUDLIN: You know it’s a celebration. When we first sat down with Cedric, we were like, ‘what do you want this to be?’ And that was the first word out of his mouth. We couldn’t have agreed more, because man, did TV get us through some tough times? Yes it did. Let’s be frank, this is the best TV in the history of the medium. It’s been an amazing year. There’s a lot to celebrate.
IAN STEWART: But also I think for all of us, the industry, celebrate the fact that we can actually get back together. In a fairly controlled way but actually in a together way. We know what’s going to happen. Our hardest job will be trying to keep people in their seats or get them back in their seats during commercials. Because everyone’s gonna go, ‘oh my god, Mike, I haven’t seen you for so long!’ So we’re certainly certainly bringing that party celebration to it.
AWARDS HQ: With those tables, I assume there’ll be some some food, some drink as well.
HUDLIN: Oh yeah, a little drinky drink, a little snacky snack!
STEWART: I’ve said it before but, when we all go out to dinner we don’t line up in rows, and look forward. We sit around a table and we laugh, and we tell terrible jokes and we have to laugh at our own terrible jokes. It’s just the way you want to really consume being entertained.
AWARDS HQ: It’s sort of making the best out of the situation. Obviously with only about 500 people in the tent, you’re able to do that. How you were able to pivot to that, once it became apparent that it was going to be a limited audience?
HUDLIN: The truth is, Ian and I have separately always wanted to do a show with tables and not in theatrical seating. So for us, this was a complete lemonade situation, like, great! That’s our approach to these shows, how do we reinvent, how do we do what we’ve always wanted to do, how do we make people go, ‘Oh, I haven’t quite seen that before!’ We think that this environment creates a party environment, which makes the audience happy, which makes the viewer happy.
STEWART: As we sort of slowly take these steps out of the worst of the pandemic, it just gets a little easier and a little easier. Obviously we work this out with the LA County Health Department, that goes without saying. So we’re under their protocols. But look at the Grammys or the Oscars. They were sort of back together but they weren’t able to be back together. Here they can, everyone’s vaccinated, everyone’s negative tested. You don’t have to leave your seats, you don’t have to let the next nominees come to use your seat. You get to sit down and sit through a show. That’s a magical further, big stride out of what we’ve all been through.
AWARDS HQ: You’ve got “The Crown” stars dialing in from their remote location, I understand there’s a couple other shows that will be remote that you’re going to be able to dip in and out of.
STEWART: We all thought at the beginning, are people going to want to come? Actually, it was like the Willy Wonka golden ticket. Because it’s limited even by the nominees, you’ve never seen them come back so fast, saying, ‘we’re in.’ We of course offered the remote thing. Some people don’t feel comfortable and we don’t want anyone feel comfortable so of course you can come remote. Some can’t be here, the reason ‘The Crown’ people are not here is because they’re in London, and they can’t come here. So, the remote option was there, but quite frankly, we set up quite a big remote system and then sort of dismantled it because there just aren’t that many people coming in by remote. Everyone seems to feel incredibly comfortable and feel like this is a safe space.
HUDLIN: The folks in ‘The Crown,’ we don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but they got really inspired by what the ‘Schitt’s Creek’ people did last year. They threw a great party, which was great because, then we get to go to their party. Which normally we don’t get invited to, but now the viewers get to hang out with them. We’re looking forward to that, you get to see a lot of different parties over the course of the night.
AWARDS HQ: What does having this smaller room also allow you to do? I know it’s a quicker jump to the stage, so that will save some time.
STEWART: You’re right, by the way, you can jump up a lot a lot faster. You don’t have to walk through the whole of the theater, that is true. But actually the major advantage for us is because you’re in the vibe of being in an entertaining space, and we got Reggie Watts spinning his tunes. Once we kick off, which is hopefully going to be one hell of a kick off, we’re not going to stop. That’s another thing. So, you’ve been to a thousand of these things yourself Mike, but they sort of get going, then they stop for the break, and then they get going and they stop again. And it’s hard to maintain any sort of emotional fun or party through that. But we’re not going to do that, we’re just going to keep on going. So it’s seamless. From the moment we drop that first beat to the moment Ced says goodbye, it’s going to be more in, I don’t think cabaret is the word, but that environment.
AWARDS HQ: So what might we get to see?
