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In a well-produced virtual ceremony that ran little more than an hour and paired presenters from the worlds of showbiz and public service, the African-American Film Critics Association handed out its second annual TV honors on Saturday morning, not coincidentally right in the homestretch of Emmy voting.
Indeed, 2020 Emmy-nominated AAFCA honorees included Sterling K. Brown (NBC’s This Is Us and Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and Emmy-nominated presenters included William Jackson Harper (NBC’s The Good Place) and Octavia Spencer (Netflix’s Self Made).
Host Aida Rodriguez opened the show by declaring AAFCA’s mission was “making sure our talent is seen, our voices are heard and our stories are told.” At the same time, the honorees were diverse.
The first award, best animated series, was presented by Matthew A. Cherry, the Oscar-winning director of the animated short Hair Love, and Georgia congressman Hank Johnson. It went to Apple TV+’s Central Park and was accepted by voice stars Josh Gad — who said, “There’s no award I and the entire creative team of Central Park could be honored to receive” — and Leslie Odom, Jr.
Niles Fitch of This Is Us and University of Michigan nurse Cherelle Barksdale toasted Netflix’s Never Have I Ever with best YA series, which was accepted by Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher and young sar Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who declared, “We can hopefully break down more stereotypes in Hollywood to make sure more stories are told.”
Actor Derek Luke, joined by Columbia University Teachers College math/science educator Dr. Christopher Emdin, virtually handed best short form program to Quibi’s I Promise, which Jamal Henderson accepted on behalf of LeBron James, whose school the show chronicles. “It’s a movement and a model for urban public education,” Henderson said.
A year after helping to honor Ryan Murphy at the AAFCA Awards, actresses M.J. Rodriguez, Angelica Ross and Indya Moore of FX’s Pose returned to honor the Pose and Netflix’s Hollywood director Janet Mock with the AdColor Breakout Creative Award. “I truly believe that telling our stories is a revolutionary act,” said Mock. (Hollywood is this year’s second-most Emmy-nominated limited series, but is not nominated for best limited series.)
Starz’s P-Valley stars Nicco Annan and Brandee Evans were joined by Chicago Fire Dept. Lt. Quentin Curtis to do the honors for best docuseries, which went in a tie to both HBO’s Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children (accepted by, among others, John Legend) and ESPN’s The Last Dance.
Meanwhile, Harper and All Rise’s Simone Missick teamed with Pastor Jamal H. Bryant to recognize Lifetime’s The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel with best TV movie. Director Christine Swanson, producer Holly Carter and composer Donald Lawrence accepted.
Hollywood was again recognized in the breakout performer category, as TV host Kevin Frazier and EMT chief Tanya Rivers honored both Jeremy Pope and Laura Harrier.
Sheryl Lee Ralph of Showtime’s Ray Donovan and Dr. Ala Stanford, who founded the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium in Philadelphia, named Brown the best actor for the second year in a row. “What a difference a year makes,” Brown cracked in reference to the pandemic.
Tichina Arnold of CBS’s The Neighborhood and Regina A. Scott, the LAPD’d first black female deputy police chief, toasted HBO’s Emmy-nominated Insecure as the year’s best comedy. Showrunner Prentiss Penny stated that it was extra special “to be honored by your own people, who know and see you and understand what you’re trying to do.”
Best drama, meanwhile, went to ABC’s For Life via Queen Sugar stars Tina Lifford and Omar Dorsey and New Orleans restaurateur Greg Tillery. Creator Hank Steinberg and star Nicholas Pinnock accepted.
Gil Robertson, the freelance journalist and longtime force behind AAFCA, was joined by LA-area veteran TV newswoman Beverly White to present the Inclusion Award to Marta Fernandez, the present of MACRO Television Studios, which is behind, among other things, two diverse shows on Netflix, Raising Dion and the LatinX Genteified.
Montgomery, Alabama was well represented by Oscar-winning actress Spencer, who hails from the city, and Steven Reed, its first black mayor and a rising star of the Democratic Party, who awarded Spencer’s The Help costar Viola Davis with the best actress prize for her work on the final season of ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder.
And finally Rashida Jones honored Kenya Barris, the creator of and her costar on Netflix’s Emmy-snubbed #BlackAF, with the Icon Award. Barris, who remains best known for creating ABC’s Black-ish, said of the accolade, “It’s something I never felt that I would be in a position to get,” adding, “How old do these people actually think I am?!”
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