The Television Academy’s virtual two-day Emmy Awards broadcast brought big wins for Black performers this weekend, with a record-breaking nine statues for their performances in a drama, comedy and limited series, many of which addressed social and racial issues. In fact, two of last night’s winners—Regina King (“Watchmen”) and Uzo Aduba (“Mrs. America”)—wore shirts that visibly honored Breonna Taylor.
For many Black actors, the September 19 and 20 celebrations also came with milestones, including a first-time win for comedy legend Eddie Murphy, who won an Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series award at the Creative Arts Emmys for hosting “Saturday Night Live” (“SNL”). Murphy received his first-ever trophy after having been nominated five times since 1983, 37 years ago, a timeline he acknowledged in his acceptance speech.
Fellow “SNL: alumna Maya Rudolph picked up two awards on Saturday—an Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for embodying Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance for giving life to Connie the Hormone Monstress on Netflix’s animation “Big Mouth.”
Also on Saturday night, the Emmys announced awards for Ron Cephas Jones (Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for “This Is Us”) and his daughter, Jasmine Cephas Jones (Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series for her role in “#FreeRayshawn”), the first time that a father-daughter pair won Emmys in the same year.
“As a parent, that’s the most fulfilling that I could ever feel at the moment,” Cephas Jones told Deadline in the virtual backstage press room. “Winning another Emmy is the icing on the cake, but to see my daughter progress and move into this place where she’s earned an Emmy is beyond words and I tear up every time I think about it, to be honest with you.”
Cephas Jones’ “#FreeRayshawn” co-star Laurence Fishburne also took home an acting award for his performance.
The ground-breaking moves made by Black performers continued into last night’s big ceremony, when King, who snagged her fourth Emmy, tied Alfre Woodard’s record for the most received by a Black actor. Her “Watchmen” costar, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, also won in his first nomination. Another first came for Zendaya (“Euphoria”), who made history as the youngest actress, at age 24, to win for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series.
Even though nominees Anthony Anderson and Issa Rae, who presented awards, didn’t win last night, they weren’t quiet. In a pre-recorded video, Rae shared the story of the first time she ever pitched her television show “Insecure” to a Hollywood exec.
“He was like, ‘It’s about this Black woman and Black woman problems, hilarious,” and I was like, that’s not what it’s about,” Rae said. “He said, ‘They want to see familiar faces, so you might need to switch up the characters.’ And mind you, this is an executive who’s not Black telling me what Black people like.”
Anderson, who noted during the awards that “we have a record number of Black nominees,” all of whom he was rooting for, also expressed his support for Black Lives Matter, in a rousing crescendo that turned into an echo from the award show’s host Jimmy Kimmel. Watch the video below:
Check out the complete list of winners here.