For the past 18 years, the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series has been awarded to white actors. That is, until last night when Egyptian-American Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) took home the award. Malek’s win serves as testament to the progressiveness of television, at a time when film is still relatively homogenous. This win nothing to brush aside. The talents of minority actors are finally being recognized almost as much as their non-minority counterparts and TV shows are becoming more diverse in terms of casting. Mr. Robot and its protagonist Elliot Alderson have disrupted TV.
When Malek took to the stage to accept his award he uttered, “Please tell me you’re seeing this too,” a witty reference to his character Elliot, who often hallucinates the world around him. Why does Malek consider his win to be pivotal? “I play a young man who is, like so many of us, profoundly alienated,” he said. The character Elliot’s struggles with depression, anxiety, and paranoia, offer a stark contrast to the not-so-troubled white males we so often see on television. Mr. Robot is a show that breaks the cycle of the white male antihero that is prevalent on TV.
“For me to stand here as not the typical leading man, and to have come home with this I think speaks a lot about where we’re headed,” the 35-year-old said, “and I think we can just keep going further in that direction — obviously not just limited to entertainment, but socially and politically to continue and strive to be as progressive as possible.”
“I’m honored to stand here and represent my family and every single person who has helped me to get this far,” Malek also said. “I’m honored to work with a pure visionary in [showrunner] Sam Esmail. I wouldn’t be here without you.” Before leaving the stage, Malek dedicated his award to the Elliots of the world saying, “I want to honor the Elliots. There’s a little bit of Elliot in all of us.”
The Emmys began with host Jimmy Kimmel joking that the show and nominees were almost too diverse, essentially poking fun at #OscarsSoWhite. Diversity among award-winners was also showcased at several other instances during the night, such as when Kate McKinnon, S.N.L.’s first openly lesbian cast member, and Susanne Bier, a lone female director amongst a vast number of male competitors, won awards.