Emmys 2019: The Television Academy Was Wise to Give Jharrel Jerome His Things


Jharrel Jerome accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie award for When They See Us onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards on Sept. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

The biggest night in television has come and gone, folks! Let’s get into this blackity blackness...where we can find it, that is.

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Jay Connor and I were representing The Root in the press room as we watched...well, whiteness at work. Except for a few notable splashes of seasoning!

Let’s cut to the chase—

Because the Television Academy didn’t want black folks rioting, Jharrel Jerome got his things and won for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, for his portrayal of both young and adult Korey Wise in Netflix’s When They See Us.

Jerome dedicated his award to the Exonerated Five, who are deservedly living their best lives this year.

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“Most importantly this is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five,” Jerome concluded in a highly emotional speech where he also thanked his mom and director Ava DuVernay. When They See Us also took up a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Movie/Limited Series Casting. Plus, with tonight’s win, Jerome made history as the first Afro-Latino to score an Emmy Award for acting and is the youngest actor to win in his category (at 21 years old).

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And the category is...Television Academy history as Billy Porter became the first openly black gay man to win the Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy. Porter won for his portrayal as Pray Tell in FX’s Pose.

And in the blackest moment of the night, Porter quoted none other James Baldwin, “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”

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Rupaul’s Drag Race snagged yet another Emmy in the Reality-Competition Program category, having been the reigning champ from the 2018 ceremony. Speaking of which, of course, the memes were all up and through Black Twitter because we know how to gather around and add the best commentary for a show.

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Oh, what was the tea, there? Well, most were guessing (betting) it had a little something to do with the lack of diversity behind the scenes on the show. The Whitey McWhite optics were obvious.

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However, Porter assured the press room that his perceived side-eye wasn’t messy. “I don’t live in negativity,” Porter noted, clearing it up. So since we’re thriving in positivity here, let’s send Porter some good vibes as he is one letter away from the EGOT (the letter O, for Oscar, in case you’re wondering.)

I’ll be honest, I was pretty damn disappointed when DuVernay didn’t pick up the Emmy for directing, but I also believe she can surely pat herself on the back and count Jerome’s win as hers. After all, she did direct his performance. Plus, she had the priceless moment in being able to take the Exonerated Five as her dates. That is surely something that is far beyond a gold statuette.

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Now, excuse me while I join Anthony Anderson’s mom in putting Emmys in my purse (in my dreams). The complete list of winners for the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards is available on emmys.com.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.