Emmys: 3 Best Speeches
Viola Davis' history-making win, Uzo Aduba's tearful "thank yous" and 'Transparent's' Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Soloway speaking out about transgender issues all stood out.
Viola Davis, Uzo Aduba and Transparent's Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Soloway all delivered memorable speeches as they accepted their Emmys on Sunday night. Davis spoke proudly and triumphantly after she became the first African-American to win the lead actress in a drama series Emmy. Aduba shared an emotional series of "thank yous" and Tambor and Soloway, celebrating Transparent's two Emmy wins on Sunday night, advocated for the transgender community and the issues they face.
Read on for more on the night's three best speeches.
Viola Davis Makes History: How to Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis became the first African-American to win the lead actress in a drama series Emmy on Sunday night's show, and the significance of her triumph wasn't lost on Davis or the Emmys audience, with many people giving her a standing ovation as she left the stage. In the audience, Kerry Washington, who was up for and lost the same award last year, and Davis' current lead actress competitor Taraji P. Henson were among those who appeared to have emotional responses to Davis' win.
Davis began by quoting Harriet Tubman: "In my mind, I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line."
The Emmy winner then talked about how black actresses have begun to "get over that line."
"The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," Davis said as the audience applauded. "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."
She thanked successful black actresses — like Henson, Washington, Halle Berry, Nicole Beharie, Meagan Good and Gabrielle Union — for paving the way and "taking us over that line."
She also praised her ABC and How To Get Away With Murder bosses for changing "what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black."
Uzo Aduba Delivers a Teary, Thankful Speech: Before Davis' big moment, another black actress made history. Uzo Aduba became the first performer since Ed Asner to win both a comedy and drama Emmy for playing the same character, an achievement created by an Emmys rule change that ultimately put Orange Is The New Black, a comedy contender last year, in the drama categories this year. Aduba appeared overcome with emotion, crying or on the verge of tears throughout her speech.
"I really just want to say thank you a thousand times," she said before enthusiastically thanking a number of people, repeating "thank you" several times.
"If I could say thank you a thousand times, it would not be enough to cover the amount of thanks that I feel for you, Jenji Kohan," Aduba told the OITNB showrunner. "I love you so much. I appreciate you for putting belief back in my heart. I love you. Thank you for making this show, for creating this space, for creating a platform."
She also thanked the show's "family at Netflix and Lionsgate," name-checking Netflix executives Ted Sarandos and Cindy Holland, among others. And she offered her gratitude to her manager, agents and lawyers, who collectively "let me be me" and her family, specifically mentioning her sister and "best friend," Chi-Chi, who the Emmy cameras captured proudly watching Aduba from the audience.
"I am humbled to call myself your sister," Aduba told Chi-Chi. "I love you so much."
Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Soloway Speak Out About Transgender Issues: Transparent may not have gotten the big Emmys moment some hoped it would score with a best comedy series win, but star Jeffrey Tambor and creator Jill Soloway made the most of their earlier time in the spotlight, using their acceptance speeches for the Emmys for best comedy actor and best directing for a comedy series to advocate for the transgender community.
Soloway, who based the show on her own experience with a parent who came out as transgender, went first, and after thanking "the Goddess," the team at Amazon and her cast and crew, Soloway thanked her family including her own "Moppa," the show's term for Tambor's transgender character.
Soloway explained that in a number of states landlords can still legally say they won't rent apartments to transpeople, explaining that transgender rights still have to be fought for.
"We don't have a trans tipping point yet," Soloway said. "We have a trans and civil rights problem. So go to transequality.org, and go to vote to pass the Transequality Bill."
Tambor's win was also historic, with the actor becoming the first person to win an Emmy for playing a transgender character.
The actor invoked (and later thanked) his teachers, recalling one who said, "When you act, you have to act as if your life depends on it."
Tambor added, alluding to instances of violence against transgender people, "Now I've been given the opportunity to act because people's lives depend on it."
He concluded by dedicating his performance and award to the transgender community.
Indeed, many in the community, including its most visible member Caitlyn Jenner, have credited Transparent with launching a cultural revolution, with Jenner in particular saying the show helped her make her transition public.
"Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your courage," Tambor said. "Thank you for your stories. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for letting us be part of the change. God bless you."