Billions star challenges Emmy Awards over gender-based categories

'Billions' star Asia Kate Dillon questions gender-specific awards categories at the Emmys

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The Independent Culture

Billions may well be proving a TV hit, but its new star Asia Kate Dillon has had some questions for the Academy.

The Showtime series follows Paul Giamatti as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, who takes on the task of chasing down hedge fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis.

Dillon joined the show for its second season as financial aficionado Taylor Mason, and has garnered praise for playing TV’s first gender non-binary character.

Cisgender, transgender, and gender non-binary actors were auditioned for the part of Taylor, but it was Dillon who caught the attention of showrunners David Levien and Brian Koppelman. Dillon, who uses impersonal pronouns "they", "theirs" and "them", identifies as non-binary.

Dillon’s performance earned them an Emmy nomination, however the question soon arose as to which category they would be nominated under. According to Variety, Dillon wrote to the Television Academy regarding the issue, asking:

"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 reported that the Academy immediately replied, leading to what has been described as a “thoughtful exchange.” They outlined that “anyone can submit under either category for any reason,” and Dillon praised them for their support. Ultimately, Dillon chose the ‘Supporting Actor’ category since it can be a “non-gendered word.”

Dillon has been outspoken on gender identity issues since they first rose to prominence with their role as Brandy in hit series Orange Is The New Black, and hopes that this will continue to encourage discussion on such themes.