re: lack of nom for Jon Jon Briones was criminal
Last Edit: Chazwaza 05:16 am EDT 06/23/22
Posted by: Chazwaza 05:04 am EDT 06/23/22
In reply to: re: lack of nom for Jon Jon Briones was criminal - WaymanWong 01:26 am EDT 06/23/22

I obviously agree with you on how insane and unfortunate and shortsighted it was that Briones didn't end up with a nomination for this performance ... but I do think it's very important to take into consideration the scenarios. In 1991 Miss Saigon was a sensational new hit, the popular and impressive (to many) follow up of the writers of Les Miz, a show that took the world by storm. In was a transfer from being a huge hit in London, and the producer went to battle to maintain his leads and won. In 1991 Pryce was already a known and very respected actor -- not only had he won an Olivier for his performance in Miss Saigon the year before, he also was previously an Olivier winner and a *two time* Tony Award winner, and was also a movie star (films like Brazil brought him great acclaim and spotlight).

None of this was true for Briones or for the show itself, which was returning at a time when I don't think there was very much enthusiasm for the show, not a sliver of what there was in 1990/91 ... it wasn't new, it wasn't fresh, it wasn't exciting... and beyond that, the role is far less sympathetic than Kim, and has a much much less showy singing role... and the casting of Kim did garner much more talk, and the amazing performance of Eva as Kim did earn her a deserved Tony nomination. Briones himself also was not a Broadway or London stage favorite, let alone an Olivier and double Tony winner at that point, or a known film or tv actor. I am definitely surprised that the story of Briones being a brilliant Asian actor doing the role as it should have been cast was a great story and should have helped him to a Tony nom, but it's hard to say if the story was highlighted and pushed enough, often enough, in the most effective ways, compared to Eva being the new Kim story... and fighting against disinterest in the show and the Broadway favorites competing for slots in this category... not to mention that the productions were being received in very different times, 25 years apart and by a different Tony committee. That doesn't mean racism couldn't have played in, I just don't think it is so clearly identifiably the reason.

The scenario of the two actors and their performances in their respective productions of this show were just soooo different, I think there's a lot to look at before declaring Briones lack of nomination as racism, compared to white-actor Pryce's nom/win or not. I also think in some ways, Briones' year was tougher than Pryce's year. For what it's worth, neither Mandy Patinkin (already a Tony winning star of stage and screen) nor Robert Westenberg (or John Cameron Mitchell), all white, got Tony noms for The Secret Garden that year (which got many noms and several huge wins), nor did any of the black men from Once On This Island, nor the white men in Will Rogers Follies outside of Carradine.

I was absolutely shocked and saddened that Briones didn't end up with an Emmy nom for his fantastic performance in the juicy role in Versace... but it certainly isn't the first time great performances by relatively unknown actors were past up for good/great/less impressive performances by much more famous actors. I think many voters would not even have seen far enough into the series to have an opinion on or knowledge of Briones performance, and voted, as many do, having seen little or just off their impression from trailers and first episode(s) and buzz/word of mouth. Many voters vote without having seen these things at all. Same as the Tonys, as you pointed out.

For what it's worth I think Briones was really on the cusp- just barely not making the "cut" - of a nomination for Miss Saigon, but like you said the Broadway favorites won out. All gave what were generally thought of as Tony winning performances in Tony worthy roles (though I maintain that Hyde Pierce was in the wrong category, but he is a name star and I think his name was above the title - again not the first time that kind of thing happens and throws off what is fair in categorizing or awarding noms/wins) -- and even assuming some racism, I still don't understand how it happened (I think the white guilt many voters would feel balances out the racism that would have contributed -- i guess it depends on who made up the nominating committee, but we can never know what guided them to the ultimate selection for the nominations).
Also, as we know, the voting body doesn't sit around together and decide who to give what award to... if anyone can be blamed for Briones not being recognized by the Tonys it's the nominating committee, but I honestly don't even know how that's done... for what it's worth, the Falsettos revival was a much more welcomed revival than a Miss Saigon rehash of the same basic production of a problematic show -- Falsettos was a relatively short-run 90s musical people wanted to revisit/revive, Miss Saigon was a long running 90s hit musical that people weren't so excited to rehash/revive, and its many male acting noms definitely had a lot to do with Briones not making the cut (as did the Hyde Pierce category ruling). And perhaps the blame for Briones lack of Emmy nom is in the hands of Ryan Murphy and FX and their marketing team who either didn't campaign enough or at all or the right way to get Briones in there despite his lack of name recognition. Who can say.

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