It was an inspiring night at the 74th Emmy Awards on Monday, a fast-paced, bubbly, often funny show hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson. And grownup talents were well represented. Here are a few moments from the evening that stood out:
Sheryl Lee Ralph’s dream comes true
Besides proving that grownup talent can prevail despite all obstacles, Abbott Elementary star Sheryl Lee Ralph, 65, demonstrated that broadcast TV — beloved by grownup viewers — can still hold its own in a streaming era. Before the show, she recalled that her onetime costar Robert De Niro once told her, “You deserve to be seen.” She said, “Well, 30 years later I am seen with my Emmy nomination, and thank God I didn’t give up on me, because it’s been a rough climb but it’s worth every step.”
When she won outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her tart-tongued teacher role, she proved she still had the pipes she used in her breakthrough show, Dreamgirls, 41 years later by belting out the Dianne Reeves song: “I am an endangered species but I sing no victim’s song. I am a woman, I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs!” She went on, “To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like, this is what striving looks like … and don’t you ever, ever give up on you!”
Jennifer Coolidge’s inimitable Emmy debut
The most original speech of the evening was given by the most original actress, The White Lotus’ Jennifer Coolidge, 61, who, after decades of distinctive work (A Mighty Wind, Legally Blonde), won her first Emmy, for supporting actress in a limited or anthology series. She was up against four superb nominees from the same show, but her role, a rich woman who ambiguously befriends a poor woman who works at a Hawaiian resort, stood out because we sympathized with her griefs, laughed at her oddities and were stunned by her unexpected cruelties.
Accepting the award, she was as unpredictably off-kilter as her dramatic performances are, greeting the crowd by saying, “Hey, hi, wow!” and confessing, “I took a lavender bath tonight and it made me swell up inside my dress and I’m having a hard time speaking.” Many winners protested the short time allotted for thank-you speeches, but only Coolidge was cool enough to dance to the music that played her off the stage. When the show’s creator, Mike White, 52, also won an Emmy, he credited Coolidge with helping to inspire him to write the offbeat hit.