Zendaya’s swift pivot from Disney Channel star to Emmy Award-winning lead of HBO juggernaut Euphoria is the stuff Hollywood dreams are made of. The 24-year-old actor made us all fall a little bit in love with Rue, the teenage addict at the center of Euphoria, last summer. Then at the Emmys last night, Zendaya made history as the youngest ever winner for best lead actress in a drama series, foreshadowing even greater things to come in her already illustrious career.
The young star was visibly shaken as she accepted the trophy, surrounded by her family and her team. (Zendaya’s dad almost stole the show, he was so excited for his daughter’s big win.) She beat out some major talents for the award, too, like 2019 incumbent winner Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) and her co-star Sandra Oh. Zendaya also bested Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show), Olivia Colman (The Crown), and Laura Linney (Ozark).
In terms of good television, there’s nothing better than an ingenue unexpectedly winning the big prize. Their enthusiasm cuts through the pomp and B.S. that’s inherent to awards shows, even in better times. Zendaya didn’t ignore the grim year backdropping her win; instead, she spoke eloquently about the optimism she feels from young people.
“I just want to say that there is hope in the young people out there,” Zendaya said during her acceptance speech. “And I just want to say to all our peers out there doing the work in the streets: I see you, I admire you, I thank you.”
The 2020 Emmy Awards set another record last night, too, for the most wins by Black actors. In all, seven Black performers took home trophies in major categories, topping the previous record of six in 2018. In addition to Zendaya’s trophy, Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II both won for HBO's Watchmen. Uzo Aduba took home an Emmy for playing Shirley Chisholm on FX/Hulu's limited series Mrs. America. Eddie Murphy and Maya Rudolph won guest acting awards for the same episode of Saturday Night Live. And Ron Cephas Jones took home a statuette for his guest role on This Is Us.
Both King and Aduba wore shirts emblazoned with Breonna Taylor’s face and name. Watchmen creator Damon Lindelof wore a tee that read “Remember Tulsa ’21,” referencing the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which is depicted on the series. Over and over again, Emmy winners urged viewers to vote — many of them spelling out the logistics of casting a ballot.
“You’ve got to vote,” King said. “I would be remiss not to mention that, being a part of a show as prescient as Watchmen. Have a voting plan, go to Ballotpedia.com. Vote up the ballot, please. Go to Ballotpedia.com and find out who you’re voting for in your municipal elections. It is very important. Be a good human.”