History was made tonight, and we at Broadway Black are thrilled. As the creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, I debated for quite a while about whether I would watch the 2015 Emmy Awards. The lack of inclusion of people of color, both as nominees and as presenters, has long troubled me. But because this is the most diverse set of nominees that the Emmy Awards have had in years, I decided to tune in. I was not disappointed. At the end of the night, three Black actresses and one Black actor had won awards, in addition to a slew of Creative Emmy Awards for “Bessie,” the HBO movie starring Queen Latifah. Here are the highlights:
Queen Latifah and the Flavor Unit Entertainment crew won four Creative Arts Emmys for the HBO Films movie, Bessie, a project she starred in and produced. As we previously announced, Latifah will be playing The Wiz on The Wiz Live! airing on December 3 on NBC. The four Creative Arts Emmy wins for Bessie were: Outstanding Television Movie; Outstanding Cinematography For A Limited Series Or Movie; Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or A Special (Original Dramatic Score); and Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Limited Series Or A Movie.
Reg E. Cathey won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Freddy Hayes in Netflix’s House of Cards. Cathey, who made his Broadway debut in The Green Bird, also played the role of Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding in the Wyndham Theatre’s stage presentation of The Shawshank Redemption in London.
Three Black women were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series of Movie. They were: Mo’Nique as Ma Rainey in “Bessie,” Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree in “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” and Regina King, who played Aliyah Shadeed in American Crime. The award went to actress and director King, her first Emmy. In her speech, she thanked her sister, mother and grandmother “who have taught me the power and the blessing of being a woman.” Here is her entire speech:
The Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series went to Uzo Aduba for her portrayal of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” With this win, her second consecutive, Aduba made history as the first woman and just the second person to win an Emmy in both the Comedy and Drama categories for the same character (Ed Asner was the first with “Lou Grant”). Aduba is a classically trained vocalist and first garnered recognition for her acting in 2003, when her performance in “Translations of Xhosa” at the Olney Theatre Center for the Arts earned her a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play. In 2007, she made her Broadway debut, portraying Toby in Coram Boy. From 2011 through 2012, she sang “By My Side” as part of the original revival cast of Godspell at the Circle in the Square Theatre. As we’ve previously reported, Aduba will portray Glinda the Good Witch in NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” on December 3rd. In her speech, she thanked show creator Jenji Kohan “for putting belief back in my heart” and her team: “I love you mostly because you let me be me.”
But the highlight of the night was Viola Davis winning Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Annalise Keating in the Shonda Rhimes’ hit “How To Get Away With Murder.” Both Davis and Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon on “Empire”) were nominated in this category and it was Henson standing in the aisle to give Davis a heartfelt embrace as she approached the stage. After graduating from Juilliard, Davis began her career on the stage, and in 1999, she won an Obie Award for her performance as Ruby McCollum in Everybody’s Ruby. She is a three-time Tony Award nominee and has won twice, for her role as Tonya in the 2001 production of King Hedley II, and for her role as Rose Maxson in the 2010 revival of Fences. As we previously reported, Davis will star in the film version of Fences, which will be directed by Denzel Washington. But it was her Emmys speech, which evoked both Harriet Tubman as an ancestor and Meagan Good as the next generation, which brought tears to the eyes of many. Davis spoke of opportunities for women of color, using her platform in this historic moment as the first Black woman to ever win an Emmy in this category. No words can do justice to her speech but her own, so watch here:
Awards shows, Hollywood, and the media have a long way to go before they are truly inclusive and representative of the people who patronize them. Our country is a tapestry woven from the threads of many communities, many of which still remain marginalized. But with these historic wins tonight, we move just a little bit closer to recognizing the richness of our diversity.
Collecting Our Things: Black Excellence Dominates the 2017 Oscars
If you weren’t lucky enough to get snuck in through the side door at the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony, I’ll give you the Broadway Black rundown. With Moonlight taking the big Oscar of the night, it seems The Academy heard us loud and clear when we demanded they give us our things, and I’m glad.
Watch highlight videos below! #TourBusGary, Viola, Mahershala, & Moonlights acceptances speeches, and more!
Although I do have some complaints I’d like to file regarding Ms. Taraji P. Henson and Mr. Denzel Washington, but that’s for another time.
The night began with Mahershala Ali winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as Juan in Moonlight. Mahershala celebrated many firsts on Oscar night: his first nomination and his first win. While many laud Ali for being the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, his acceptance speech focused on his mentors, education, and his new baby girl.
“I want to thank my teachers, my professors. I had so many wonderful teachers, and one of the things they told me was…it’s not about you, it’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories and these characters.”
Image: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times
Moonlight celebrated Mahershala’s win and later took home Best Picture (after a perplexing mix-up with La La Land – see blow) and Best Adapted Screenplay. The creators and cast of Moonlight echoed Mahershala’s message of representation. In their acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay, Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins pledged to defend those who don’t fit the mold:
“All you people out there, who feel like there’s no mirror for you or your life is not reflected. We have your back and for the next four years, we will not leave you alone. We will not forget you.”
Image: Kevin Winter/Getty
Jenkins’ words echoed the community and perseverance that Moonlight celebrates. His victory for his second feature film alone is a testament to the spirit of perseverance. His first feature film, the highly acclaimed Medicine for Melancholy, premiered in 2008. Jenkins speaks openly of the discouragement he felt in this eight-year gap, where, at times, he thought his career was at an end. But just like Jenkins couldn’t dodge that Best Picture Oscar, he couldn’t dodge his calling, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Another highlight in that same speech came from McCraney, who is the playwright of In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue of which the film is based. He said:
“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender-conforming who don’t see themselves, we’re trying to show you you and us. Thank you, thank you. This is for you.”
Further celebrating a night of untold stories, NASA’s Katherine Johnson joined the Hidden Figures cast on stage. With the grace of a thousand Dianas, Viola Davis accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Rose in Fences. Her performance, which earned her a Tony for Best Actress in 2010, resonated with women and defined resilience to men.
We know Viola from Broadway and How to Get Away With Murder, but tonight she made history as the first Black actor to take home an Emmy, Tony, and Oscar for acting. Her role in Fences gives glory to the ordinary, and her speech showed her pride in that fact.
Now, about that Best Picture Oscar. Still can’t believe this actually happened. There are no words to describe what the conflicting feelings of confusion & joy bottled and shaken up, on the brink of explosion, actually feels like but here it is in video form:
As I cheered along, I thought of the power of ordinariness in Black communities. The legacy of Blackness exudes strength and resilience, but we should remember that excellence isn’t isolated to any tax bracket.
Audiences found power in Viola Davis’ Rose because August Wilson did not see powerful and ordinary as mutually exclusive. It is vital, especially today, that the Fences and Hidden Figures and Moonlights empower us.
These films tell the story of those perceived as ordinary, simply because the people looking had a singular point of view. So, yes, tonight was for Viola and her staple in history, for Mahershala and Moonlight collecting their things, and even for Denzel and Ruth Negga, no matter what The Academy says.
But even more, tonight was for the ordinary people who are, in fact, excellent and Broadway Black.
View the full list of winners at Oscar.
& the funniest moment of the night that we just can’t seem to get over. Watch #TourBusGary become a meme right in front of your eyes: