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NATAS Responds To Daytime Emmy Controversy

After Patrika Darbo (ex-Nancy, DAYS et al) released a statement earlier today about her recent Daytime Emmy win for THE BAY being revoked, Digest spoke to Adam Sharp, interim President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and David Michaels, NATAS’s senior vice president Daytime Emmy Awards and Events for an interview about what happened and how things will change going forward.

Digest: We posted Patrika’s statement earlier. Where would you like to begin?

Adam Sharp: Well, I think a good place to start would be to lay out some facts of the matter that I think got lost in the statement. First and foremost, we take any irregularities in the process very seriously, and when these claims were detailed, we launched a comprehensive internal investigation, which led us to the conclusion to disqualify Patrika and Thomas Calabro [who was also nominated in the Guest Performer category for THE BAY] and to not take action against some other violations, mainly because these were two different cases. What’s not noted in the statement, and got sort of lost in other reporting, is that the episode count rule, that rule that says that you cannot have more than one episode in the Guest category or more than four episodes in the Supporting performer character, does not apply to Patrika’s case. She did violate that rule, but had already been disqualified before we had begun considering that. There is another rule that says that a guest performer cannot have appeared in a prior season. It was brought to our attention that she had, in fact, appeared as that character several seasons ago. The same issue came up regarding Thomas Calabro, and so those two performers, one male and one female, were disqualified on the basis of that rule.

David Michaels: And I owned it from the beginning that that category is the one I screwed up. It was way late in the game, and I spent the day vetting the Supporting category and my brain didn’t shift gears. I’ve owned that from day one. Quite honestly, I didn’t know that they had been in previous episodes. When we formed this category, there were people who felt very strongly about [being eligible for the Guest Performer category only if you hadn’t previously appeared on the show]. I don’t know if they still do. One of the reasons I want to discuss it is I feel it kind of cuts people out who actually are guests. For example, DAYS and Y&R brought back some people for an episode or two and none of those people qualified as guests. Like David Lago [Raul, Y&R], who played his role 10 years ago, came back from two episodes, but he couldn’t qualify as a guest. That’s a discussion that I want to open up. To be clear, even if the episode count mattered, she still would have been disqualified and Thomas Calabro would also have been.

Sharp: The question that came as we moved on to the other rule, was, “How do we apply it fairly in determining where people either get disqualified or get moved up in the ranking?” When it came to the episode count rule, though, things got complicated. In hindsight, it was a poorly written rule and that’s why next year we’re getting rid of it. It’s one that is nearly impossible to vet. You’ve seen on soaps sometimes one episode will end in the middle of a scene on a cliffhanger. “The killer is…” The next day, the dialogue continues, and so there’s no way for an impartial judge to know that those two scenes came from different episodes. And in fact, if they know the show well enough to determine that, they might not be an impartial judge. Second, we did have one entrant, THE BAY, that has made an argument regarding what constitutes an episode. Their argument, and I should be clear that we have not taken a position on this argument, their argument is that as they release four segments at once, once a week, those four segments should be viewed as chapters of a single episode released per week. Under that interpretation, a clip from Chapter One and a clip from Chapter Three would not be separate episodes, but if you consider those segments to be separate episodes, it would be. Without an inability to vet it, the judges went for this material without really being equipped to see if that rule was being followed or not with the fact that different producers had different interpretations — all reasonable — of what the rules were. Third, in many cases, the violations were fleeting. In two of these from different shows, the excess material was one line of dialogue. One sentence out of a 20-minute submission. Would you argue that that changes substantially the view of multiple judges who reviewed the whole material? Our feeling was that with those three areas of ambiguity, it was not appropriate for us to overrule the judges by either demoting anyone or promoting anyone in the rankings. After we resolved the prior appearance piece, we basically said, “All other finishers hold their positions. We’re not going to disqualify anyone based on this rule, but recognizing that it’s left these categories in a bit of limbo, we’re not going to award new Emmys in the categories, either.” That’s where I think it’s important to catch the key elements here of what the decision was and what the reasons were for it, because I think that did get lost a little bit. I should stress that none of this was the fault of the performers themselves. In each case, these reels were prepared by others; we confirmed that through our investigation. All these performers had phenomenal contributions to this season of daytime programming. None of this should take away from that.

Michaels: I’m also convinced that nobody did anything on purpose. I don’t think anyone said, “Let’s break the rules. They’ll never know.” I truly do not believe that happened in any of these cases.

Digest: Let’s talk about the email you got two days before production of the show from another entrant in the digital category alerting you to some issues with the entries.

