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Laura Benanti could put Melania back in the spotlight at the Emmy Awards


After four years and numerous headline-generating appearances on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti could land her first Emmy nomination this year for playing “Melania Trump” on the Stephen Colbert show.

Benanti, who appeared more than 11 times on the late-night show during the course of former President Donald Trump’s time in office, is on the 2021 Emmy ballot in the Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series category, where she’s up against performers such as Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig for “Saturday Night Live” and Tina Fey for “Girls5eva.”

Comedy is subjective, of course, but it’s arguable few of her competitors generated more laughs than Benanti. As the former First Lady, Benanti affected an Eastern European accent and often made sharp jokes at the expense of the president. In June of last year, Benanti-as-Melania joked about Trump’s now-infamous rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, “Oh Stephen, it was like his performance every night: way smaller than promised, and everyone involved should get tested.” (The event took place during the coronavirus pandemic.)

In August, during a return visit to the “Late Show” to ostensibly preview the real Melania’s planned Rose Garden speech for the Republican National Convention, Benanti-as-Melania cracked, “Stephen there is just something about roses that have always reminded me of my husband. They smell and have tiny pricks.”

But after Trump lost the election and eventually vacated the White House, Benanti made one final guest appearance on “The Late Show” in January. That send-off took Benanti outside of the video-conference screen and into Times Square, where she performed an intricate musical number set to “Belle” from “Beauty and the Beast” alongside numerous Broadway actors. 

It’s this final appearance that has Benanti on the Emmy Awards ballot in the Guest Actress in a Comedy Series category, and while she’s a longshot for a nomination it’s not like Benanti will be invisible to voters. In addition to her appearances as Melania, Benanti had a major arc on the final season of “Younger” and appears next month in the buzzy HBO Max series “Gossip Girl,” a new take on the teen soap opera that takes place within the same universe as the original show.

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