HUDLIN: Everyone gets to be in the same room and they’ve maybe been in their production bubble, but now the ‘WandaVision’ people get to hang out with the cast of ‘The Boys’ and worlds collide. Because everyone’s a fan of everyone else. But they actually get to be together for the first time. We’re going to keep the cameras floating around so the audience will get to see peeks of that action.
STEWART: We are going to have things that you can follow along at home, and actually watch what’s going on when the cameras aren’t on. So there’s going to be some opportunities for people at home to play along with us during the night and do some fun things on the side.
AWARDS HQ: And I’ve seen you guys hint at the opening number and more pre-tape. Anything more you can sort of say about some of the some of those elements?
HUDLIN: Cedric is so talented. I’ve worked with him many times over the years and there’s a reason why he’s called ‘The Entertainer.’ He’s a certified King of Comedy. What we really want to do in the course of the show is feature all the things he can do. We’ll have him tell jokes, there’ll be some music, there’ll be some drama. We’re going to feature all the cool stuff he can do. We’ve been in the music studio. We’ve got the surprising things.
STEWART: Another thing that Reggie and I looked at so many times is, there’s a traditional pattern to the way that every award shows starts, and what happens and the editorial beats to that. Often you’re about 16, 17 minutes in before you go, ‘Oh, they’re going to give out an award on an award show.’ So we’re going to mess with that format a little bit as well. Let’s get to the awards as well. As Reggie says, ‘we’re going to start with the finale.’ And then, quickly give out some awards to some very deserving people.
AWARDS HQ: The Oscars this year mixed up the order of the final winners, because they assumed they’d end with a touching win for Chadwick Boseman. But that didn’t happen, and it ended up being awkward, since winner Anthony Hopkins wasn’t even there. How much can you mess with you know the anticipation for some of those major categories?
HUDLIN: You’re building a story arc, you want to hold people’s interest but you’ve got to have a build. What’s great about the Emmys is that you’ve got so many great categories. Dramas and comedies and variety shows and limited series, all of which the audiences are deeply invested in. We want to make sure that throughout the night, you’re getting a taste of your favorite shows, whatever those might be. So we think if you’re a fan of TV there’ll be something for you to watch the whole show.
STEWART: You’re alluding to something about the traditional way that the awards and the pattern they’ve given out. If somebody can guess the pattern of awards for Sunday night, I’ll give them $1000. There will be some surprises in there.
AWARDS HQ: It does seem like damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right, because I know the Oscar folks were trying to do something different and unique and it didn’t quite work out the way they had hoped.
STEWART: There’s a possibility we open with an award that somebody is not able to pick up. And then you’re like, Well, as you say you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We don’t know what’s going to happen. You just have to try and set it up as best you can and hope that you get lucky. The point about the Oscars, without going into it because it’s actually pretty bloody sad, but that award was of course, not like anybody expected it to be. And I felt very sorry for them as producers, quite frankly.
HUDLIN: It was a tough spot. Because I had such a personal relationship with Chadwick, I had an expectation and I was bummed out. And, obviously, Anthony Hopkins was caught off guard and, so it was unfortunate for all parties. And the producers of the show are friends of mine. But God bless them for that level of ambition. All of us who have been producing shows during COVID, we’ve been taking this as an opportunity to shake up the award show format and try some things. And we’ve all learned from each other. You see, oh, so and so did that and that worked, and I’m going to steal that. Or uh-oh, I’m not going to do that. There’s a community amongst us, and we all learn from each other.
STEWART: Last year’s Emmys was really well received, it was a very different type of show. But we didn’t get together and go, ‘Okay, let’s do the same as last year but a little bit worse.’ You always try to move forward and quite frankly sometimes you fall on your face, but if you fall on your face, at least you’re moving forward.
AWARDS HQ: One of our biggest Emmy stories last year was our piece on the people handing out Emmy statues in the hazmat suits. Did you ponder what this year’s version of that might be?
HUDLIN: That way lies madness. When you’re lucky enough, you sit around and have an idea, we crack each other up, and then you do it and then it becomes a thing. Well you can’t manufacturer a thing. It doesn’t work that way. So that’s why we don’t focus on, how do we replicate the exact same rhythms that we did last year? It’s more like, no, we’re gonna make a different show based on where we are in popular culture right now. We try to just be in the moment, that’s the Miles Davis rule, jazz is the music that we are called upon to play in any given day. So, we’re going to try to make a show that celebrates where the medium of television is right now.
