LOS ANGELES (Reuters, AFP) - Television's biggest stars braved the red carpet heat ahead of the Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday (Sept 18), where the dramatisation of O.J. Simpson's sensational 1995 double murder trial looked set to sweep to victory after an extraordinarily colourful year for American television. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt nominee Ellie Kemper, Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor, Jerry Seinfeld, and Project Runway host Heidi Klum were among early arrivals under the blazing Los Angeles sun for the three-hour ceremony honouring the best in television.
Kemper rocked a belted yellow Jenny Packham column dress, her red hair cut into a simple bob.
Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, now starring on ABC's conspiracy thriller Quantico, bared some skin in a pleated one-shoulder Jason Wu goddess gown with a full skirt and train, her black hair perfectly slicked back.
Tatiana Maslany, a nominee for best actress in a drama for her demanding turn as multiple clones on the sci-fi cult favourite Orphan Black, sizzled in a sleek Alexander Wang column, a hint of midriff visible through the cut-outs.
Angela Bassett, who has starred in multiple seasons of the fright-show anthology American Horror Story on FX, earned instant praise in the Twitterverse for her Christian Siriano yellow kimono dress with a plunging neckline.
Empire nominee Taraji P. Henson smouldered in a body-hugging canary gown with spaghetti straps.
British actress Minnie Driver, who will star in a new ABC show Speechless this season, stunned in a yellow Versace gown with daring shoulder and waist cutouts and a deep slit up the side.
Game Of Thrones star Sophie Turner sizzled in a lacy black Valentino slip dress.
People of colour were nominated this year in every leading actor category for the first time in the 68-year history of the Emmys, the highest honours in television.
How many of them will go home with an Emmy depends on whether members of the Television Academy will reward new talent, or go for sentimental favourites.
Leading the charge is FX's The People V O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which won 22 nominations on the wave of a true crime trend in television coupled with a contemporary backdrop of racial tension. "I knew it was going to be popular but I didn't know it was going to be so widely popular. That was a really pleasant surprise," said John Singleton, a best director nominee for the limited series show.
Elsewhere, Rami Malek, 35, who is of Egyptian descent, is a front-runner for his first Emmy for his lead role as a socially awkward computer hacker in USA Network's Mr Robot. Awards pundits say the Golden Globe-winning show, beloved by critics despite an audience of only about one million, could also cause an upset in the drama series race where it is competing against HBO's medieval fantasy Game Of Thrones, which dominates with 23 nominations. "Rami has a very strong shot. He anchored the first season for a new show and helped create a character that is entirely unique and interesting," said James Hibberd, editor at large for Entertainment Weekly.
Malek is also up against Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, who has never won an Emmy, in his role as manipulative President Frank Underwood in the Netflix Washington drama House Of Cards. The comedy acting race includes Anthony Anderson of ABC's modern black family series black-ish, and Indian-American Aziz Ansari for his new Netflix comedy Master Of None. However awards watchers say the best comedy actor Emmy is more likely to go once again to Tambor for his role as a father who transitions to a woman in Amazon's ground-breaking Transparent. Emmy darling Julia Louis-Dreyfus is favourite for best comedy actress for a fifth time for playing the vainglorious Selina Meyer in HBO's White House satire Veep.
As Americans prepare to vote in November for a new president after an extraordinary election campaign, Veep is also expected to win the comedy series category on Sunday.