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Taraji P. Henson’s ‘Empire’ Win Highlights Critics’ Choice Awards’ Diverse Selections

Another day, another awards show… But what made Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Television Awards different was the array of American talent taking home trophies and nominations.

BET Networks made their Critics’ Choice debut with the “Book of Negroes.” The 35-year-old channel — which expanded its network to scripted programming in 2011 — gained its first award nominations with best limited series and series’ leading lady Aunjanue Ellis for actress in a movie or limited series. Cast members along with network CEO Debra Lee and head of programming Stephen Hill attended the awards show and after-party.

“It feels a little like someone let the door open, like, ‘Do they know?’” Ellis kidded. She got a little more serious, “I’m claiming it, it’s a movement.”

Lou Gossett Jr. spoke candidly alongside co-star Lyric Bent about the awards show’s diversity.

“It’s her turn, it’s our people’s turn, it’s been so many others’ turn, now it’s our turn,” urged Gossett about his BET miniseries’ nomination. Bent agreed claiming that the network will be around for award shows to come. “Everyone should expect better things to come from BET,” said Bent.

Another nominee who was “just happy to be considered” was Constance Wu from “Fresh off the Boat.” Her show is the second sitcom with a predominantly Asian cast in the history of television. Margaret Cho’s “All-American Girl” was a breakthrough in 1994, but didn’t last past the first season.

“It’s been so rewarding and so wonderful to hear the response and that we don’t have to wait another 20 years because they already picked up ‘Dr. Ken,’ (starring Ken Jeong)” she told Variety.

Although “Jane the Virgin” didn’t win any awards during the show, nominee Jaime Camil thinks that Gina Rodriguez’s win at the Golden Globes helped highlight the talent of the show’s predominantly Latino cast.

“Since the very beginning, the critics have been very kind to us and written beautiful reviews, so in a way we feel like we are winning family at the Critics’ Choice Awards. We are very thankful,” he said.

Apparent from the eruption at the “Empire” table, the night’s biggest winner was Taraji P. Henson. Without thanking Boo-Boo Kitty, she accepted as the first African-American actress to win the Critics’ Choice TV Award for actress in a drama.

She began her speech by thanking the network, which is touting “Empire” and the actress in Emmy campaigns. “Fox, you’re bold. You took a shot, you took a risk; that’s what art is about.”

On the red carpet, “American Crime” director John Ridley spoke to Variety about his show’s nomination and network television as a mirrored customer base.

“I do hope — as a person, as a father, as a person of color — that we set the bar across the board in terms of the kinds of stories that we’re telling and the environment that we provide for people with perspectives,” Ridley confessed. “Audiences look at their television and hope that they’re more reflective.”

Other winners of color include David Oyelowo (“Nightingale”) and Lorraine Toussant (“Orange Is the New Black”); HBO’s “Bessie,” starring Queen Latifah, also won in the movie made for television category.

Presented by the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, the fifth annual awards show was hosted by “So You Think You Can Dance’s” Cat Deeley at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and broadcast on A&E.

See More: Seth MacFarlane Slams ‘Duck Dynasty’ at Critics’ Choice Television Awards

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