Photo by Debra Lopez
“I am a woman, I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs”, Sheryl Lee Ralph sang onstage Monday, performing a few lines from Dianne Reeves’ “Endangered Species” after winning the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
Ralph appeared to be in a state of shock when her name was announced as winner for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, needing to be escorted onto the stage by her fellow Abbott castmates.
When she got there, she took a few more seconds before she broke into the song to kick off her acceptance speech.
After she sang, she said: “To anyone who has ever, ever, had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, couldn’t wouldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like, this is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up.”
She thanked fellow Abbott Elementary cast member, creator, writer, and producer Quinta Brunson, who was the one to approach her about the role, as well as her husband and children for being in her “corner.”
Ending with a thanks to all the “friends” who voted for her, Ralph pumped her Emmy in the air, getting a standing ovation and deafening cheers of support from everyone in the audience.
Backstage, Ralph explained her choice of song: “I’ve been singing that song for years. I think of myself as an artist, as a woman of color. I’m an endangered species. But I don’t sing any victim song. I’m a woman. I’m an artist. Find your voice and put it where it belongs.”
She also added a touching mention of her childhood, stating, “I’m the little 5 year old girl who watched TV on a Sunday night when Tinkerbell went around the steeple. I’m going to Hollywood, I’m to be an actress, I’m going to drive a Mustang. The fact that I’m recognized as being one of the best of the best in my industry in a group of women who are all the best. And top of off, this particular year, tons of great tv! And my little freshman show to be seen for what it is? I got the Golden Ticket.”
Ralph’s career spans four decades. However, it wasn’t until Abbott Elementary that Ralph received her first Emmy nomination – and now, first Emmy win. She beat out fellow nominees Hannah Waddingham, Juno Temple, and Sarah Niles from Ted Lasso, fellow castmember Janelle James of Abbott Elementary, Hannah Einbinder (Hacks), Kate McKinnon (SNL) and Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).
She won viewers over with her portrayal of Barbara Howard, a dignified and inspiring veteran kindergarten teacher, who is the kind of teacher everyone wants to have.
The series scored seven nominations coming into the night.
-Sofia Behzadi for Deadline
April Yvette Thompson