Jurnee Smollett: ‘The Past Few Years Have Been Heartbreaking’

Jurnee Smollett learned she had received a best actress Emmy nomination for her starring role on the HBO series “Lovecraft Country” when she was in the hair and makeup trailer for another project, the coming Netflix film “Lou.”

“I started screaming,” she recalled. “I was screaming, and crying.”

That joy was tempered somewhat when she heard that her first Emmy nomination — one of 18 for the critically acclaimed series — was also the first time two Black leads from the same drama series had been nominated in the same year. “I thought, it can’t be,” she said. “We’re still making firsts, in 2021? It was sobering, I’m not going to lie.”

That first season of “Lovecraft Country,” a horror drama which featured monsters of all sorts, from tentacled demons to racist cops, looked to be the start of something big — until it wasn’t. A much-anticipated second season never came to pass. Meanwhile, Smollett’s life, going back to the death of her father in 2015 after years of estrangement, has been beset by sadness and setbacks.

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