AWARDS HQ: On a tragic note, the death of Michael K. Williams so close to the ceremony, how might that impact the show or the In Memoriam?
HUDLIN: What a tragic loss of such a gigantic talent, who had such an amazing body of work already, but clearly had decades of brilliance ahead of him. Any time you do these shows, In Memoriam is such an important part of these shows. It’s our chance to say final goodbyes to people. Our job is to honor Michael, and everyone, this year and I have to say, as we were putting together In Memoriam, we’ve had a lot of unbelievable losses this year. So many titans have fallen this year. So we’re trying to do our best to honor everybody who has done amazing work that we’ve all benefited from.
STEWART: As a producer you’re just caught between a rock and a hard place because of course he’s nominated for that, and if he wins it would be an amazing moment. But also it’s not his award. It’s all the nominees’ award and they have been recognized as well. And to overshadow them in that category is also unfair. I don’t think he would have wanted that. I mean, if he wins, it will be an amazing moment, if someone else wins, it will be an amazing moment for them. So it’s it’s a tricky thing, as Reggie said, all we can do is try and be agnostic and try and treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve for everything they’ve given for the industry.
AWARDS HQ: You have Jon Batiste and Leon Bridges performing during the In Memoriam, which sounds amazing.
HUDLIN: That was a really fortunate break, In Memoriam is very sensitive moment, so find the right artists the right song. We’re all fans of both Jon Batiste and Leon Bridges, and then we found out they’re best friends. And they’d love to work together! Just hearing what they have planned, it’s beautiful, so perfect, sensitive and delicate for the moment. We feel very fortunate to have artists of that caliber performing on our stage.
STEWART: Sometimes you just all the stars align, because we actually had that thought, without knowing of their closeness. It’s the hardest thing to get right in the whole show, because the sentiment has to be absolutely perfect. And to have all those stars aligned, we’re thrilled.
AWARDS HQ: What was the toughest nut to crack and pull off this year?
HUDLIN: Well, you know, we’ll know if we pulled everything off on Monday. Honestly, every day, there’s this wave of panic that goes through us. What are we gonna do about that problem? And then we solve it, we pat ourselves on the back. But, no time for that, here’s another challenge. Every day that’s what we’re doing, we’re just defusing bombs.
STEWART: And just that multi hyphenate that Cedric is, one thing to crack is to give him a chance to show all the things that he can do. He can act, he can sing, comedy goes without saying. Trying to try to thread that through in a narrative is important to us as well. I hope we’ve got the nuance right, you can tell us on Sunday.
AWARDS HQ: Do you have a special announcer?
HUDLIN: MC Lyte, who I love. I loved her as a hip hop artist, and once she started doing announcing, I was like, ‘Can I use her every time?’ Her voice has a perfect texture. It’s empathetic, it’s sincere, it has authority. She is extraordinary.
STEWART: Having live music in the venue is really challenging, especially for a big band of any sort, due to the COVID regulations. The fact that they have to blow instruments and they have to sing. So flipping that around and bringing in Reggie Watts, that was a wonderful way to come out of this as well. I think he’s really going to bring something to it. He’s infectious, that foot’s just going to stop to happen.
AWARDS HQ: I hope I hear some beatboxing and some sound effects from him as well.
HUDLIN: Oh yeah, and that’s what we’re excited about, he’s an artist with a capital ‘A.’ He brings groove, and elevates the proceedings. He’s the perfect spirit of the production.
AWARDS HQ: So, give me a teaser, maybe maybe something that will make sense when I watch the show on Sunday but right now, we’ll just go over my head.
STEWART: Okay, I’ll give you one. Do you drink?
AWARDS HQ: Yep!
STEWART: Yes! So do I. So, at some stage in your life, probably there was 1:12 a.m. You sang along, when maybe you had one one too many, and you sang along to a song. So you’ll be able to sing along to the beginning of our show.
Emmy Host Cedric the Entertainer Francis Specker/CBS
Last year, the Jimmy Kimmel-hosted Primetime Emmys was the first major awards show to pull off a ceremony during the pandemic with all nominees featured remotely. This year, only “a handful” of the nominees will be beamed into the show via satellite, said Ian Stewart who, along with Reginald Hudlin, executive produced the well received virtual 2020 Emmys on ABC and also executive produce the 2021 awards on CBS, which will be held Sunday in an air-conditioned tent on The Event Deck at L.A. Live with limited, vaccinated audience sitting at dinner tables.
