‘When They See Us’ Star Jharrel Jerome Fights Back Tears After Making History at the Emmys

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The primetime Emmy Awards saw two history-making moments Sunday for actor Jharrel Jerome when he won the trophy for “When They See Us.” After snagging the award for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie, Jerome became the first Afro-Latino actor to win for acting. Plus, at 21 years old he is also the youngest to win the category.

Jerome, who played one member of the Central Park Five (now known as the Exonerated Five) in the Ava DuVernay-directed Netflix limited series, took the stage as the real-life Exonerated Five looked on and cheered from the crowd. The actor portrayed Korey Wise in the miniseries about a quintet of Black males who were wrongfully accused of raping a female jogger in Central Park in 1989. The series follows the group’s 15-year journey to exoneration in 2002.

jharrel jerome
Jharrel Jerome holds his hardware as the winner of the lead actor in a limited series and movie category in the press room at the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on Sept. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

“I feel like I should just be in the Bronx right now, just chilling, waiting for my mom’s cooking. But I am here in front of my inspirations,” Jerome began after fighting back tears and before thanking his parents as well as DuVernay and Netflix.

“But most importantly, this is for the Exonerated Five,” Jerome said to cheers from the audience. “This is for Raymond [Santana], Yusef [Salaam], Antron, Kevin [Richardson], and King Korey Wise! Thank you so much, it’s an honor. It’s a blessing.”

Backstage, Jerome discussed the significance of his historic win as an Afro-Latino actor.

“It’s a blessing and I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos. It’s about time we’re here,” he said to a collection of reporters.

The actor also seemed surprised to learn that he was the youngest actor to snag the trophy saying, “well, damn, that’s incredible. It’s an honor. Kids are smart too. That’s cool!”

Something that viewers of the 71st edition of the Emmys found cool was how deserving Jerome was of the award, which came for the actor’s first-ever Emmy nod.

“So well deserved. He definitely earned it. Look at Korey, he’s so proud.”

“Wow I’m soooooo happy for him 🙌🙌🙌”

“I expected him to win that award. That role was sooooooo powerful and i cried like a b#×/%”

“well deserved! may that boy continue to spread his wings & fly! incredible actor 💛”

“Such an incredible moment and very moving!!!”

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