Soap Opera Actress Nancy Lee Grahn Whines About Viola Davis’s Emmy Speech Not Including “All” Women
Last night’s Emmy Awards were shockingly entertaining and exciting, and the acceptance speeches were the absolute highlight, each one better than the next. From Jill Soloway and Jeffrey Tambor’s advocacy for trans rights, to Uzo Aduba’s moving tribute to her sister, to Regina King’s shock at winning after years of slaying part after part, it was a great night full of meaningful moments. But goddamn, Viola Davis, upon making history as the first Black woman to win Best Actress in a Drama, used her time on stage to thank and praise her fellow Black actresses — including Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union — invoking Harriet Tubman to point out the limited opportunities available to them:
“‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful, white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’
That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
Given that, again, Davis is the first Black woman to win that award, the proof is in the pudding, and Davis’s speech was pitch perfect. But not everyone thought so. Sitting at home in her jammies, soap opera actress Nancy Lee Grahn, who plays Alexis Davis on “General Hospital,” pouted on Twitter:
Grahn also whined in reply to those rightfully calling her out, “Try being any woman in TV. Wish she’d brought every woman in the picture. I wish I’d opportunity to play roles she has gets,” “Harriet Tubman not equivalent to great roles Viola Davis hired 2play. She’s made millions. It is unfair comparison,” and, most ridiculously, “[Viola Davis] has never been discriminated against.”
Like Patricia Arquette before her, Nancy Lee Grahn clearly needs a crash course in intersectional feminism. Yes, of course, there needs to be more meaty roles for female actresses, in particular older female actresses. I don’t think anyone with a brain would deny that. But there is a time and a place for championing the rights of ALL women. And then there is a time and a place when more privileged women, like Nancy Lee Grahn, need to have a seat, and hush, and let women of color have their moment — and there has never been a more obvious example than when a Black woman makes history, as Viola Davis did last night. And yet Nancy Lee Grahn is whining on Twitter about being left out. Good lord, someone is green with envy, huh?
Let me tell you something about Nancy Lee Grahn. She has one of the best goddamn jobs in Hollywood. She is a beloved, well-respected lead actress on a long-running soap opera. She has played Alexis Davis for nearly 20 years. In an industry that is incredibly fickle, Grahn has collected a consistent, no doubt plentiful paycheck for nearly two decades (and that’s not including the years she spent on “Santa Barbara”!). She basically has tenure! So long as Nancy Lee Grahn is down to play Port Charles’s resident mob-defending lawyer, she has a job. What is she complaining about?!
I get the fact that soap opera actors don’t necessarily get the respect they deserve for their hard work — soap operas never go into reruns or take breaks — but plenty of soap stars have made the leap from daytime to primetime to the big screen. That Nancy Lee Grahn has not? Well, I can only guess at the reason for that, but a cursory look at her IMDB page reveals that she has not done any film work since 1995, had less than a handful of guest roles on other shows in the ’90s-’00s, and hadn’t done anything but General Hospital in recent years, save a guest spot on “Castle.” Is she not trying to break out of daytime? Is she trying and getting denied, denied, denied? There’s not even an indie movie or two to round out her portfolio! My hunch is that Nancy Lee Grahn has not hustled in years. That she’s been content, as many would be, to collect a regular paycheck from the longest running soap opera on television.
That Grahn has the audacity to complain about Viola Davis’s speech not including actresses like her, and that SHE, a well-paid, longtime soap actress who will never be fired, has lacked the opportunities that Viola Davis has had, tells me that A) Grahn has no fucking clue how much Viola Davis has hustled and has HAD to hustle and B) that she honestly believes that as one of the better actresses in daytime, primetime should be banging on her door. I mean, STFU for a second, Nancy, and take a look around at your own coworkers!
There is one Black actor, a man. [EDITED TO ADD:] The current commissioner of the Port Charles police department is played by Black actress Vinessa Antoine, who has been on the show since 2014. Prior to Antoine, there was a Black female character on the soap in 2013, but she was written out of the show. And before that, I remember there being a character named Keisha, but she barely got any screen time after her boyfriend, Jason, forgot who he was after he got hit by a car and they broke up. The point being, opportunities for Black actors have been incredibly limited on “General Hospital,” including in the nearly 20 years Grahn has been a main player. Again, Nancy, WTF ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT? You are probably the highest paid actress on your show!
Last night was Viola Davis’s night. And she celebrated it by celebrating the accomplishments of her fellow Black actresses and calling for Hollywood to recognize how difficult those accomplishments are to achieve when there are not opportunities. Including opportunities that Nancy Lee Grahn clearly takes for granted.