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Emmy Awards: A look back at nominees we interviewed in 2021

This story is part of I’m So Obsessed (subscribe here), our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.

The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony is set for Sept. 19, and nominated shows range from series like Ted Lasso and Mare of Easttown to WandaVision and I May Destroy You. In a special episode of the I’m So Obsessed podcast, CNET Editor In Chief Connie Guglielmo and Senior Editor Patrick Holland take a look back at conversations they had with actors and artists who were either nominated or worked on a show that was. Sit back, grab some popcorn and pregame for the Emmy Awards ISO-style with our episode below.

You can subscribe to I’m So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about their work, career and current obsessions.

Actor O-T Fagbenle received his first Emmy Award nomination for his performance as Luke on the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale.


O-T Fagbenle – The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series – 2021

For four seasons, O-T Fagbenle played Luke on the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. Luke is the husband of June Osborne, played by Elizabeth Moss. The Handmaid’s Tale has 21 nominations, including one for Fagbenle as outstanding supporting actor in a drama series. His nomination came days after the opening of the Marvel film Black Widow in which he plays Rick Mason opposite Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff.

Listen to my entire interview with Fagbenle below.

Read: O-T Fagbenle from The Handmaid’s Tale nominated for an Emmy Award

Lauren Ashley Smith – A Black Lady Sketch Show

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series – 2021

HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show is hilarious, smart and original. It co-stars and was created by actor, writer and comic Robin Thede, who chose Lauren Ashley Smith to be the head writer. Smith is the first Black woman to be the head writer on a sketch TV show and, in her words, to “kick the door down so there can be lots of others.”

A Black Lady Sketch Show Lauren Ashley Smith

HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, which has five Emmy nominations.

Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO

A Black Lady Sketch Show has five nominations including Outstanding Variety Sketch Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.

Listen to my entire interview with Smith below.

Read: How A Black Lady Sketch Show’s Lauren Ashley Smith made history

Chris Chalk – Perry Mason

Outstanding Cinematography – 2021

During the pandemic, one escape many of us found was the new Perry Mason series on HBO. Matthew Rhys, from the excellent show The Americans, stars as the titular defense lawyer along with actor Chris Chalk, who portrays beat cop Paul Drake. The onscreen chemistry between Rhys and Chalk is just one of the things that makes this Perry Mason reboot so compelling.


Matthew Rhys (left) stars as Perry Mason and Chris Chalk (right) plays Paul Drake in the HBO series Perry Mason.

Merrick Morton / HBO

Perry Mason garnered four nominations including outstanding cinematography for a single-camera series (one hour) and acting nominations for Rhys and John Lithgow.

Listen to my entire interview with Chalk below.

Read: The moment HBO’s Perry Mason made actor Chris Chalk truly take notice

Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly – The Nevers

Outstanding Special Visual Effects – 2021

The Nevers on HBO Max is part X-Men, part League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and part sci-fi thriller. Driving the show are complex female characters, two of whom are portrayed by Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly. Donnelly plays Amalia True, a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Skelly is Penance, a brilliant young inventor. Both were “touched” during a mysterious event in Victorian England that left them, and others, with abilities.

The Nevers Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly

Laura Donnelly (left) and Ann Skelly star in the HBO Max series The Nevers.

Keith Bernstein/HBO

The Nevers deals with both “Victorian things” and issues we experience in 2021. The show is nominated for outstanding special visual effects in a single episode.

Listen to my entire interview with Donnelly and Skelly below.

Read: Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly, who star in the new HBO Max series The Nevers clear the air

The 2021 Emmys take place on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. For everything you need to know to tune into TV’s night of nights, read Emmys 2021: Date, start time, nominations and how to watch online.

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