Five Wins Each for The Handmaid's Tale and Big Little Lies Put Women at the Forefront of 69th Emmy Awards
HBO leads the night with 10 Emmys, NBC follows with six. Hulu becomes first streaming service to take top series honors with outstanding drama win for Handmaid’s Tale.
At the 69th Emmy Awards, HBO scored on multiple fronts with a record-breaking win for Veep, as well as awards for The Night Of and Big Little Lies, while Netflix took home gold for Black Mirror, Master of None and The Crown. But perhaps the big surprise came from the streaming service Hulu. Though Hulu had received nominations in the past, this year was the first time it had broken into high-profile, above-the-line categories. Not only did The Handmaid's Tale grab 13 nominations overall, the dystopian drama won eight Emmys in all, scoring wins on Sunday night for supporting actress in a drama (Ann Dowd), writing in a drama (Bruce Miller), directing in a drama (Reed Morano), best actress in a drama (Elisabeth Moss) and outstanding dramatic series. At the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, the series took the award for guest actress in a drama, which was won by Alexis Bledel, as well as cinematography and production design.
After a sly opening song by host Stephen Colbert that wrapped with dancing, hooded handmaids, Colbert plugged a charitable organization — Hand in Hand hurricane relief — before making note of the year's successes for Netflix and broadcast television. It wasn't long, however, before Colbert joked about President Trump. After naming Trump the biggest reality TV star — tied with Alec Baldwin, who has imitated him on NBC's Saturday Night Live — Colbert made several cracks about the president before welcoming former White House press secretary Sean Spicer to proclaim the awards show "the most watched ever.''
Netflix scored the supporting actor in a drama series award with John Lithgow, for his performance as former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in The Crown. It was the sixth Emmy win of his career and twelfth nomination. "I feel so lucky to have won this," Lithgow said. "So many of you are my friends and former castmates. The Crown just keeps on giving, and this is just the last of its gifts. Most of all, I have to thank Winston Churchill. His life, even as an old man, reminds us what courage and leadership in government really looks like."
Big Little Lies started its winning streak for the night with a supporting actress win for Laura Dern, her first win after six career nominations. "I've been acting since I was 11 years old, and I think I've worked with maybe 12 women, so I want to say thanks to the Academy. Thank you to [costars] Nicole [Kidman] and Reese [Witherspoon]'s moms for giving us not only extraordinary women but really well-read women, because that's how I'm getting parts." Backstage, Dern admitted she'd love to do a second season of the show, "But that's up to [author] Liane Moriarty."
Outstanding writer for a drama series went to Bruce Miller for the pilot of The Handmaid's Tale. "This really belongs to three women," Miller said, referring to director Reed Morano, author Margaret Atwood, "who scared the living crap out of me when I was in college, and Lizzie Moss, who leaves me speechless." Backstage Miller explained that, as violent as the show was, it was all based on actual events throughout history. "You don't want to make up violence toward women," he said. "That would make a horrible, pornographic TV show. Unfortunately, we have many examples in the real world to draw on."
Saturday Night Live led all programs this year with nine Emmys — four on Sunday night, five at the Creative Arts — scored one of its quartet of wins during the telecast with a supporting actress in a comedy series award for Kate McKinnon, who also prevailed in the category last year. "Being part of this season of SNL was the most meaningful thing I will ever do," McKinnon said. She thanked show creator Lorne Michaels and fellow cast members before adding, "I want to say thank you to Hillary Clinton for your grace." Backstage, McKinnon had little to say about Sean Spicer's appearance, beyond saying, "I enjoyed seeing him again," and admitted her Clinton imitations had not caused the President to contact her. As for the past season, "There were a few times when we had to rewrite some major stuff the night before… it was like a sport sometimes, racing to the finish line. I loved it."
Outstanding variety sketch series also went to Saturday Night Live, adding up to 231 nominations and making the show more nominated than any other program in history. This was the show's 51st win. "I remember the first time we won this award after our first season in 1976. I remember thinking as we were standing there, this was it. There would never be another season as crazy and unpredictable and exhausting and exhilarating," show creator Lorne Michaels said. "It turns out I was wrong."