Hosting the Emmys this year is Cedric the Entertainer, star of CBS’ comedy series The Neighborhood. “He has extraordinary versatility — whether it’s comedy, whether it’s music, whether its drama, he can do it all,” Hudlin said. “What we want to do across the show is to feature his full range of talents.”
That will start right away. The ceremony will kick off with an opening number that “is going to be a lot of people participating, singing, rapping,” Stewart said. “It’s hopefully going to be a very impactful start, a ton of fun.”
Cedric the Entertainer is part of the opening number, “And he’s got lots of friends,” Steward added. “I think you will recognize a lot of people.”
While he would not reveal more details about the Cedric & Friends number, Stewart promised it will be short.
“Sometimes it takes up to 16 minutes to get to an award, so we are going to get to the awards really fast,” he said. “We are going to have a very fun opening and then we are getting down to giving away some of these fantastic awards to some of these fantastically gifted and deserving nominees.”
L-R) Jon Batiste and Leon BridgesMega
In another highlight, “We are going to have another powerful music performance this year for In Memoriam,” Hudlin said of the recently announced collaboration between Leon Bridges and Jon Batiste. “We were fortunate enough to get both Leon Bridges and Jon Batiste, both of them amazing artists in their own right; it turns out they are best friends.”
The duo will team up to perform a “moving and powerful song,” Hudlin added, noting that “the song is a classic.”
Stewart provided a clue: “I’m not suggesting you drink necessarily but if you were ever a little drunk at 2 AM, you’ve probably sang it.”
In the days leading to the Emmy ceremony, the TV industry lost two big names, Michael K. Williams and Norm Macdonald. There won’t be special tributes for them during the show, the EPs said.
“There are so many people that we love that we lost this last year, and the only way to deal with it is to treat everyone fairly and equally because they are all magnificent talents that made such a huge impact on our industry,” Hudlin said.
The Emmys is the first major awards show to require vaccinations for all attendees, but Hudlin said there hasn’t been any backlash against the mandate among the nominees.
“In fact it’s been the opposite,” he said. “People are so enthusiastic about attending, particularly since we limited the number of tickets available, they get snatched right way; it’s very much like a Willy Wonka golden ticket.”
Added Stewart: “There is an option to come in remotely if you don’t feel comfortable. We haven’t gotten any pushback on that. We have some people who physically can’t be here so we try to include them as nominees but very few, a handful.
The TV Academy last month further scaled back the audience at the Primetime Emmys by limiting the number of tickets to no more than four per nomination, leading to nominees in categories like Outstanding Program and Writing that often consist of large teams to not be able to attend.
“We wanted to be democratic, we wanted everybody to have their moment in the room, so we asked them to send their representatives that they chose between themselves,” Stewart said about how it is being decided which nominees from a show would attend. There will be no option for the rest to participate remotely.
The entire producing team of Netflix’s The Crown, a frontrunner in the Outstanding Drama Category, will have the opportunity to celebrate together should the show win for its fourth season.
“There is a party happening for The Crown in London,” Stewart said of the setup, reminiscent to the way nominated talent from several shows last year had huddled together in one private location each, including Schitt’s Creek and Watchmen.
Other British-based shows also are expected to have nominees at the London location, Hudlin said, calling the event there “a pretty fun shindig.” UK citizens are currently not allowed into the U.S. owing to Covid restrictions.
Stewart and Hudlin are promising a fun atmosphere at the main location in Downtown L.A., too, and to achieve it, they are ditching the traditional amphitheater seating for tables, a staple of the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, which also were employed by the Grammys and the Oscars during the pandemic this year.
“We have been able to do something that we have never been able to do but always wanted to do which is to get away from that regimented seating, row upon row of them, and move into a table environment where we consume evening’s entertainment the way I assume you like to consuming yours. When we go to dinner we don’t sit in rows, we sit at a table, and we laugh, and we share the moment together,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a little bit less ‘them and us,’ some person on the stage talking to rows and rows and rows of people, and people at home thinking, that’s not really for me because I’m not there. I think this time it’s going to be a celebration it’s going to be a party, it’s going to be joyous, with you watching at home and saying, damn I want to be there.”
The Emmys could use more viewers watching this year since the Emmys, along with the other major awards shows, were hit hard by the pandemic, hitting ratings lows. For CBS, linear numbers will be less important since, for the first time, the Emmys are being simulcast on a broadcast network and a major streamer, Paramount+, so signups and streaming viewership will be a major part of evaluating the telecast’s performance.
