In heartfelt remarks, winners celebrate their art and call for activism.
Game of Thrones may have been ineligible for this year’s Emmys due to its summer run, but the network home of dragons, wolves and family entanglements still came out ahead at the Creative Arts Emmys.
After the September 9 and 10 ceremonies at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater, HBO had 19 awards, but there was still reason to celebrate for many competitors, ranging from Netflix’s Stranger Things to NBC’s Saturday Night Live and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Activism was a frequent subject during both evenings. The Handmaid’s Tale, which garnered 13 nominations overall, won three awards during the Creative Arts, for outstanding art direction, cinematography for a single camera series and guest actress in a drama series.
Accepting the guest actress award for her role as Ofglen, one of the oppressed young women in the drama, first-time nominee Alexis Bledel thanked Hulu for partnering with the petition platform Change.org. “It is heartening to think we can be heard, issue by issue, if we sign up, speak up and stay awake,” she said.
Nominated for nine Emmys, 13th, an Oscar-nominated documentary from Netflix about the constitutional embedding of racial injustice in the criminal justice system, took home four.
Accepting for outstanding original music and lyrics, musician Common said, “Just two weeks ago [director Ava DuVernay’s] work led me to go into the prisons in California and talk to individuals, and I met some of the most humane people ever…. We take this award in honor of all the 2.3 million who are incarcerated.”
DuVernay, accepting the Emmy for outstanding documentary or nonfiction special for 13th, picked up on the theme of taking action. “Now more than ever, when all kinds of people are being actively and aggressively demoralized and devalued, it’s important that people of justice and dignity stand up and make our voices heard…. Our voices are stronger than those that try to silence us.”
W. Kamau Bell ran to the stage to accept the award for outstanding unstructured reality program, for CNN’s United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. “Thank you for media and TV and movies that prove the necessity of diversity and inclusion to make America a better place,” he said.
A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath — nominated in two categories — won outstanding informational series or special for its series treatment of the complexities of leaving Scientology.
“I want to thank my mom, Vicki, who for years wished she could be in this audience and see her daughter win an Emmy,” Remini said. “You are officially forgiven for getting us into a cult…. I want to dedicate this to our brave contributors who, despite ongoing risk and repercussions, selflessly spoke out and told their stories.”
A&E’s Born This Way, which last year was named outstanding unstructured reality program, had three episodes nominated for picture editing but won for cinematography for a reality program and in a new category, reality casting.
“Being part of the team that brought the story of a group of young adults with Down syndrome to television has been probably the greatest experience of my professional life,” said Sasha Alpert in accepting the casting award.
HBO’s Big Little Lies, the story of three mothers grappling with harrowing challenges beneath a seemingly perfect surface, won three awards, including the first for music supervision, a category introduced this year. After thanking her colleagues, music supervisor Susan Jacobs joked, “Thanks to the video for helping me learn how to walk in heels. You can learn that on YouTube. I did,” she added before gliding off stage.
FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan won awards for outstanding makeup and hairstyling for a miniseries or movie. Six-time Emmy winner Eryn Krueger Mekash thanked stars Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, “who withstood big eyebrows and overdrawn lips for months,” in addition to show creator Ryan Murphy and others.
For Rickey Minor — winner for outstanding music direction, for the ABC special Taking the Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changed America — it was a first-time experience, despite a multitude of nominations.
“I said I was gonna be cool if I ever won at any point,” he confessed. “I never won anything anywhere. But what I’ve won is the love of this gift of music, and music saved my life.” After thanking his colleagues, Minor added, “My mom was here last year, hoping to see me win. This is my seventh nomination, so here it is.”
Nominated for five awards, James Corden won two: for outstanding variety music or comedy special, for Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2017, and for outstanding special-class program for the 70th Tony Awards.
“I told my wife to stay home,” he admitted in accepting the award for the karaoke-themed variety special, the show’s second consecutive win in the category. “It feels a mistake now. I said, ‘Babe, it’s going to be a washout. We don’t stand a chance.’”
The juried award for outstanding choreography produced two winners: Mandy Moore, for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and Travis Wall, for Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance (a show for which Moore received a second nomination).
Moore joked that she wasn’t the actress of the same name (who stars on NBC’s This Is Us) but would like to meet her someday, while Wall promised his fiancé he would soon set a date for their wedding. Getting back to business, he added: “So You Think You Can Dance has changed my life, and if you’ve watched it, I’m sure it’s changed yours.”
For her part, Jane Lynch accepted her award for actress in a short-form comedy or drama series — for the digital series Dropping the Soap — on a light note: “As you’re enjoying that delicious fare at the Governors Ball, I’m going to be starting the prep for my colonoscopy tomorrow. So I wish you the best. Eat a little something for me.”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 9, 2017