Viola Davis makes Emmy history

Viola Davis with their Emmys on Sunday.
Viola Davis with their Emmys on Sunday.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE, REUTERS
Actor Jon Hamm
Comedian Tracy Morgan, who was involved in a serious car accident last year, returned to the stage to present the best drama award.
Comedian Tracy Morgan, who was involved in a serious car accident last year, returned to the stage to present the best drama award.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE, REUTERS

How To Get Away With Murder actress is first African-American woman to nab best lead actress prize; Jon Hamm finally wins after seven previous nominations

LOS ANGELES • It was a night of firsts and a night for establishment cable at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday.

Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best lead actress in a drama series for her role as a defence lawyer on ABC's How To Get Away With Murder, while Jon Hamm won his first Emmy after seven previous nominations for his role as the tortured Don Draper on Mad Men.

And HBO, led by its victories for the comedy Veep, the drama Game Of Thrones and a four-part limited series, Olive Kitteridge, had a triumphant showing, with 14 victories - including best drama for Thrones.

It was the first time in eight years that HBO won in the best drama category and the first victory for the sprawling fantasy epic Game Of Thrones.

The top Emmy prize had always eluded the series despite its 20 million viewers in the United States.

  • Winners

  • Best drama series: Game Of Thrones

    Best comedy series: Veep

    Actor in a drama series: Jon Hamm, Mad Men

    Actress in a drama series: Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder

    Supporting actor in a drama series: Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones

    Supporting actress in a drama series: Uzo Aduba, Orange Is The New Black

    Actor in a comedy series: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

    Actress in a comedy series: Julia Louis Dreyfus, Veep

    Supporting actor in a comedy series: Tony Hale, Veep

    Supporting actress in a comedy series: Allison Janney, Mom

    Variety talk series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

    Variety sketch series: Inside Amy Schumer

    Reality competition programme: The Voice

    Limited series: Olive Kitteridge

    Actor in a limited series or movie: Richard Jenkins, Olive Kitteridge

    Actress in a limited series or movie: Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge


The series had won eight Creative Emmys last week and, on Sunday, it added four more - including for writing, directing and for supporting actor Peter Dinklage.

It reportedly broke the record for the most Emmys of any series in a single year with 12, beating The West Wing's haul of nine in 2002.

HBO notched 43 awards overall, including 29 Creative Emmys, just one shy of CBS' record set in 1974. Veep also ended the five-year Emmy reign of ABC's Modern Family as best comedy series.

The night, however, might be best remembered for a few emotional moments.

In an impassioned speech, Davis quoted civil rights pioneer Harriet Tubman and paid tribute to other African-American actresses, such as Halle Berry and Gabrielle Union.

"The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there," she said.

Hamm, meanwhile, jokingly climbed onto the stage and said to a standing ovation: "There has been a mistake clearly. It's incredible and impossible for me to be standing here."

He said playing a character like Draper for so long had been both a blessing and a curse. "It doesn't come without a cost and a lot of mental and emotional baggage gets torn through and weighs on you after a while," he told reporters backstage.

But the 18,000 voters of the television academy shut out Mad Men, a four-time best drama series winner, from all the other categories. So it had to be content with just Hamm's Emmy after closing its final season on AMC this year.

And in another touching moment, comedian Tracy Morgan presented the best drama award. It was the first time he had been on a stage since a serious car accident last year that left him in a coma for eight days.

"I miss you guys so much," he said as the audience stood up to applaud.

Andy Samberg, in his first time as host, took the stage with a taped song-and-dance number poking fun at the rising number of scripted TV shows and with a joke that acknowledged one of the running themes of all awards shows this year.

"The big story this year is diversity," he said from the stage at the Microsoft Theater. "This is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmys' history. Racism is over - don't fact-check that."

And though many of the awards were won by the old guard -

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won best comedy actress for Veep for the fourth straight time and co-star Tony Hale won comedy supporting actor for the second time - there was new diversity, at least in spirit, on the awards front.

In the first Emmys for Amazon. com's foray into original content, Jeffrey Tambor, 71, won for outstanding actor in a comedy series for his portrayal of a transgender woman in the streaming service's show Transparent.

He dedicated his first Emmy to the transgender community.

Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent, also joined the small club of women to win a directing Emmy, among the show's five Emmys.

Apart from Davis, two other black actresses - Uzo Aduba (Orange Is The New Black) and Regina King (American Crime) - also won on Sunday.

HBO's Olive Kitteridge, about a grumpy mathematics teacher and her forgiving husband in a small Maine town, dominated the limited series categories, winning best actress (Frances McDormand), best actor (Richard Jenkins), best supporting actor (Bill Murray), for writing and for the series itself.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'Viola Davis makes Emmy history'. Print Edition | Subscribe