Unlike the Oscars and the Grammys, where the audience was so small that many nominees were ushered in and out, only allowed in the room for their category, all Emmy attendees who have tickets will be inside the tent for the duration.
“Our audience are all tested negative and vaccinated coming into the building,” Stewart said. “That gives us the freedom that they can be there and stay in the whole time, they are going to sit at their tables and enjoy the evening.”
The show, directed by Hamish Hamilton, who also helmed the 2020 Emmys, will employ two principal stages — one in the end and one in the middle of the tables — and other places around the venue.
While the show has a vaccination mandate for everyone attending, the topic of Covid vaccines won’t be brought up in the scripted part of the show outside of the acceptance speeches. There will be no politics either, and there has been no attempt to get President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris to appear.
“We love our folks in the White House, and we certainly support everything they are doing, but they are very busy actually running the country, we just focus on celebration,” Hudlin said.
Added Stewart, “The night is about television; we are not a political organization, people can say what they like when they on stage but we are completely agnostic.”
During rehearsals so far, there have been no positive Covid tests, Hudlin and Stewart said. The producers adopted Covid guidelines after discussions with the Los Angeles County Health Department, and they will stay intact through Sunday.
“We have implemented exactly what they have asked us to implement,” said Stewart, who admitted that he is tracking Los Angeles’ Covid cases daily. “Given the fact that Covid cases are tailing off slightly — or quite a lot in L.A. – I don’t see a reason for that to change.”
Following last year’s pre-taped fire extinguisher bit between Kimmel and Jennifer Aniston on the show, which Stewart admits “could’ve gotten out of control if we had done it live,” there will be “no fire this year, maybe ice,” Hudlin quipped.
Stewart reflected on the experience producing the Emmys last year that they bring to the 2021 Emmys. “We had so much fun last year, we were in a crisis situation and used it as an opportunity to try new things that had never been done in an award show, as they say, never let crisis go to waste,” he said. “This year is a different year. Even though the specter of the pandemic has not gone away, we are now in a different era with vaccinations, with testing so we can acknowledge where we are now which is that if you do it in a safe way, we can come together we can celebrate as one.”
Film producer/director Reginald Hudlin to receive the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award.
By Carole Johnson, university news and communications.
Miami University will honor major motion film producer/director Reginald Hudlin with the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award on Sunday, Nov. 7, for his contributions in bringing the Black image to screen.
The award is bestowed by Miami each year upon a distinguished leader who has inspired the nation to advance civil rights and social justice.
In Oxford in 1964 — at what was then the Western College for Women but is now part of Miami University’s Western campus — Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader Bob Moses led the training of 800 college students to travel to the South to register Black voters.
The Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award has recognized such notables as U.S. Rep. John Lewis, radio talk-show host Joe Madison, former president of the League of Women Voters Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, and NBA executive and basketball icon Wayne Embry (Miami ‘58) and his late wife Terri Embry (Miami ‘60).
“These are superheroes who risked their lives,” Hudlin said of those who trained in Oxford in 1964. “I feel very humbled in that in any way what I do can be compared to what those heroes did. I am inspired and feel a sense of mission.”
The award will be presented to Hudlin during the first Miami University Freedom Film Festival to be held Nov. 7-12. He will give the keynote address. Details will be announced at a later date.
“We are so honored to present Reginald Hudlin with the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award,” Miami University President Gregory Crawford said. “His work and passion to promote diversity in the film industry and bring Black American stories to the forefront have advanced justice and equality on a national and global scale.”
Hudlin, a founder and president of Hudlin Entertainment, is known as a “renaissance man” for his work in film, television, and comic books. He is unique in his approaches as a writer, producer, director, and executive.
Hudlin wrote and directed his first film, “House Party,” in 1990. He produced Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film, “Django Unchained,” which earned an Academy Award nomination for best picture.
He directed and produced his 2017 film, “Marshall,” which starred Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.
In television, he produced shows such as “The Boondocks,” “Friday Night Vibes” with Tiffany Haddish, The Black Panther animated series, and specials such as the “Oscars” and the “NAACP Image Awards.” He was the first Black person to produce the Emmys, which he has done twice.
Hudlin also is an author, writing for the comic books Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the Milestone Media line, Black superheroes.
