Nonbinary Billions Star Asia Kate Dillon Questions the TV Academy Over Emmy Awards’ Actor and Actress Categories

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Showtime Network

If your work on a television show is up for an Emmy, you might win an Outstanding Directing or Outstanding Writing award regardless of your gender. If you are up for an acting award, however, your name must be submitted as an actor or actress, a decision that understandably didn’t sit well with gender nonbinary performer Asia Kate Dillon, who appears as financial genius Taylor Mason on Showtime’s Billions. According to Variety, when asked by the network how they would like to be submitted, Dillon decided to reach out to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for some clarification, specifically with regards to the question, “Do we really need to make this distinction?” As Dillon wrote in their letter to the Academy:

“I’d like to know if in your eyes ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ denote anatomy or identity and why it is necessary to denote either in the first place? The reason I’m hoping to engage you in a conversation about this is because if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are in fact supposed to represent ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a woman’ and ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a man’ then there is no room for my identity within that award system binary. Furthermore, if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?”

The Academy replied, explaining that ultimately the designation of actor or actress is in the performer’s hands, as “anyone can submit under either category for any reason.” The Billions star opted to submit themselves as a supporting actor, since the word has a common nongendered usage. “I found them to be 100 percent supportive. I really couldn’t have been happier,” they said of their conversation with the Academy. In a statement to Variety, the Television Academy added that it “celebrates inclusiveness, and as we discussed with Asia, there is no gender requirement for the various performer categories. Asia is free to choose the category they wish to enter.”

Satisfied with the outcome, the Billions star is interested in engaging with the industry about the larger issue of gender. “I can only speak to the world in which I wish to live,” Dillon explained. “I think this is a really good place to start a larger conversation about the categories themselves, and what changes are possible and what may or may not be coming. I’m excited to see what other people think, and what they want to say once they become aware of this.”

Nonbinary Billions Star Questions Emmys’ Gender Divide