Sunday’s most unusual Emmycast went out of its way to put the spotlight on the hard labor of everyday Americans: A nurse, a UPS driver and a farmer were recruited to introduce major categories as a Hollywood hat-tip to frontline workers.
But all told, the 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards’ virtual ceremony left an even stronger impression about how the entertainment industry relates to the rest of the working world in flyover country. In this pandemic-rattled moment of social upheaval and political fury, Hollywood stars are just like the rest of us: Tired to the point of exhaustion, aggravated by the sheer number of cultural battles raging and scared witless about what the next 40-odd days will bring. At times the sense of world-weariness was evident on the faces and on the minds of winners.
“It does feel a bit incongruous to be giving out awards to actors,” Jeremy Strong, winner for lead drama actor for HBO’s “Succession,” told reporters in the virtual backstage from his hotel room in Manhattan. “I wish we could be giving out awards to people on the front lines: MTA workers, hospital workers. I feel like it was reflected in the ceremony tonight that this community appreciates and acknowledges those people.”
“Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy, who collected an armful of trophies for the final season of his Pop TV/CBC comedy, stated the obvious about enlisting “essential workers to be part of this show to hand out awards to those who are much less essential than they are,” he said.
Emmy winners could be forgiven for having a hard time getting the adrenaline flowing to accept awards brought to their homes, just as so many household staples delivered by Amazon, FedEx, UPS, et al. in recent months.
“I like the real awards better,” said Regina King, winner of lead actress in a limited series for HBO’s “Watchmen,” in her backstage interview when asked to compare her mood compared to previous Emmy ceremonies. “Not that these are fake,” she quickly added.
“Blackish” star Tracee Ellis Ross epitomized the let’s-get-this-over-with mood when she came out on the stage opposite host Jimmy Kimmel to present comedy awards. She’d barely come out of the wings when she said in one breath: “Stay safe, make a plan for voting, wear a mask, good night.”
As was the case with Ross, even the calls to action on various causes from winners felt more subdued than they might have been had speakers been picking up on the collective energy of a crowd at the Microsoft Theater. There were numerous calls for viewers to take part in the Nov. 3 election, but less bashing of President Donald Trump by name than there has been in recent years.
“Make a plan to vote,” Mark Ruffalo, winner for HBO’s “I Know This Much Is True,” said from his couch. Uzo Aduba, winner for supporting actress in a limited series for FX’s “Mrs. America,” spoke in gentle tones as she made a suggestion to viewers: “Let’s go change the world.” King put it more plainly: “You gotta vote.”
“Watchmen” executive producer Damon Lindelof cried as he won his first award of the night, writing for a limited series, while co-writer Cord Jefferson paid tribute to the victims of the 1921 massacre of Black residents in Tulsa that was a central part of the “Watchmen” plot. “This country neglects and forgets its history at its own peril often,” Jefferson said.
RuPaul set aside his usual high-velocity zingers for a softer message this year as he picked up Emmy No. 6 for “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“Don’t give up on love. Believe in love and the power of love. I love it,” he said.
(Pictured: Jeremy Strong)