'Billions' Star Asia Kate Dillon Is Is Calling Out Awards Shows For Leaving Non-Binary Actors Out
Asia Kate Dillon's performance as financial wunderkind Taylor Mason on Billions has fast put them on the short list for this year's Emmy contenders. But when Showtime asked which category Dillon would like to be submitted under, Variety reports that the non-binary star was frustrated by the limited choice between “supporting actor” and “supporting actress." So, Asia Kate Dillon challenged the Emmys' male-female acting categories by asking the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences why, exactly, such a distinction was even necessary.
As they wrote in their letter to the Academy, per Variety:
“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?”
Variety reports that the Academy replied promptly, explaining that their rules for the acting categories do not specify any gender qualification, and “anyone can submit under either category for any reason." Dillon was pleased with the response, and ultimately chose to enter as an actor, since the word is commonly used in non-gendered contexts.
“I found [the Academy] to be 100 percent supportive,” Dillon told Variety of the exchange. “I really couldn’t have been happier.”
Though it's wonderful that the Emmys were so supportive, Dillon's question does add an important perspective to the push to achieve more diversity in Hollywood. Much of the conversation has been dominated by a push for greater inclusivity for women and people of color, a movement marked by crucial calls for more minority representation at the Oscars and rampant criticism of the lingering gender wage gap. But Dillon's statement serves as a powerful reminder that the fight for visibility of gender nonconforming people is ongoing, too.
And Dillon isn't the only one taking notice. On Thursday, the MTV Movie & TV Awards also announced a major change: Starting this year, they will no longer feature gendered categories. Instead, "Best Actor" will honor performers of all genders, while the "Best Actress" category — at least at this particular awards show — will cease to exist. The same modification applies to Best Actor in a Show, Best Host, Best Villain, Best Hero, and Best Comedic Performance.
Hopefully, Dillon and MTV will help move forward a more progressive dialogue about gender.