This year’s class of first-time Emmy nominees is totally fierce

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The Television Academy gets a lot of flak for nominating the same stars year after year.

But at Monday night’s 70th Primetime Emmys, there were more than a few fresh names duking it out for the top trophies.


From A-listers to up-and-comers, here are eight actors who scored nods for the very first time — and why they’ve earned that attention.

Zazie Beetz

Donald Glover and Zazie Beetz in “Atlanta.”Guy D’Alema/FX

The role: Van, a mother and sometimes girlfriend, in “Atlanta”
Up for: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Best known for: “Atlanta,” and the mutant Domino in “Deadpool 2”
The character, in her words: “I think it is important to see intelligent black women who are also struggling with their partners,” she told GQ magazine.
Breakout moment: a conversation in which she and a fellow biracial friend discuss “choosing” their black or white sides

Jessica Biel

Peter Kramer/USA Network

The role: Cora Tannetti, a young mother who stabbed a man, in “The Sinner”
Up for: Best Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Best known for: “7th Heaven,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and making a family with husband Justin Timberlake
The character, in her words: “Cora has so many layers,” Biel told the Los Angeles Times. “Putting together all this trauma and religious zealousness and abuse that I don’t know anything about, that really intrigued me as an actress.”
Breakout moment: a disturbing, incestous scene with her sister

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Helen Sloan/HBO

The role: Jaime Lannister, the complicated anti-hero, in “Game of Thrones”
Up for: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Best known for: starring on “Game of Thrones” since 2011
The character, in his words: “I actually think Jaime’s been quite honorable throughout the story,” he told the Syfy Wire blog. “You might not have agreed with his code of honor, but he’s always been about family, protecting his family.”
Breakout moment: when he charged at Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), but was blocked by Drogon’s fire breath

Penélope Cruz

Jeff Daly/FX

The role: Donatella Versace, Gianni’s fashion-designing muse and sister, in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”
Up for: Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Best known for: “Volver,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which garnered her an Oscar
The character, in her words: “[I] see her as some kind of heroine,” she told Variety, “somebody that had to go through such a difficult time [. . . and] had to have the entire weight of this brand, of this empire, on her shoulders.”
Breakout moment: her arrival at a gala in a bondage-themed dress she designed with her ailing brother Gianni (Édgar Ramírez)

Issa Rae

Issa Rae (left) and Yvonne Orji in “Insecure.”Justina Mintz/HBO

The role: Issa Dee, a young black woman figuring out life, in “Insecure”
Up for: Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Best known for: “Insecure” and her Web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”
The character, in her words: “This character is in between two worlds and is just in a constant state of discomfort,” she told NPR’s “Fresh Air,” adding that Dee feels “not black enough for the black people and not … white enough for the white people.”
Breakout moment: a scene in which she chooses an outfit, with each possible look denoting a personality that she could embody

Matt Smith

Netflix via AP

The role: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in “The Crown”
Up for: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Best known for: portraying the 11th titular doctor on “Doctor Who”
The character, in his words: “There was this idea that [Philip] was just this kind of doddering old fool who says the wrong thing,” Smith told the Hollywood Reporter. “The research I did was quite contrary to that.”
Breakout moment: his declaration of love for Elizabeth (Claire Foy) in their final marital confrontation

Joseph Fiennes

Joseph Fiennes with Yvonne Strahovski in a scene from “The Handmaid’s Tale.”Hulu

The role: Fred Waterford, the evil commander, in “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Up for: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Best known for: “Shakespeare in Love,” “Elizabeth” and being Ralph’s brother
The character, in his words: Fiennes told the Web site Deadline that the character is a “monster,” but “the actor is always here trying to search out the nuance, trying to make him human.”
Breakout moment: a hospital scene that shows his vulnerability

Sara Bareilles

John Legend as Jesus and Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert.”Virginia Sherwood/NBC via AP

The role: Mary Magdalene, sensual follower of Jesus, in “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert”
Up for: Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Best known for: her music, including the hit singles “Love Song” and “Brave,” and the score of Broadway’s “Waitress”
The character, in her words: “Mary Magdalene is a powerful and important historical figure and I love how she’s portrayed in the show,” Bareilles told Billboard. “She’s a feminist icon.”
Breakout moment: her stunning performance of the ballad, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”



By Gregory E. Miller

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