Sterling K. Brown won the Emmy for best actor in a drama series on Sunday night for his emotional performance in NBC's This Is Us.
The actor bested Anthony Hopkins from Westworld, Bob Odenkirk from Better Call Saul, Matthew Rhys from The Americans, Liev Schreiber from Ray Donovan, Kevin Spacey from House of Cards and his This Is Us co-star Milo Ventimiglia.
"Before anything like this happened for your boy, I was a fan. First, last and always a fan," Brown said as he accepted his award onstage. "So, my fellow nominees, I'm a fan of all of you."
Staring at the statue in his hand, the actor said incredulously, "When I think about it, like Walter White held this joint? Dick Whitman held this joint?"
Brown thanked his castmates — including Ron Cephas Jones, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore and more — telling them, "You are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had." He also gave a shout-out to his onscreen wife, Susan Kelechi Watson: "It's my pleasure to rep black love with you, sister. Let's keep doing it like Martin and Gina."
Brown, whose onstage speech was cut off midway through, was asked to finish what he started when he arrived backstage to meet the press.
"I wanted to thank our writers — a show doesn't get seven acting nominations without impeccable, beautiful writing," Brown said. "You guys are our lifeblood. To our producers and directors — John Requa, Glenn Ficarra and the crazy cool Ken Olin — thanks for your guidance and friendship. And to [creator and showrunner] Dan Fogelman, he's the Hebrew Hammer on which our house is built; he makes me laugh and cry in equal parts and keeps me coming back for more. … He's not trying to make America great again, he's trying to make it the best it's ever been." NBC breakout This Is Us entered Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards with 10 total nominations.
The actor, who won his second Emmy overall — he won last year for actor in a limited series for his role as Christopher Darden in FX anthology The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story — went on to thank his longtime managers as well as his wife and two sons before noting how this year's win feels different.
"Because of the category and because it's been 19 years, it feels big," Brown said, singling out Andre Braugher's win nearly two decades ago for Homicide: Life on the Street. "I'm bugging out because I never thought this was a possibility. And to be standing here, 19 years after him, I want to represent."
The time-jumping family drama from Fogelman became the first broadcast show to score a best drama series nomination since CBS' The Good Wife in 2011. Had the freshman drama taken home that statuette, it would be the first broadcast show to win in the category since Fox's Kiefer Sutherland drama 24 took home the prize more than a decade ago.
"It's about real people dealing with real life trying to figure out what's next. Everybody can relate to that," Brown told reporters backstage of why the show resonates across the globe, noting that themes of raising children, professional crossroads and the loss of a parent.
Of the latter, Brown noted that he lost his father at 10 and was not allowed at the time to go to the hospital to say goodbye. He credited This Is Us' "Memphis" episode, in which his biological father passes, for helping to provide some personal closure.
"It's cathartic for me. I was 10 years old and they wouldn’t let me go to the hospital. For Sterling, [this was] a chance to say goodbye to my dad as Randall said goodbye to William."
The 20th Century Fox TV-produced series already collected a win at the Creative Arts ceremony for guest star Gerald McRaney. Brown faced off with Ventimiglia while breakout Metz was nominated for her supporting turn and Jones was up for supporting actor.