As it raced toward its 11 p.m. deadline, the Emmys rushed through three of its most important awards, particularly Best Actor in a Drama, which went to Sterling K. Brown for This Is Us. It was Brown’s second win in two years—he was Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries for The People vs. OJ Simpson last year—but this win had more significance, as it was the first time an African American performer had won Lead Actor in a Drama since Andre Braugher, who won for Homicide: Life on the Street in 1998.
“Walter White held this joint? Dick Whitman held this joint? I may have lost some of y'all, but, y'know, Google it,” said Brown, referring to Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm’s wins in the category. “And 19 years ago, Frank Pembleton won this joint, as impeccably played by Andre Braugher. ...It is my supreme honor to follow in your footsteps.” Brown paid tribute to his This Is Us cast, calling them “the best white TV family that a brother has ever had,” but then was played off by the Emmy orchestra before he’d completed his speech, an awkward conclusion to a heartening win.
Best Actress in a Drama Series went to Elisabeth Moss for The Handmaid’s Tale, the first win in nine tries for the veteran of TV (who has also been nominated for Mad Men and Top of the Lake and also has The West Wing in her hall-of-fame credentials). “Margaret Atwood, thank you for what you did in 1985, and thank you for what you continue to do for all of us,” Moss said, before having her tribute to her mother in the audience bleeped out by CBS’s live censor.
But she was back onstage shortly thereafter with the cast and crew of The Handmaid’s Tale after it was named Best Drama Series, a first for its fledgling streaming network, Hulu. “Go home, get to work, we have a lot of things to fight for. Goodnight!” said the creator Bruce Miller, after paying homage to the Handmaid’s Tale novelist Margaret Atwood (who joined him onstage).