Game of Thrones has resurrected the Iron Throne at the Emmy Awards ceremony, ruling as top drama on a night of surprises in which Pose star Billy Porter made history and the comedy series Fleabag led a British invasion that overturned expectations.
“This all started in the demented mind of George R.R. Martin,” said Game of Thrones producer David Benioff, thanking the author whose novels were the basis of HBO’s fantasy saga.
Porter, who stars in the FX drama set in the LGBTQ ball scene of the late 20th century, became the first openly gay man to win a best drama series acting Emmy.
“God bless you all. The category is love, you all, love. I’m so overjoyed and so overwhelmed to have lived to see this day,” said an exuberant Porter, resplendent in a sparkling suit and swooping hat.
Amazon’s Fleabag, a dark comedy about a dysfunctional woman, was honoured as best comedy and earned top acting honours for its British creator and star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and a best director trophy.
“This is getting ridiculous,” Waller-Bridge said in her third trip to the stage to collect the top trophy.
Her acting win blocked Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus from setting a record as the most-honoured performer in Emmy history.
Porter, a Tony and Grammy Award winning actor, relished his groundbreaking moment. Quoting the late writer James Baldwin, he said it took him many years to believe he has the right to exist.
English actress Jodie Comer was honored as best drama actress for Killing Eve, competing with co-star Sandra Oh, who received a Golden Globe for her role and who would have been the first actress of Asian descent to win an Emmy in the category.
“My mum and dad are in Liverpool (England) and I didn’t invite them because I didn’t think this was going to be my time. One, I’m sorry, two I love you,” Comer said after saluting Oh.
Bill Hader won his second consecutive best comedy actor award for the hit man comedy Barry.
Peter Dinklage, named best supporting actor for Game of Thrones, set a record for most wins for the same role, four, breaking a tie with Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad.
“I count myself so fortunate to be a member of a community that is about nothing but tolerance and diversity, because in no other place I could be standing on a stage like this,” said Dinklage, a little person.
Meanwhile, Ozark star Julia Garner won the best supporting drama actress trophy against a field including four actresses from Game of Thrones.
The auditorium erupted in cheers when Jharrel Jerome of When They See Us, about the Central Park Five case, won the best actor award for a limited series movie.
It was the only honour for the acclaimed Netflix series of the evening; Chernobyl winning the best limited series award.
The ceremony was brisk but, without a host, was overly reliant on the hit-and-miss jokes of presenters.
It was ultimately the surprising wins such as Comer’s and the meaningful of Porter and Jerome that made the show.
HBO retained its durable front-runner status, with a total of 34 awards from Sunday and last weekend’s creative arts ceremony.
But streaming hit new Emmy heights, powered by Amazon Prime winners Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and a Very English Scandal, and Netflix’s Bandersnatch (Black Mirror), honoured as best movie.
Netflix collected 27 awards and Amazon nabbed 15.
Michelle Williams, who claimed best actress for her portrayal of dancer Gwen Verdon in FX’s limited series Fosse/Verdon, issued a call to arms for gender and ethnic equality.
She thanked the network and studio behind the project for “supporting me completely and paying me equally because they understood … when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. And where do they put that value, they put it into their work.
“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, tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her,” Williams said.
Patricia Arquette won the trophy best supporting limited-series or movie actress for The Act.
She paid emotional tribute to her late trans sister, Alexis Arquette, and called for an end to prejudice against trans people, including in the workplace.
Ben Whishaw took the category’s supporting actor trophy for A Very English Scandal, while Alex Borstein and Tony Shalhoub of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won best comedy supporting acting awards at the ceremony.
Shalhoub added to his three Emmys which he earned for his signature role in Monk.
The awards opened without a host as promised, with an early exchange pitting Ben Stiller against Bob Newhart.
An animated Homer Simpson made a brief appearance on stage until he was abruptly crushed, with Anderson of “black-ish” rushing in to, as he vowed, rescue the evening.
He called Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston on stage to tout the power of television from its beginning to the current golden age.
“Television has never been bigger. Television has never mattered more. And television has never been this damn good,” Cranston said.