Jharrel Jerome made history at the Emmys on Sunday (September 22, 2019) night by becoming the first Afro Latino star to win an acting prize.
The 21-year-old took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role as Korey Wise in Netflix’s When They See Us. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the show tells the true story of the wrongly-accused New York City teenagers now known as the Exonerated Five, Wise, Antron McCay, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam.
After thanking his parents and team, Jerome, who was the only Hispanic winner of the night, took a moment to celebrate the achievement and his heritage.
“It’s an honor. It’s a blessing, and I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos,” Jerome told reporters backstage, reported Entertainment Tonight. “It’s about time we are here.”
When asked backstage why he thinks actors of color often win awards for real-life dramas, Jerome replied: “Unfortunately, I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain, considering that’s what we go through on a daily basis.”
He continued: “Our pain needs to be told, so if it has to be for the next 20 years we’re just painfully telling our stories until we move on, then it has to be.”
The real-life Exonerated Five, who were wrongly convicted of charges relating to the 1989 assault and rape of a jogger in Central Park, were all at the awards show, and gave Jerome a standing ovation when he won his award.
“I feel like I’m on the basketball team and I made that final shot and they’re in the back (cheering),” Jerome said of having the five men in the audience. “I felt like I was in a championship game, and we went through our final hurrah. … Thirty years ago they were sitting in a prison cell, falsely incarcerated, and today they’re in suits styled by designers for the Emmys.”