The last time a black actor won the Lead Actor in a Drama Series trophy, it was Andre Braugher for Homicide, back in 1998. And the last time an actor in a broadcast series won this prize, it was James Spader for ABC’s Boston Legal in 2007.
Sterling K. Brown’s highly deserved win for This Is Us, then, stood out in multiple ways. (Broadcast dramas, in particular, have struggled mightily in the 2010s, with This Is Us the first nominated for Drama Series since The Good Wife in 2011.)
Brown plays Randall, the black adopted son of the otherwise white Pearson family, and his quest to find his biological father and explore his racial identity made for riveting television in the show’s first season, especially in “Memphis,” the episode Brown submitted for awards consideration, which involved a road trip Randall took with his biological father.
But Brown’s win was memorable for more than just its historic qualities or for his very deserving work. It’s also memorable because his speech was probably the best of the night, with a stirring tribute to performances that had won in his category before (including Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) and a terrific nod toward Braugher himself.
“I just want to say Mr. Braugher, whether at Stanford University or on this Emmy stage, it is my supreme honor to follow in your steps,” Brown said, before pivoting to thanking his TV family. “Milo, Mandy, Justin, Chrissy — you are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had. Better than Mr. Drummond, better than them white folks at Webster.”
Then when the orchestra kept trying to play him off the stage, Brown refused to leave, shouting to be heard as he thanked the show’s writers and directors.
It’s a fun speech and one of the best moments of this year’s Emmys. Watch it above.