A Record Number of Black Actors Won Emmys Last Night — Seven

The 72nd Primetime Emmys went down remotely without a hitch on Sunday, September 20th. And it was a good night for Black actors.

The show must go on.

Although COVID-19 has caused the world to reimage what an awards show should look like, the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards went down remotely without a hitch on Sunday, September 20th. And it was a good night for Black actors.

The Television Academy gave out seven awards to Black actors and actresses, which is a new record. (In 2018, six Black actors won Emmys.) The actors were Watchmen’s Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series); Euphoria’s Zendaya, who took home an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy; and Mrs. America’s Uzo Aduba, who won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. They join Eddie Murphy, Maya Rudolph, and Ron Cephas Jones, who won guest acting Emmys. (Murphy won for his Saturday Night Live episode; Rudolph took home a statue for her appearance as Connie The Hormone Monster in Netflix’s Big Mouth; and Cephas won for appearing on NBC’s This is Us.

The most exciting moment of the night was when Zendaya — who is only 24 — became the youngest actress to win a Best Actress for a Drama Emmy. She won for her stirring performance as Ruth on HBO’s Euphoria. Zendaya gave a joyful speech, backed by her family and supporters. She thanked everyone from her Euphoria staff to protesters on the street. She capped off her speech by saying:

“I know this feels like a really weird time to be celebrating, but I just want to say that there is hope in the young people out there. I know that our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that but there is hope in the young people. And I just want to say to all my peers out there doing the work in the streets, I see you, I admire you, I thank you, and yeah, thank you so, so much.”

HBO’s Watchmen, one of the most critically acclaimed shows in recent memory, took home 11 Emmys – including an Outstanding Limited Series award and actor awards for King and Abdul-Mateen. That was the good news for Watchmen fans. The bad news, the show’s showrunner Damon Lindelof doubled down on the idea of Watchmen not coming back for another season. Although, he said, he would be supportive of someone else taking the show and inserting his or her’s vision. At the Emmy Awards virtual backstage he said:

“This was my run at it. Any other artist who wants to take the baton, I’ll teach them everything I knew…I am so much more excited to see what someone else does with it, then what I would do with it.”

King, who with her win last night, tied Alfre Woodard for most Emmy awards for a Black performer — they both have four statues — doesn’t seem to be interested in doing it with another showrunner. Speaking at a virtual backstage area, she said:

“I would want to do (the show) again with Damon…There have been no conversations about the future of Watchmen. I think right now I’m just trying to settle and enjoy this strange moment.”

Regina King accepted her award wearing a Breonna Taylor shirt under her pink suit. In her virtual backstage interview, she talked about why she wore the shirt. She said:

“The cops still haven’t been held accountable…She represents just decades, hundreds of years of just violence against Black bodies, Breonna Taylor does.”

Abdul-Mateen II had one of the more powerful speeches of the night. The actor, who played Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, dedicated his speech toward Black women.

“[Watchmen] was also a story about a god who came down to earth to reciprocate to a Black woman all the love that she deserved…He’d offer her sacrifice and support, passion [and] protection. And he did all that in the body of a Black man. I’m so proud that I was able to walk into those shoes…So I dedicate this award to all the Black women in my life. The people who believed in me first — I call you my early investors. I love you. I appreciate you. And this one is for you. Thank you.”

Dimas Sanfiorenzo

Dimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes in coverage centered around music, pop culture, and politics. Email:

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Dimas Sanfiorenzo

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