Jharrel Jerome Wins First Emmy for ‘When They See Us’
At Sunday night’s awards, 21-year-old Jharrel Jerome won an Emmy for best lead actor in a limited series for When They See Us, Ava DuVernay‘s searing treatment about the men formerly known as the Central Park Five, now known as the Exonerated Five. All five men—Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise—were in attendance at the awards ceremony, cheering on Jerome during his emotional acceptance speech.
“I feel like I should just be in the Bronx right now, chilling, waiting for my mom’s cooking or something, but I’m here in front of my inspirations,” Jerome said in his speech. He received a standing ovation from numerous audience members, including DuVernay and actors like Sterling K. Brown and Mahershala Ali.
Jerome continued, “I have to thank my mom, who’s with me today,” he said as the camera cut to his mother in the audience. “My beautiful mother. Damn. I couldn’t do it without her.” He also thanked the rest of his family and DuVernay, as well as each of the Exonerated Five by name. “Thank you so much,” he said.
Jerome played Wise in the four-part Netflix series. It revolves around the five teens, who were falsely accused of raping and beating a woman in Central Park in 1989. The show begins with teen actors playing the young men, then jumps ahead a few years, with an older cast replacing the younger cast. However, Jerome is the only actor who played both the teen role and the grown-up version of his character. Jerome prepared by spending ample time with Wise, who told him what it was like living through the false accusation and spending time in prison for a crime he did not commit.
“If he had a story to tell about jail, it was about the one or two friends he would meet,” Jerome told Vanity Fair earlier this year. “It was about how bad the food actually is. It was about what it was like to play basketball and to work out,” says Jerome. “I felt like he was trying to make sure that I knew that there’s more than just the pain and the hurt. That he spent all these years fighting to be a better person, even though the world was trying to make him the worst person he could be.”
When They See Us was nominated for 16 Emmys overall, including best-limited series, best directing, and best writing.
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