Michaels: I think that is very significant. I was wearing my other hat by that point. The competition was done. I did not read that email until afterwards, but I did respond and say, “Is this something that we need to talk about now, two days before the show or is this something that can wait until next week?” and the response was, “Oh, yeah, it can wait until next week.” It was gone from my head completely and I was more worried about which presenter couldn’t get there and needed transportation.

Sharp: For the investigation, we were able to look at the email chain. The initial outreach suggesting there might be a problem came two days before the show. As David said, he did ask the claimant if this was important to resolve before the show or something to revisit after. The claimant said, “Of course it can wait until after.” They did not actually detail their claims until May 18. We immediately launched our investigation and reached resolution on all these points less than a week later.

Digest: Eric Nelsen got to retain his award in the Supporting Actor in a Digital Drama. In Patrika’s statement, she said there is perception of ageism and gender inequality here.

Michaels: That probably bothers me more than anything. No. 1, if anyone knows me and No. 2, that isn’t how NATAS operates, and No. 3, it never even occurred to me about who was male and who was female, just like it wouldn’t have occurred to me who was what race or what. My mind doesn’t work that way.

Sharp: And just to be clear on the facts here, our effort was to take each individual rule and apply it in the fairest way possible. In the episode count rule, we determined this rule should not be used to promote or demote any nominees selected by the judges. No one that was in violation of this had their nominations or wins disqualified, no one was moved up because someone ahead of them had their nominations disqualified because of that rule. For the prior appearance rule, everyone who violated that was disqualified. Ms. Darbo and Thomas Calabro. One man, one woman. To say that it was a sexist application of the rule is false. The rule she violated and the rule she was disqualified for also disqualified a male performer. The difference here is not the gender of the performer, but the fact that the performers violated different rules with different circumstances and therefore were determined differently.

Digest: How are you going to change things going forward?

Michaels: Okay, so there are a number of things. No. 1, the episode count is going to go away. Basically, the rule is going to be you have 20 minutes, which is what it is now, to show us what you did this year. I don’t want to see montages, there can’t be more than a small percentage of flashbacks, but basically show us your best material, up to 20 minutes of it, from the qualifying year. Period. No. 2, the one-episode rule goes away from the guest performer, and they have the exact same rule as I just described to you for all the other actor categories. Again, it’s giving you up to 20 minutes of what you did this year. The only thing I’m not sure of is whether to keep the previous performance rule, and that I’m willing to discuss with the community. For the network soaps and for the digital drama series, the rules will all be exactly the same in all the categories.

Sharp: Those are the changes to the actual rules of the program. On top of that, we’re creating a system of internal ombudsmen, people who are involved in the other Emmy shows but not necessarily daytime, so that they are familiar with our processes but not necessarily part of the daytime community, so that there is a channel for those who want to raise concerns, like the claimant here, and making sure that they do get heard immediately. Obviously, it was a mistake to push off this claim until after the awards. We should not have taken the claimant’s word for it. We will have a system where the person is not someone who’s already sitting in the production truck rehearsing and can actually evaluate the claim in the moment and determine what actions need to be taken.

Michaels: Because we did not award an Emmy in the Guest category, anyone who entered that category, either that show or that person, can have a complimentary entry next time.

Sharp: Lastly, we obviously recognize that this is not an ideal outcome. It is the fairest way to get past the ambiguity created this year. In talking to some of the community, we’ve invited them to work with us to shape it for next year, to help determine if there are extra steps we should be taking, and we hope they’ll engage with us to make this a better experience for everyone.

Digest: What do you want to say about where this leaves the perception of NATAS?

Sharp: We take this very seriously. That statue has been the icon of excellence in our industry for over half a century and hopefully many years beyond that. That is why the moment these claims were detailed, we did launch an investigation and we did find mistakes that were made internally. We did find mistakes in the rules that needed to be changed and we came to what was the most equitable outcome for this year, recognizing that overarching mission of honoring excellence and not wanting to overrule judges based on a technicality. We made changes for next year and we hope that all the entrants in these categories will help us to continue making changes so that as the industry evolves, NATAS evolves with it.

Michaels: We pride ourselves on the hours and hours and hours and months that we spend vetting this stuff. We are very careful. I think we’ve explained how what happened happened, but it’s very important to us. I consider this an extremely fair contest. I just can’t imagine anybody being more concerned with the integrity of it than we are.

Digest: What do want to say you say to Patrika?

Michaels: She is a wonderful actress and I feel awful that this happened to her. I’ve apologized to her and I’ve apologized to the world.

 

 

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