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Smart beat out other nominees Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish), Allison Janney (Mom), Aidy Bryant (Shrill) and Kaley Cuoco (The Flight Attendant). At 70, Smart is one of the oldest winners in the category in Emmys history, just a year after the then-66-year-old Catherine O’Hara won for her role on Schitt’s Creek.
Accepting the award after a standing ovation from the audience, Smart first congratulated her Mare of Easttown cast and crew before paying tribute to her late husband, Richard Gilliland. “I have to acknowledge my late husband, who passed away six months yesterday. I would not be here without him, without his putting his career on the back burner so I could take advantage of all the incredible opportunities I have,” Smart said, then also giving thanks to her two children for being “very courageous individuals in their own right.”
Smart then thanked Hacks‘ Emmy-winning writers Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky, giving a special congratulations to Aniello and Downs for their recent nuptials. “Hacks has been such a thrill. … I read this and said, ‘I have to do this,'” Smart said of the series, which by her win had nabbed three honors already.
The four-time Emmy winner also showed appreciation for co-star Hannah Einbinder, noting “I could not have asked for a better person to bounce everything off of every day. She’s a precious human being.” To finish her speech, Smart commended the Hacks cast and crew for being “so creative and brave and wonderful” for working through the pandemic.
Speaking with press following her win, Smart acknowledged that the honor means so much amid a pandemic, during a time “when it’s nice to make people smile and laugh.”
“When you do something that’s meant to entertain like that, that’s the whole thing, the audience reaction, it’s kind of like being on stage. That’s what you live for, how you’re affecting people. It’s been more than we ever could have expected,” Smart said.
Reflecting on what her husband would think of her win, Smart shared, “He’d be very happy for me.” She added that she was especially touched to have won for a series she was honored to be a part of. “To be rewarded for something you’re particularly proud of is really nice. If you did something you thought was kind of OK and didn’t feel like it was your best and then got rewarded for it, it wouldn’t feel that great. But to be really proud of something and then to be honored for it, that’s extra special.”
The 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards took place on Sunday, returning to an in-person show after last year’s largely virtual, audience-free celebration. Cedric the Entertainer hosted the Television Academy honors, which aired on CBS from the outdoor L.A. Live event deck in downtown Los Angeles.
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