By Liv Barry
The 74 Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by longtime “Saturday Night Live” actor Kenan Thompson, premiered on Monday, September 12 to little fanfare. According to CNN, this year’s Emmys averaged only 5.9 million views, falling 25% from last year’s 7.4 million viewer average.
Despite low viewership, the broadcast was full of groundbreaking wins for television shows helmed by creatives of color, including beloved series “Abbott Elementary” and “Squid Game.”
At the beginning of the ceremony, Sheryl Lee Ralph won outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her performance as Barbara Howard in “Abbott Elementary.”
While delivering her acceptance speech, Ralph broke into a rendition of Dianne Reeves’s “Endangered Species” to commemorate her win.
“To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like; this is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you,” Ralph said.
Ralph is the first Black woman in 35 years to win the award.
“Abbott Elementary” won again later in the night, commemorating Quinta Brunson, the show’s producer, writer, and lead actress, for outstanding writing for a comedy series.
Brunson’s win is cause for celebration as she is the first independently working Black woman to win in the category. However, her joyous acceptance speech was interrupted by Jimmy Kimmel, who laid prostrate on the ground in front of Brunson throughout her speech.
According to NBC, Kimmel publicly apologized to Brunson later in the week on an episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” During Kimmel’s opening monologue, Brunson interrupted him to deliver the remainder of her speech.
Later in the ceremony, pop sensation Lizzo won for outstanding competition program for her original series “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.”
The series, which follows Lizzo as she searches for plus-sized back-up dancers for her world tour, is considered by many to be a groundbreaking take on the reality competition program. Where many reality programs prioritize the interpersonal drama of their thin, white contestants, “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” seeks to uplift a diverse spectrum of confident, plus-sized women.
During her acceptance speech, Lizzo profusely thanked her “Big Grrrls,” who were in attendance with her.
“I’m very emotional. The trophy is nice, but my emotion is for these people who are on the stage with me. The stories that they shared, they’re not that unique. They just don’t get the platform,” Lizzo said.
Zendaya, who previously won outstanding lead actress in a drama series in 2020 for her performance as Rue in “Euphoria,” took home the award once again this year.
While “Euphoria” received criticism both online and from advocacy groups like Drug Abuse Resistance Education. for its glamorized depiction of substance abuse, Zendaya dedicated her award to those struggling with addiction.
“…my greatest wish for Euphoria was that it could help heal people. I just want to say thank you to everyone who has shared their story with me,” Zendaya said.
Zendaya is the first Black woman to win twice for outstanding lead actress in a drama series.
The ceremony was also full of wins for the South Korean drama series “Squid Game.” Last fall, the show broke records as the most-watched Netflix series of all time, toppling the reign of American-produced series like “Bridgerton” and “Stranger Things.”
While “Squid Game” lost the category to the HBO drama “Succession,” the show is the first foreign language series to be nominated for best drama series.
Actor Lee Jung-Jae won for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his role as Seong Gi-hun, making history as the first South Korean actor to do so.
“Squid Game” director Hwang Dong-hyuk is also the first South Korean to win outstanding directing for a drama series. While delivering his acceptance speech, Hwang vowed that this would not be the last time the Emmys audience saw his face on stage, reminding the audience that the series would be returning with a second season.
“Since ‘Squid Game’ got nominations at the Emmys, people keep telling me I made history, but I don’t think I made history by myself. I believe, I have to say, we all made history together,” Hwang said.