“Has the president tweeted us yet?” asked host Jimmy Kimmel at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards. “Oh right, it’s Sunday, he’s probably at church.”
There were no tweets from President Trump this year during the award ceremony, which was a virtual production due to the health crisis, but there were political moments. Many winners used the opportunity to urge the public to vote.
“Our show at its core is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and that is something that we need more of now than we’ve ever needed before, and I just wanted to say, for any of you who have not registered to vote, please do so,” said Canadian actor Dan Levy, standing alongside his “Schitt’s Creek” co-creator, father and fellow actor Eugene Levy.
The two, along with cast members Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy, dominated airtime during the beginning portion of the show. They appeared again and again from their viewing party in Canada, sweeping all seven comedy categories, including all four acting awards. It’s a first in Emmys history.
“And then go out and vote, because that is the only way that we are going to have some love and acceptance out there,” Dan Levy continued, wearing a Thom Browne kilt suit as an ode to his look in the wedding finale episode of the show. “Please do that. I’m so sorry for making this political, but I had to.” (Later, in the virtual press room, Levy shared that a future “Schitt’s Creek” film isn’t out of the question.)
For his part, actor Mark Ruffalo — winner of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for HBO’s “I Know This Much Is True” — made no apologies. “Get out and vote,” he announced. “Make a plan and vote for love and compassion and kindness.”
Regina King, too, shared the message.
“Gotta vote,” the actress and director said, pointing to the screen. “I would be remiss not to mention that. Have a voting plan…it is very important. Be a good human.” Concluding, she added: “Rest in power, RBG,” honoring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday.
King — who received Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for HBO’s “Watchmen” (her second win in the category) — also used her platform to pay tribute to Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who inspired nationwide protests after being shot and killed in her home by Louisville, Ky., police officers in March. Under a magenta suit jacket, King donned a T-shirt displaying a photograph of Taylor with the words “Say Her Name” written across.
Actress Uzo Aduba also made a statement through her clothes, paying homage to Taylor. She wore a Black T-shirt displaying her name: Breonna Taylor.
“It’s a wonderful evening that we’re having, and it should be filled with joy and celebration, but I think I would be remiss to not bring in some of what is happening outside in the streets and the experiences that are true for so many who look like myself,” Aduba said after her “Mrs. America” win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. (Aduba plays the role of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, on the FX miniseries.)
Zendaya’s memorable win was also a show highlight. The “Euphoria” star became the youngest recipient of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at 24 years old and second Black actress to win the prestigious category in the show’s 72 years. Director Tyler Perry — who received the prestigious Emmy Governors Award — made history of his own, as the first Black individual to get the honor. In a touching moment, after being introduced by Oprah and Chris Rock, Perry said: “In my grandmother’s quilt, there were no patches that represented Black people on television. But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy.”
Other noteworthy moments included Billy Crudup’s win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for “The Morning Show” and Yahya Abdul-Mateen 2nd’s recognition for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for “Watchmen” (which also earned Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie). Both actors were first-time nominees.
“I dedicate this award to all the Black women in my life, the people who believed in me first,” Abdul-Mateen 2nd said. “I call you my early investors. I love you. I appreciate you, and this one is for you.”
Along with the newbies, there were repeat winners, including “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” with its fifth consecutive win for Outstanding Variety Talk Series; “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which took home Outstanding Competition Program for the third year, and “Ozark” actress Julia Garner, who received Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for the second time.
“Let’s try to make this world better, and, you know, there will be light at the end of this tunnel,” Garner said in a message of hope during her speech.
Kimmel referenced the current health crisis throughout the Emmys. The night included a charitable component, he said: Each network and streaming service pledged a donation of $100,000 for every award earned to benefit No Kid Hungry, an organization that has been working to provide children with meals during the pandemic. Frontline workers — including a U.S. history teacher and a UPS worker from Alabama — were also given a spotlight, appearing on screen as presenters.
“It does feel a bit incongruous with our world right now to be giving out awards to actors,” said Jeremy Strong of HBO’s “Succession” after his win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. “And I wish, you know, we could be giving out awards to people working on the frontlines…but I feel like it was reflected in the ceremony tonight, that this community appreciates and acknowledges those people.”
He was at The Bowery Hotel in New York with his family, unable to toast with the rest of his cast to celebrate their several wins, including the coveted Outstanding Drama Series, as well as Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. (HBO received the most wins this year.)
“I miss being with everyone and having a sense of the magnitude of it all,” said Strong, adding that the third season of the show may resume filming in the fall or winter. “You know, I’m alone in a room in front of a computer.”
In that same moment, “Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong was celebrating from England, where it was about 4 a.m, he said. Surrounded by a group of fellow writers and executives, Armstrong added: “I’m hoping for a Champagne breakfast.”