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Emmy Awards: 'Fleabag' And 'Game Of Thrones' Win Big


Actor Billy Porter celebrated his win at the Emmys last night by quoting a line referencing his TV show on FX called "Pose."


BILLY PORTER: Oh, my God. God bless you all. The category is love, y'all, love.


MARTIN: Porter made history last night, and NPR TV critic Eric Deggans explains how.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Billy Porter became the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy as best lead actor in a drama Sunday, and he marked the moment by quoting another history-making gay black man, noted author and activist James Baldwin.


PORTER: James Baldwin said, took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had the right to be here.

DEGGANS: Porter's speech was a powerful moment in an Emmy telecast filled with a few expected wins and lots of surprises. In particular, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator, star and writer of Amazon Prime Video's comedy "Fleabag," stepped on stage three times for wins as best writer in a comedy, best actress in a comedy, and when the show won as best comedy series. Waller-Bridge, who competed against TV veterans like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who's won seven times as best comedy actress, seemed a bit stunned herself by the third win.


PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE: This is just getting ridiculous.


WALLER-BRIDGE: "Fleabag" started as a one-woman show in Edinburgh Festival, and the journey has been absolutely mental.

DEGGANS: Despite a finale season that drew criticism from some fans, "Game Of Thrones" won as best drama series. Star Peter Dinklage earned a historic fourth Emmy as best supporting actor in a drama, the only actor from "Game Of Thrones" to win on Sunday night. Another expected win was Alex Borstein who earned her second Emmy in a row as best supporting actress in a comedy for her work on Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." She gave what may have been the speech of the night, recalling her grandmother who was a Holocaust survivor.


ALEX BORSTEIN: My grandmother turned to a guard. She was in line to be shot into a pit and she said, what happens if I step out of line? And he said, I don't have the heart to shoot you, but somebody will. And she stepped out of line. And for that, I am here, and for that, my children are here. So step out of line, ladies. Step out of line.


DEGGANS: Jharrel Jerome received a standing ovation for his win as best actor in a limited series or movie, playing one of the Central Park Five - now called the Exonerated Five - in Netflix's "When They See Us." All five men - wrongfully convicted many years ago - stood and saluted Jerome when he took the stage. Actress Michelle Williams, who was once at the center of a pay-inequality controversy on a film, thanked FX for paying her the same as her male costar while accepting the award as best actress in a limited series for "Fosse/Verdon."


MICHELLE WILLIAMS: And so the next time a woman - and especially a woman of color because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterpart...


WILLIAMS: ...Tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you.

DEGGANS: But these big moments couldn't lift a three-hour show that often felt awkward, aimless and badly placed. The lack of a host - which helped this year's Oscars - seemed to hurt the Emmys, which never gelled. Comic actor Thomas Lennon delivered quips, often off-camera, as winners walked up to the stage, but his lines bombed so often, he seemed to just give up in the middle of one joke.


THOMAS LENNON: Are the Emmys woke? Or is that just something that - that's - this is why people don't do this 'cause it sucks.

DEGGANS: Last night's Emmys telecast managed an odd trick. It was both surprising and often boring, burying its grandest moments in a program that never quite match the quality of its honorees. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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