Sterling K. Brown’s Emmys speech was cut short on Sunday after the This Is Us star became the first black actor to win the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series since 1998.
“To my fellow nominees, I’m a fan. I love you all,” said Brown, who plays Randall Pearson on the NBC drama, when he took the stage to accept his award.
“This one right here?” he continued, referring to his trophy before giving a shout out to the fictional characters played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), and Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street), respectively. (Braugher was the last black actor to win the award before Brown.) “When I think about it, Walter White held this joint. Dick Whitman held this joint. And 19 years ago, Detective Frank Pembleton held this joint. I just want to say, Mr. Braugher, whether it’s at Stanford University or on this Emmys stage, it is my supreme honor to follow in your footsteps.”
“I wanna thank my cast. Milo, Mandy, Justin, Chrissy, you are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had, better than the white folks who raised Webster,” Brown told his This is Us costars in the audience, not long before the music began to play and cut his time short.
“You can play, you can play. Nobody got that loud music. Our writers, I love you. You are our life’s blood. Our producers and directors, I love you,” he added. Though Brown remained on stage to continue the rest of his speech, the camera panned out and the sound was cut from the mic.
Viewers were furious with the decision.
Backstage after the Emmy Awards ceremony, Brown concluded his speech in the press room.
“I wanted to thank our writers. A show doesn’t get seven acting nominations without some impeccable, beautiful, thoughtful writing,” he said. “You guys are our life’s blood, so I want to thank you so much. To our producers and directors, in particular, John Requa, Glenn Ficarra, and the crazy cool Ken Olin. I thank you for your guidance and friendship. And I wanted to thank Dan Fogelman — he is the Hebrew hammer with which our house was built. He makes me laugh and cry in equal parts and keeps me coming back for more, and in his own little small special way. He’s not trying to make America great again, he’s trying to make it the best that it’s ever been and I love him for taking me on this journey.”
Brown added, “I wanted to thank my manager. You’ve been doing this for a long time and it feels like we’re just getting started. I can’t wait to see what’s next. And to my wife — I didn’t get to thank my wife — you make my life worth living and you gave me two of the most beautiful things that God has ever put on this planet. Your daddy loves you with the strength of 1000 suns. I’ll see you Monday after work. Thank you.”
Created by Dan Fogelman, This Is Us follows the Pearson family across the decades. Via flashbacks, we learn about Jack and Rebecca’s (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore) marriage and lives as young parents; and in the present day storyline, we see who their now 37-year-old kids Randall, Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Kevin (Justin Hartley) have grown up to be. In the first season, Brown brought audiences to tears multiple times as his character dealt with his anxiety problems and reconnected with his birth father, who was dying from cancer.
“When people who have gone through anxiety said, ‘I haven’t seen this on TV. Thank you for representing it as well as you did, and making me not feel as if something is wrong with me.’ You often have this feeling that it’s just me, and then you get a chance to see somebody else go through what it is that you go through, and then you feel like you’re not alone again. I am always really, really proud of an opportunity to tell people that they’re not alone,” Brown told EW.
Brown — who won the Emmy for best supporting actor in a limited series last year for his work on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story – beat out fellow nominees Anthony Hopkins (Westworld), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), and his This Is Us costar Milo Ventimiglia.
This Is Us returns September 26 at 9 p.m. on NBC.
—Reporting by Natalie Abrams