Last night belonged to Dominican-American actor Jharrel Jerome. The 21-year-old Bronx native made history at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards by becoming the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy for acting. Jerome got a standing ovation as soon as Angela Bassett announced his name as the winner for Best Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us.
Jerome was nominated alongside Benicio Del Toro, Hugh Grant, Sam Rockwell, Jared Harris, and his Moonlight costar Mahershala Ali. When Bassett called his name, the audience roared in celebration and stood up as the young actor hugged his mom, Radoyka Jerome. The Exonerated Five — the men who were wrongfully convicted of a 1989 rape and were depicted in the true story When They See Us — also stood up and applauded Jerome.
“I feel like I should just be in the Bronx right now, chillin’, waiting for my mom’s cooking but I’m here,” Jerome said at the start of his acceptance speech. He thanked his mom and said he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t fo her.
“Most importantly, this is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five,” he said.
It was backstage when Jerome addressed making history as the first Afro-Latino to win for Best Actor. Remezcla‘s Manuel Betancourt asked Jerome backstage what he was feeling as the first Afro-Latino to win this award.
“It’s an honor,” Jerome said. “It’s a blessing, and I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos. It’s about time we are here.”
Jharrel Jerome reflects on becoming the first Afro-Latino to win an acting #Emmy: "I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos. It's about time we are here" | https://t.co/wKARQy4lP8 pic.twitter.com/RKNbIAhWqj
— Variety (@Variety) September 23, 2019
When discussing his role in When They See Us, Jerome said, “Unfortunately, I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain, considering that’s what we go through on a daily basis,” he said, according to Variety.
“Our pain needs to be told, so if it has to be for the next 20 years we’re just painfully telling our stories until we move on, then it has to be,” he added.
Jerome also said having the Exonerated Five there with him at the Emmys made his award even more special.
“I feel like I’m on the basketball team and I made that final shot, and they’re in the back (cheering),” he said. “I felt like I was in a championship game, and we went through our final hurrah … 30 years ago they were sitting in a prison cell falsely incarcerated, and today they’re in suits styled by designers for the Emmys.”