Alec Baldwin also added to the SNL winners' list with an outstanding supporting actor award for his role parodying the President on the iconic sketch series this season. It was his third win and 18th Emmy nomination. "I suppose I should say, at long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy," Baldwin joked before noting that, even though he and his wife had three children in three years but didn't have another child while he was working for SNL. "You put that orange wig on, it's birth control, believe me." Backstage, Baldwin discussed how his characterization is helping people cope with the Trump presidency. "I do think that people are overwhelmed," he said, noting that many people are still upset about the election results. "They're suffering a great deal and they're confused and in pain. They slap me on the back and thank me for helping them manage that pain." He also had kind words for Spicer's appearance. "I think the average person is very grateful he has a sense of humor." Explaining that Spicer likely had to follow difficult orders as press secretary, he said, "I've done some jobs that you shouldn't admire or respect me for, either."
Wearing an eye-catching purple suit, Donald Glover won both the award for outstanding directing, as well as lead actor in a comedy series, for FX's Atlanta. Accepting the award for directing, he thanked "the great algorithm that brought us all here," in reference to bringing all the writers of the FX show together in the same place. He also singled out Atlanta director Hiro Murai: “I love you and thank you for being my best friend and making this with me." Glover's award made him the first black director to win an Emmy in the comedy series category.
Outstanding directing for a limited series or movie went to Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallée, who has had three career nominations. His win was the HBO miniseries' second of the evening. "Look at these five ladies," he said, gesturing to the women in the female-led cast. "I thank you girls for making me look good like this."
Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin had a reunion of the 1980 film 9 to 5 to announce Big Little Lies' Alexander Skarsgård as the winner of outstanding supporting actor in a limited series for his performance as the abusive husband of Nicole Kidman's character. Like Vallée, Skarsgård paid tribute to the women of the cast. "Thank you for making this boy feel like one of the girls." He also thanked his mother, who had flown out from Sweden for the show. "Thanks for giving birth to me. That was pretty cool."
John Oliver accepted two wins for HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver — writing for a variety series and outstanding variety talk series. After asking everyone to hashtag Washington D.C. public schools to play on comments earlier in the evening by presenter David Chappelle, Oliver joked, "I'd like to thank Oprah because it seems inappropriate not to." In accepting for variety series, he followed up on the joke, noting Winfrey's absence with, "I'd like to thank Oprah's seat filler" before mentioning that last year the staff got drunk and threw up on the rides at Universal Studios. "Universal Studios, if someone is throwing up on the Harry Potter roller coasters, they work for us."
Supporting actress in a drama series went to Ann Dowd for The Handmaid's Tale. Dowd — who also received a nom this year for her work in HBO's The Leftovers — seemed shocked by her first Emmy win. "Well, I think it is a dream," she said. "I know it's an actor's dream, and I'm deeply grateful for you. I've been acting for a long time, and that this should happen now, I thank you."
Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe for Netflix's Master of None took the Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series. Waithe gave thanks for "my LGBTQIA family. I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our super powers. The world would not be as beautiful as it is without us in it." Waithe is the first black woman to win in this category.
For her work on the pilot of The Handmaid's Tale, Reed Morano was named outstanding director for a drama series. "Lizzie [Moss] is my ultimate inspiration and this is as much her as it is me," Morano said. "And the whole cast, you're amazing."
Charlie Brooker, who won his first of two Emmys for the "San Junipero" episode of Netflix's Black Mirror when he scored outstanding writing for a limited series or movie. "This is terrifying. I didn't think of anything to say. First world problems," he admitted. "I'm going to go and melt this down for currency." Upon returning to the stage when the program also won the award for outstanding television movie, Brooker said, "I've heard 2017 is like being trapped in one long Black Mirror episode, but I'd like to think if I'd written it, it wouldn't be so on the nose. Maybe if all the beautiful people in this place would start to make love, this world would be a much better place."
Don Roy King won for outstanding directing for a variety series for Saturday Night Live. It was the seventh Emmy of his career among 11 nominations. "I'll be short — I've never had a problem being short," he quipped. Backstage, King admitted that, as much as he's enjoyed working on the show for 11 years, "This year felt different. It felt more important, it felt like we were holding people accountable." He also gave Michaels credit for demanding that "it stay current and cutting edge."
Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, scored a record-breaking win for most Emmys for the same role in the same series. "We have a great final season we're about to start filming," she said. "We did have a great storyline about impeachment, but we abandoned it because we were afraid someone else might get to it first," Backstage, the actress admitted she hoped female empowerment might be a continuing theme in American politics, saying, "Let's hope this is the beginning, because the world would be a better place with more women in charge."
Veep also won for outstanding comedy series. Executive producer David Mandel joked from the stage, "I'm out of a job — I guess we all are. I'm looking for movie work, but I guess I'll do television." Then, referring to the cast, he laughingly added, "This [show] works because we have a no jerk-offs policy, and except for Julia, we stick to it."
Emmy prognosticators were surprised by an outstanding actor in a drama series win for Riz Ahmed for his role as a young man wrongly accused of murder in HBO's The Night of. After thanking cast members, Ahmed said, "One of our executive producers sadly isn't with us anymore, but I hope he's proud of us right now," referring to The Sopranos star James Gandolfini, who had intended to play the role that eventually went to John Turturro, but died in 2013. Of the project, Ahmed noted, "It's always strange reaping the rewards of real-world suffering" and thanked the charitable organizations that helped him research his character.
Outstanding lead actress in limited series or movie went to Nicole Kidman for her performance as an abused wife in Big Little Lies. It was her first Emmy and third nomination. "Reese, I share this with you," she said to costar Witherspoon from the stage. "Without you, I would not be standing up here. It all started with Liane Moriarty in a café in Sydney, then David E. Kelly came along and shaped it with brilliant storytelling. I have a huge artistic family that supported me through all my ups and downs. I'm a mother and a wife. I have two little girls, Sunny and Faith." After thanking her husband, country music star Keith Urban, she added, "I want my little girls to have this on their shelf. I want them to say, 'Every time mama didn't put us to bed, I got this. I got something.'" On a more serious note, she pointed out the show's important themes. "We shone a light on domestic abuse. It is a complicated, insidious disease. It exists far more than we allow ourselves to know, in shame and secrecy. This shines a light on it even more." Backstage, Kidman mentioned that a surprising number of women have approached her about the series. "I am surprised how many women are in this situation, or know someone in this situation, who want to share their stories." Big Little Lies also won for outstanding limited series, bringing its total Emmy wins to five for the night and eight total, with its three at the Creative Arts.
Lead actor in a drama series went to Sterling K. Brown for NBC's This Is Us, his second nomination and second win — last year, his performance as attorney Christopher Darden in FX's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson brought him the Emmy for supporting actor in a limited series or movie. "Before anything like this happened for your boy, I was a fan, first, last and always," said Brown. "So my fellow nominees, I'm a fan. I love you all. This one right here, when I think about it — Walter White [the antihero of AMC's Breaking Bad] held this joint? Dick Whitman held this joint? I may have lost you all, but Google it [Dick Whitman was Don Draper's true identity on AMC's Mad Men]. And 19 years ago, Detective Frank Pembleton held this joint — as impeccably played by Andre Braugher [on NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street]. I just want to say, Mr. Braugher, whether it is at Stanford University or on this Emmy stage, it is my supreme honor to follow in your footsteps." After thanking executives at NBC and production studio 20th Century Fox Television, he added, "I want to thank my cast. Milo [Ventimiglia], Mandy [Moore], Justin [Hartley], Chrissy [Metz] — you are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had. Better than Mr. Drummond, better than those white folks who raised Webster. I love you." He was unable to complete his remarks when the orchestra began to increase in volume. Backstage, Brown finished his speech, noting, "They cut me off before I could thank my wife!"
Lead actress in a drama series went to Elisabeth Moss for The Handmaid's Tale. After dropping an initial F-bomb, she challenged the network censors again while thanking her mother. "You were my best friend since the day I was born. You taught me you can be kind and a f---ing bad ass."
When the series also went on to win the final award of the night, for outstanding drama series, Miller accepted the award with thanks to those who "supported us when we wanted to do horrible things to Rory Gilmore [Alexis Bledel's character on The Gilmore Girls]," but ended his speech with words that fit with the overarching theme of the evening. "Go home, get to work," he urged the audience and viewers. "We have a lot of things to fight for."
The executive producers of this year's Emmy Awards telecast were Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment.
A complete list of winners is available here.