By Piya Sinha-Roy and Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," a TV mini-series exploring racial tensions that strained the criminal justice system 20 years before Black Lives Matter, dominated the Primetime Emmy nominations on Thursday along with HBO's medieval fantasy "Game of Thrones."
The 10-part drama on basic-cable channel FX chronicling the sensational, polarizing murder trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995 earned 22 nominations in all, including best limited series and best actor for Cuba Gooding Jr.'s title role as the disgraced former football star.
"The People v. O.J." viewed Simpson's trial through the prism of racial politics gripping the nation in the aftermath of the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King by white policemen in Los Angeles.
The show aired against a contemporary backdrop of rising tensions between minority communities and law enforcement over a series of killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police in cities across the country, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
"Game of Thrones" led Emmy contenders with 23 nominations overall, including nods for best drama series, two for best supporting actor and three for best supporting actress.
The hit show, based on George R.R. Martin's fantasy novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire," was named outstanding drama series at last year's Emmy Awards.
Rounding out the best drama race are Showtime's CIA thriller "Homeland," FX's Cold War espionage saga "The Americans," AMC's quirky legal story "Better Call Saul," Netflix's political mystery "House of Cards," the final season of PBS's period melodrama "Downton Abbey" and USA Network's freshman cyberhacking drama "Mr. Robot."
TV FINDS HOME FOR DIVERSITY
Thursday's Emmy nominees showcased a more diverse crop of talent in television than in Hollywood's film industry, which drew sharp criticism this year when all 20 performers nominated for Oscars were white for a second consecutive year.
African-American actor Anthony Anderson, who co-hosted the Emmy nomination announcements, shouted with joy as he was named a contender for best comedy actor in the ABC sitcom "black-ish."
Other nominees included Indian-American Aziz Ansari for his debut Netflix comedy "Master of None," Egyptian-American Rami Malek for "Mr. Robot" and black actresses Taraji P. Henson for Fox's hip-hop series "Empire" and Viola Davis in ABC's thriller "How to Get Away with Murder."
Premium cable outlet HBO, a perennial powerhouse of Emmy-lauded programming, again led all networks in nominations with 94 mentions in total. FX Networks was No. 2 with 56 nods, including 18 for crime drama "Fargo" in the mini-series category.
Online streaming networks also fared well. Netflix garnered 54 nominations, six of them for its 10-part documentary series "Making a Murderer." Amazon Studios scored 16 nominations, including 10 for its transgender comedy "Transparent."
HBO's political satire "Veep" led the comedy race with 17 nominations, including a nod for best actress for Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Its competition, in addition to "black-ish," "Master of None" and "Transparent," includes HBO's "Silicon Valley," ABC's "Modern Family" and Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt."
Among the shows snubbed by Emmy voters in major categories this year was the Netflix prison dramedy "Orange is the New Black" and "The Good Wife," a usual Emmy favorite that just ended its seven-year CBS run.
Winners of the Emmy Awards, voted on by the 20,000-plus members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, will be presented Sept. 18 at a ceremony in Los Angeles.
(Editing by G Crosse and James Dalgleish)