The Last of Us creator speaks out after non-binary Bella Ramsey receives best actress Emmy nod

The Last of Us creator Craig Mazin (L) speaks out on gendered award categories after Bella Ramsey (R). (Getty)

The Last of Us creator Craig Mazin has weighed into the debate over gendered award categories following non-binary star Bella Ramsey’s outstanding lead actress Emmy nomination.

The Last of Us is on track for a winning streak after landing a phenomenal 24 nominations for the 75th annual Emmy Awards. As the most lauded live-action video-game adaptation in Emmy history, the hit series is in the running for several major categories, with Pedro Pascal up for outstanding actor in a drama series, and Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett both in the running for outstanding guest actor.

Most notably, however, is rising star Ramsey’s first Emmy nomination, for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. The 19-year-old genderfluid actor bowled audiences over with their standout performance as The Last of Us‘ resident lesbian post-apocalyptic survivor, Ellie Williams, as well as with their on-screen chemistry with co-star Pascal, who plays hardened survivalist Joel.

Although Ramsey has celebrated the nomination by praising their fellow cast and crew, including Mazin, the decision to place the non-binary star in the “female” category has sparked fresh discourse around the push to make major award ceremonies more inclusive.

In an interview with Variety on Wednesday (12 July), Mazin admitted he had discussed the gendered nomination with Ramsey and shared his own thoughts on the ongoing debate.

Bella Ramsey
Bella Ramsey has been nominated for her first Emmy. (Getty)

“I talk about everything with Bella,” he said. “So, of course, we’ve spoken about this. It’s a really interesting challenge.

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“On the one hand, the conversation about gender has transformed dramatically and in a very progressive and positive way. On the other, we have to practically make sure that by moving away from gendered categories, we don’t short-change traditionally overlooked folks… and we know that in non-gendered categories like directing and writing, women have been historically under-appreciated.”

This was particularly true at the 2023 Academy Awards where no women scored a nomination for best director, while the BRIT Awards faced a major backlash for their all-male best artist shortlist.

“I don’t know the answer, but I have every expectation that non-binary performers will soon be recognised in the respectful and appropriate way they deserve,” Mazin added.

His words echo the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once) and Jameela Jamil (She Hulk), who have addressed the complications around introducing gender-neutral categories to major awards shows such as the BAFTAs, the Tonys and the Oscars.

However, the pressure to find a solution is growing, with a chorus of non-binary stars, including Ramsey, voicing their criticisms.

“The categories, at the moment, feel extremely gendered with the language around them,” Ramsey told Vanity Fair in May.

Bella Ramsey lands Emmy nomination for role as Ellie in The Last of Us.
Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us. (HBO)

“I don’t want the limitations in terms of the language in the categories to be a reason that non-binary actors like me can’t be celebrated… and it can open up a conversation about how it feels – as long as I’m aware of the fact that it’s not ideal, but also that finding alternatives is really complex.

“For [non-binary people] to have a say and be part of those discussions and those conversations, that’s really important… I just hope there’s more space for non-binary people to be recognised within [future] categories.”

Although some progress has been made, with non-binary stage actors J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell making Tony Award history recently, there is still a long way to go.

Other gender-non-conforming actors, including Emma Corrin (nominated for outstanding lead actress at the 2021 Emmys), Emma D’Arcy (House of the Dragon) and Broadway star Justin David Sullivan (who withdrew from this year’s Tony consideration), are calling for greater inclusivity.

Although the Oscars and BAFTAs are considering gender-neutral categories, there has been no movement on modernising the nominations process as yet.

The 75th Emmy Awards ceremony takes place on 18 September.

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