Moonlight, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Beyonce were big winners at the NAACP Image Awards, handed out over two nights. Denzel Washington, Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, John Legend, Laverne Cox, Issa Rae, Jussie Smollett, Barry Jenkins, Trevor Noah and more were in attendance at the Pasadena Conference Center, where the honors were presented.
The majority of the awards were announced during a non-televised gala on Friday, but nine categories were announced during the live Anthony Anderson-hosted ceremony on Saturday, airing on TV One.
Moonlight took home four awards, including Mahershala Ali's win for outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture and outstanding independent picture. The film's director Barry Jenkins nabbed wins for outstanding writing and outstanding directing in a motion picture, edging out Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation, which had finally earned some major recognition this awards season, scooping up six NAACP Image Award nominations.
Sterling K. Brown, who received the award for best outstanding actor in a drama for his role on NBC's This Is Us, praised Moonlight for being an important film everyone should see and noted that playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney, upon whose play the film is adapted, is his first-born child's godfather. "I'm not sure people are seeing Moonlight the way they need to. I know critics are," said Brown to the press. "I remember in the theater in St. Louis a few minutes went by and one person walked out, maybe it was two, and they said, and I quote this, they said, 'This is some gay shit,' and they walked out. I'm looking forward to the point in life when it's not gay, it's human and people are recognizing the power and the importance of different human beings and what it's like to struggle to find one's voice and be on the outside."
Beyonce took home five awards, thanks to her Lemonade album, for outstanding female artist, music video ("Formation"), and album, while her song "Freedom" featuring Kendrick Lamar earned wins for outstanding duo and outstanding song – contemporary.
Viola Davis continued her awards-season winning streak, receiving the honor for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture for Fences. Her Fences co-star Denzel Washington also won for outstanding actor in a motion picture. Washington, who plans on tackling all of August Wilson's plays, later told the press that Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is next in line.
"I am particularly proud and happy about the young filmmakers, actors, singers, writers, producers that are coming up behind my generation — in particular Barry Jenkins," said Washington of the Moonlight director. He noted that Jenkins made 10 to 20 short films before getting the opportunity to make Moonlight.
"It’s not easy," added Washington. "If it was easy, there would be no Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby and there would be no Denzel Washington."
He ended his speech with the message that "ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship."
OWN dominated amongst TV contenders, with Queen Sugar nabbing outstanding drama series over Fox's Empire and NBC's This is Us. Helmer Ava Duvernay also won outstanding writing for a dramatic series for Queen Sugar, along with outstanding documentary for Netflix's 13th.
Black-ish notched six wins, including Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson for outstanding actress and actor in a comedy, respectively; Laurence Fishburne for outstanding supporting actor; Marsai Martin for outstanding performance by a youth; and Kenya Barris for outstanding writing in a drama series. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story scored three wins, including John Singleton and Courtney B. Vance's nods for outstanding actor in a television movie, limited-series or dramatic special and outstanding director in a drama series, respectively. Despite the nominations for FX's series, Ezra Edelman's Oscar-frontrunner documentary O.J.: Made in America wasn't nominated in the film or TV documentary categories.
President Donald Trump was a recurring topic during the telecast.
"Where the hell was Steve Harvey when he needed him to announce the presidential election results?" joked host Anderson, referring to Harvey's mix-up when he announced the wrong Miss Universe winner. When Trevor Noah was onstage he joked, "Let's get into it — I’m black and immigrant, so I don’t have that much time."
In the TV categories, ABC led with 23 nominations, with HBO in second place with 14.
The NAACP Image Awards recognize achievements by people of color in TV, music, literature and film and honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.
“The NAACP is delighted to have a great collaboration with TV One and we look forward to working with them again to create a memorable evening of entertainment celebrating the hard work, perseverance and achievements of those in our community,” NAACP national board of directors chairman Roslyn M. Brock said in a statement.
Click here to see the winners announced during the NAACP Image Awards gala.