Tonight’s Emmys made some serious history.
First up, Jharrel Jerome’s win for When They See Us made him the youngest person to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie as well as the first Afro-Latino to win for acting, Deadline reported.
He beat out other nominees Mahershala Ali (True Detective), Benicio Del Toro (Escape at Dannemora), Hugh Grant (A Very English Scandal), Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Sam Rockwell (Fosse/Verdon).
The 21-year-old earned the coveted trophy for his portrayal of the Exonerated Five-member Korey Wise, who, as a teenager, was wrongfully convicted of the rape and assault of Trisha Meili in 1989.
During the young actor’s acceptance speech, he thanked his mother, show creator Ava DuVernay and the five men the limited series was based on.
“I feel like I should just be in the Bronx right now, chilling, waiting for my mom’s cooking or something,” Jerome began.
“But I’m here in front of my inspirations, I’m here in front of people who I’m so motivated by, and the reason I’m here is because [of] actors like the people I was in the category with. I have to thank my mom, who’s with me today, my beautiful mother. I couldn’t do it without her. My dad… of course Ava [DuVernay, creator of the miniseries], thank you for giving me this opportunity, Netflix, my team… But most importantly, this is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five. Raymond [Santana], Yusef [Salaam], Antron [McCray], Kevin [Richardson], and King Korey Wise, thank you so much, it’s an honor, it’s a blessing.”
(Peep how relieved presenter Angela Bassett looked when she opened up that envelope and saw his name)
Backstage, he told the press that he’s glad he can represent Dominicans in the industry.
“It’s a blessing and I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro Latinos. It’s about time we’re here,” adding when he was the youngest to win this award, “well damn, that’s incredible.. kids are smart too.”
When asked about the Academy continuing to award stories that center on Black plain, he replied, “Unfortunately, I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain considering that’s what we go through on a daily basis. It is unfortunate that comedies or light pieces of work aren’t as praised and aren’t sent to the award season.”
“The truth is our pain needs to be told. So if it has to be for the next 20 years where we are just painfully telling our stories until we can move on then I guess it has to be.”
Pose’s Billy Porter also had the crowd on their feet when Kerry Washington read his name of the winning envelope for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. The Tony winner became the first openly gay Black man to win an Emmy in the Lead Actor category.
Porter plays the iconic Pray Tell, on the hit FX show, which is set in New York City’s ball scene during the 1980s and ’90s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. He stars alongside Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Angelica Ross, and Hailie Sahar, the largest cast of trans actors on a TV show in history.
“I am so overwhelmed and I am so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day,” the 50-year-old began, quoting James Baldwin: “It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had a right to be here.”
“I have the right,” Porter continued. “You have the right. We all have the right.”
After thanking his team, the Pose cast and co-creator Ryan Murphy, Porter urged the crowd to keep working to change “hearts and minds.”
“We are the people, we as artists are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet. Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t ever stop telling the truth. I love you all. They’re telling me to please stop. God bless you. God bless you. If I forget anybody, I’m sorry. I love you all.”
Backstage, the Tony, Grammy, and now Emmy winner got emotional when talking about the importance of LGBTQ people seeing themselves on television.
“Visibility and representation are the only things that create change. It’s when we are visible that we have the power to create empathy through the way we tell stories. Being black and gay and out and being in this position and speaking from where I get to speak from is the change,” Porter said.
His voice broke as he added: “I hope that young queer people of all colors can look at me and know that they can.”
While no Black women took home a statue tonight, we want to celebrate these two brothas who gave fearless performances and continue to make us proud with their talent, spirit, and presence.
Congrats Jharrel and Billy!