Television’s biggest stars took over Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater on Sunday, September 18th for the 68th annual Emmy Awards, with Jimmy Kimmel returning to the stage for his second stint as host for the live show. The glamorous event offered a few surprises as well as two big winners: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Game of Thrones. “This must be very strange for you,” Kimmel kidded Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, who was in attendance as the guest of nominee Sarah Paulson. “Are you rooting for O.J. to win this time?”
The HBO series led the field this year with 11 Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series for the second straight year. The Outstanding Drama win — the show also won for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series and Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series — gave GoT its 38th Emmy in its six-season run, making it the most-awarded series in Emmy history.
It was a big night for Kate McKinnon, who won her first Emmy for her work on Saturday Night Live, which seemed to come completely as a shock to the comedian. She was charmingly flustered (“I’m shaking, guys,” she said at one point), and thanked her SNL writers and castmates, Lorne Michaels and her fellow nominees. The most affecting bit, though, was when she thanked her mother, sister and her late father, who “made me start watching SNL when I was 12.” McKinnon also remembered to thank Hillary Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres who she’s famously impersonated, and it garnered a nod from a certain Democratic presidential candidate on Twitter later.
Congratulations on your Emmy, Kate! Big fan of yours, too. pic.twitter.com/w00QO1GwyH
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 19, 2016
Jill Soloway and Jeffrey Tambor each earned their second consecutive Emmy for Amazon’s Transparent (for Directing and Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, respectively), and took the opportunity to stump for increased transgender and female visibility. “When you take people of color, women, trans people, queer people, as the subjects of stories, you change the world,” Soloway said, before ending on the mic drop/rallying cry “Topple the patriarchy!” For his part, Tambor acknowledged that he really isn’t the person to play the role that’s earned him so much acclaim. “I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female,” he said, calling for transgender actors to finally get a seat at the table. Later in the evening, trans actress Laverne Cox took the stage to present an award and praised Tambor for his comment and thanked Jenji Kohan for taking a chance by including her on Orange Is the New Black.
In the wake of this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the other big awards shows have been quick to point out their own relative inclusivity. But the Emmys really put its money where its mouth is, delivering the most diverse roster of nominees to date. Actors, writers and directors of color featured big in multi-nominated shows like Master of None, The People v. O.J. Simpson, Black-ish, American Crime and Key & Peele — and many won, too. Television has been doing a much better job than mainstream film at representing the diversity of the real world; and thankfully, Emmy voters took notice.
And when it came to diversity, Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari, co-creators of Netflix’s Master of None, took the opportunity to point out that Asian-American representation on TV is only just getting started. “There’s 17 million Asian-Americans in this country, and there’s 17 million Italian-Americans. They have The Godfather, Goodfellas, Rocky, The Sopranos; we got Long Duk Dong. So we got a long way to go,” Yang said. “Some of you Asian parents do me a favor and get your kids cameras instead of violins and we’ll be all good.”