HBO’s “Watchmen," shot largely in metro Atlanta, was a big winner at the semi-virtual Emmy Awards Sunday night, taking home several trophies including best lead actress (Regina King) and best limited series.
The trippy drama, which features blends actual history with science fiction, took home the prize over other heralded series HBO’s “Little Fires Everywhere,” FX’s “Mrs. America,” German Netflix series “Unorthodox” and Netflix’s “Unbelievable.” “Watchmen” is sometimes surreal, sometimes bleak, sometimes violent and always riveting, digging into America’s dark racial past.
Show creator Damon Lindelof, who has no desire to create a second season of “Watchmen,” accepted the award and said he learned many lessons doing the show: “History is mystery. It is broken into a million puzzle pieces and many are missing. We know where those pieces are, but we don’t seek them out because we know finding them will hurt. Sometimes, we cause that hurt, maybe we even benefited from it. But we have to name it before we repair it. Be careful, be clumsy, run hot, stay cool, be the bull in the china shop, pick up what you broke and glue it back together. Don’t stop until it’s great. It’s never great enough. Dissent. Be consistent. Embrace paradox. Never contradict yourself. And finally, stop worrying about getting canceled and ask yourself what you’re doing to get renewed.”
The award, he added, is to honor the victims of the Tulsa massacre of 1921, which is featured in the opening minutes of the series and was shot in Cedartown in Polk County. It showed white men killing Blacks and destroying an affluent area of town nicknamed Black Wall Street.
The show, which had more nominations than any other program with 26, also won seven Creative Emmy Awards earlier in the week.
Netflix’s "Ozark,” also shot in metro Atlanta, had 18 nominations and landed one major Emmy: Julia Garner for best supporting actress in a drama series. Her breakout character, Ruth Langmore, provides a great foil for Jason Bateman’s Marty Byrd.
Another Netflix drama shot in Georgia, “Stranger Things," joined “Ozark” as two of eight nominated for best drama series. “Succession" on HBO won the Emmy.
RuPaul, who spent his early drag queen years in Atlanta in the 1980s, won the Emmy again for best reality show host and for best reality competition program for “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Atlanta’s Tyler Perry was awarded the Governor’s Award to honor his excellence in the medium. Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock provided the honors to Perry.
“He is a man of deep faith. He is a visionary who is led by unwavering passion,” said Winfrey, his friend and mentor. “He is a businessman who bet on himself, and by doing so, showed the world there’s a different path to ultimate success...He dreamed the impossible dream. He bared the unbearable sorrow and fought the unbeatable foe to run where the brave dare not go."
Chris Rock, in narration, added: “He did it all by himself. He is both talented — and crazy... In the hood, they say, ‘I got receipts!’ And Tyler had receipts."
Perry, on stage at Staples Center, said when he was 19, his grandmother gave him a quilt that was something he didn’t care for. He saw a similar quilt in a store and an attendant said it was made by an African-American woman who was a former slave and each square had its own story. He became embarrassed that he didn’t think of his grandmother’s quilt with reverence.
He used this story as an analogy for living life: “I dismissed her work and her story because it didn’t look like what I thought it should. Now, whether we know it or not, we are all sewing our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences, and our memories. Like in my own quilt, one of my memories when I was 10 years old, I remember my father standing at the door, and I was wondering why he stood there so long. He was frustrated and walked away. I asked my mother what was going on. He had worked all week, and he was waiting for the man to come to pay him, and he never did. They needed the money at the time. I tell you, she was so frustrated, she turned to me and said, ‘Don’t you ever stand by a door and wait for white folks to do nothing for you.'"
He continued: “You got to understand my mother wasn’t a racist, but in her quilt, she couldn’t imagine a world where her son wasn’t waiting by the door for someone. In her quilt, she couldn’t imagine me actually building my own door and holding that door for thousands of people. In my mother’s quilt, she couldn’t imagine me owning land that was once a Confederate army base, where Confederate soldiers plotted and planned on how to keep Blacks enslaved, and now, on that very land, Black people, white people, gay, lesbian, straight, transgender, ex-cons, Latin, Asian, all of us come together to add patches to a quilt that is as diverse as it could be.”
Perry concluded: “In my grandmother’s quilt, there were no patches that represented Black people on television. But my quilt, her grandson, is being celebrated by the Television Academy. I thank you for this. God bless you.”
In a weird snafu earlier in the week, Jason Bateman was mistakenly named winner of guest actor in a drama series for HBO’s “The Outsider,” shot in metro Atlanta. Ron Cephas on NBC’s “This Is Us” was the actual winner.
The first hour of the Emmy’s was a coronation of Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek," a comedy starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. The Canadian show for years was critically acclaimed but not seen by a lot of Americans until Netflix added it to the service three years ago. On Sunday night, it picked up seven Emmys in a row, sweeping all the major comedy categories.
It was historic. No comedy series has swept all four acting awards at the Emmys before, “All in the Family” received three out of the four acting categories in 1978 and two of the four in 1972.
Occasional Atlanta resident Elton John, during a sequence where famous folks espouse their favorite comedies, gave “Schitt’s Creek” his thumb’s up. He cited three reasons: they namechecked John in an episode; he met the cast in Italy; and Eugene Levy’s son Daniel was named after his song “Daniel."
Jimmy Kimmel hosted the proceedings from an empty Staples Center in Los Angeles. Celebrity presenters like Anthony Anderson, Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Aniston presented the awards on-site while a few essential workers did so remotely. Winners accepted their Emmys from their homes or in some cases, at group parties. The “ Schitt’s Creek” crew, for instance, were all in one place.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.