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The Exonerated Five made their Emmys debut during the awards show Sunday.
Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam attended the awards show with When They See Us writer-director Ava DuVernay. The Netflix limited series, which tells the true story of The Central Park Five being wrongly convicted of rape in the 1989 Central Park jogger case, is nominated for 16 awards.
E! Live From the Red Carpet‘s Giuliana Rancic spoke to DuVernay and the Exonerated Five before the ceremony kicked off.
DuVernay began the interview by discussing how she became inspired to make When They See Us after Santana reached out to her on Twitter. “I’d known about these brothers’ case. I was a teenager in Compton when they were teenagers in Harlem when they were going through what they were going through, so I felt connected,” she said.
The men then spoke about what it meant to them to share their story with so many people through the limited series. “It’s a blessing. It was all a dream to become a reality,” said Wise.
Salaam added that he wasn’t familiar with Wise’s story before he watched the series. “It was the most important thing for us to see each others stories because we hadn’t even talked about this,” he said. “First of all, to humanize us in such a magnificent way was such an honor and for me to see Korey, who had gone to the park but wasn’t a suspect — they weren’t looking for him — and when they came to get me as a suspect, they asked him if he would go with me. This is the ultimate ‘take a bullet for your homie’ kind of thing and I was just so grateful to see that because I didn’t know. We never spoke about what our experiences were like.” Salaam added that it was an “honor” to share their stories with the world.
McCray also said that it was “overwhelming” to be at the awards show. “I’m trying to take it in. It’s great,” he said.
The director posted a photo of the men on Twitter before they made their way to the awards show. “My dates,” she captioned the post.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) September 22, 2019
The men earned a shoutout from When They See Us actor Jharrel Jerome, who played Wise on the show, when he won the award for outstanding lead actor in a limited series.”This is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five,” said the actor. The men earned a standing ovation following the dedication.
DuVernay previously announced that she planned to take the men as her dates to the awards show during a For Your Consideration event in August.
“When I called them to tell them about the Emmys, none of them knew about it,” DuVernay recalled on the panel. “It was about an hour later and they’re on the East Coast, and I called them, like, ‘So? Right?’ And they’re like, ‘Hey, what’s up?'” She continued, “I’m, like, ‘The Emmys!’ Literally I had to explain to them what it was, for one of them I had to say, ‘It’s like the Grammys, but TV.'”
DuVernay also spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the men’s reaction to the show being nominated for multiple Emmys. “This ceremony and this experience is very isolated to our industry. You have people who are really living their lives deeply, meaningfully, that have no connection with our kind of laudatory celebrations,” she said. “For them, their awards came from the way that their lives have changed, the way that people are now regarding them, the way that history has been rewritten. Now that they know, they’re getting their tuxes ready and they’re going to be up in there.”
The 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards is taking place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The hostless show airs on Fox.
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