Pedro Pascal and Jenna Ortega Are First Latinos to Land Lead Acting Emmy Noms in Drama, Comedy Series Since 2008

The stars of “The Last of Us” and “Wednesday” broke a long cycle that overlooked Latino actors

Pedro Pascal, Jenna Ortega 2023 Met Gala
Pedro Pascal and Jenna Ortega (Getty Images)

Pedro Pascal and Jenna Ortega scored lead Emmy nominations for acting in drama and comedy series on Wednesday, becoming the first actors of Latin descent to do so in their categories since 1999 and 2008, respectively.

Pascal, who is Chilean-American, is the first Latino to earn a best lead actor in a drama series nomination since Jimmy Smits in 1999 for “NYPD Blue,” his fifth consecutive nomination for his role as Det. Bobby Simone. No other actor of Latin-American heritage had been nominated in the category until Pascal, whose performance in “The Last of Us” as a man trying to survive a fungus-zombie apocalypse with a surrogate daughter (Bella Ramsey) in tow, won him accolades — and status as the internet’s daddy. He was also nominated for best comedy guest actor for hosting “SNL” and for best narrator for CNN’s “Patagonia: Life at the Edge of the World.” (Fun fact: Pascal appeared in a post-Smits, 2001 episode of “NYPD Blue,” playing a Satanic gibberish-speaking Goth.)

Ortega, the star of Netflix’s “Wednesday,” was nominated for best lead actress in a comedy series, a category that has been lacking in Latina nominees since 2008, when America Ferrera earned her second nod for “Ugly Betty.” (Ortega is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.) The previous year, she’d become the first Latina to triumph in that category when she won for her portrayal of the plucky, fashion-challenged Betty Suarez on the ABC sitcom. Ferrera was the first Latina to even be nominated for lead actress in a comedy series since Rita Moreno for “Nine to Five” in 1983.

While Pascal and Ortega’s recognition by the TV Academy is certainly encouraging, overall Latino representation in all acting categories was weak this year, especially compared to 2021, when six Latino performers were recognized, including Michaela Jaé Rodriguez‘s history-making nod for “Pose.” And despite widespread acclaim and spots on many 2023 Emmy shortlists, Diego Luna from “Andor” and Selena Gomez for “Only Murders in the Building” did not land nominations for best lead actor in a drama and best supporting actress in a comedy, respectively.

The 75th annual Emmys ceremony is planning to air live Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Fox.