“I’m known to zag when I’m supposed to zig,” Hudlin said of his long-lasting career, which has provided him with a platform to honor the Black experience through powerful but grounded characters in true-to-life storytelling.
The Miami University Film Festival will feature the release of Miami alumnus and Boadway Scholar-in-Residence Wil Haygood’s new book.
The Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award ceremony will coincide with the official release of Broadway Scholar-in-Residence Wil Haygood’s latest book, Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World.
“Reginald Hudlin’s illustrious and sweeping cinematic career, which encompasses a wide range of diverse filmmaking with a social conscience, makes him a wonderful choice to receive the Freedom Summer Award,” said Haygood (Miami ‘76), author of Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America (2015).
“Hollywood is a better place because of his monumental contributions when it comes to equality and representation,” Haygood said.
Hudlin grew up enjoying movies like “Animal House” and “Risky Business.” These inspired him to draw from his own real-life experiences. Hudlin’s father, Warrington Hudlin, was the owner of an insurance agency, and his mother, Helen, was a special education teacher. They raised their family in East St. Louis, Illinois, where poor economic misfortunes lived alongside rich cultural opportunities.
A major influence in his life was the 1960s dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham, whose youth programs served as the catalyst that led Hudlin to Harvard, where he graduated magna cum laude. His senior thesis was a 20-minute short film called “House Party,” depicting the experience he lived as a Black student.
He also cherished the late Stan Lee, creator of the Marvel comic books. In the superheroes that Lee created — real people with human flaws — Hudlin could relate. Lee and Jack Kirby’s Black Panther character was originally introduced to audiences in the 1966 comic books. Hudlin was asked to head up a relaunch of the character, writing the comic book series from 2005-2008. He received critical acclaim for his well-rounded portrayal of a Black superhero.
“Stan Lee introduced psychology and flaws into superheroes, which made them more relatable and interesting,” said Hudlin, who bases his character development on this premise.
When working on his latest movie “Marshall,” Hudlin tells the story behind one of Marshall’s earlier cases as an attorney, but with a nod to true character.
“I wanted to take Marshall off of the pedestal we place him on and show him as the hard-drinking, smack-talking guy he really was, even though he was always the smartest guy in the room no matter what room he was in,” Hudlin said. “It makes him more relatable so people can see that his kind of success can be attainable.”
No matter the genre, Hudlin’s superhero-like drive to bring the Black image to audiences epitomizes the spirit of Miami’s Freedom of ‘64 Award.
Virgil is experiencing a multitude of bio-psychosocial changes, as a result there of he finds himself seeking guidance and who does he turn to? His father, there’s a brilliant simplicity to this interaction between father and son; in that we see a Black man who’s present for his son in a time of need. An image which is often obscure and rarely promulgated, by that very fact it is a radical image.
This is a poignantly indelible image, one I can relate to as my father is my best friend and he consistently instilled wisdom in me through conversations akin to this one. We need more imagery that counteracts the absent Black father as a fixture of the Black experience, as all of our father’s aren’t negligent and absent. This scene provoked a range of happiness, pride, and gratitude for a positive image of a Black father and son with a close kinship. Milestone Media LLC I’m loving the imagery and Vita Ayala did an awesome job writing it.
Icon Season One #2 Augustus Freeman Liberates Black Folk From Slavery
In this second issue Hudlin takes on a polarizing issue of chattel slavery in a flashback, which is the inception of Icon’s a.k.a. Augustus Freeman’s entrance into history. A situation which contends with the idea of a Black person with the ability to jettison slavery, and stifle it’s debilitating grasp on Black existence.
To see Icon take an authoritative stance which personified the notion “none of us are free until all of us are free”, was an action which underlined the importance of community and collectivism. Icon in a very Afrocentric manner, repudiated the eurocentric notion of of “individualism” and wasn’t content with freeing himself but freed his people as well. This is a salient ethno socio-racial political message, that echoes the importance of the Swahili term “Ujima”; which represents collective consciousness. Icon typified freedom as his people being free, a message we should uphold as a principle.
Icon reflected the radically resolute audacity of the likes of Nat Turner, Toussaint Louverture, & Gabriel Prosser who are real life historical figures who lead revolts to subvert slavery. I loved the image of Augustus engulfed by flames while holding the head of real life confederacy president Jefferson Davis; that is a revolutionary image which modern day Black superheroes aren’t shown doing.
Below are a list African American Slavery rebellions to be aware of: