There were three Oscar winners nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category. The other two have won SAG Awards and Golden Globes. Last night it was Jharrel Jerome who won the Emmy, making history, at 21 years old, as the youngest to win the category. It was the surprise of the night. To say he was an underdog is an understatement, especially since, as the night went on, it started to feel like When They See Us would be shut out.

In the end, When They See Us went one for nine and, as Ava noted in this tweet, it was Jharrel repping for all of them. 

I can’t say for sure if there was any deeper meaning in Ava’s message but I’m reading something deeper in it. The two heavyweights in the Limited Series category were When They See Us and Chernobyl. Chernobyl won for series, directing, and writing, and did not win in any acting categories. This, then, to me, was a consideration of technical scale. If you’ve seen Chernobyl, you know what went into building those sets, coordinating those scenes of destruction, from inside the plant to outside of it and over top of it. When They See Us required a different kind of coordination, because it’s a different kind of story. One tells the story of a nuclear disaster. The other tells the story of a moral disaster. The act of “showing” a nuclear disaster is that much more visually spectacular. And the visual of it all suggests that it’s a higher degree of difficulty which, of course, isn’t true. Some might argue that being able to “show” a moral disaster, without sweeping wide shots of toxic fumes billowing into the air, is just as, if not more, challenging. But this, I think, is what the TV Academy, with all its members coming from all kinds of departments that could appreciate the tangible effort of what went into Chernobyl, was responding to. 

So to come back to Ava’s tweet, with that in mind, I’m taking it as a declaration that her series, with 312 crew members alongside 179 actors, was just as complicated, even if it the intimate, intentionally claustrophobic setting of When They See Us, didn’t seem, on face value, to the scale of Chernobyl’s. Included among those actors were Niecy Nash, Aunjanue Ellis, Michael K Williams, Vera Farmiga, Marsha Stephanie Blake, John Leguizamo, and Asante Blackk, plus Ava herself for directing. The sole win for Jharrel was holding up all those people and, of course and most importantly, the Exonerated Five – Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. The Emmy was for all of them. And they passed it around last night.