LOS ANGELES — Game of Thrones resurrected the Iron Throne at Sunday’s Emmy 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 writing and top acting honours for its British creator and star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, as well as 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. Fleabag’s showing denied a fond farewell for its final season.
“Nooooo!” a shocked-looking Waller-Bridge said as Louis-Dreyfus smiled for the cameras. “Oh, my God, no. Thank you. I find acting really hard and really painful. But it’s all about this,” she said, her acting trophy firmly in hand.
In accepting the writing award earlier, she called the Emmy recognition proof that “a dirty, pervy, messed-up woman can make it to the Emmys.”
Porter, a Tony and Grammy Award winning performer, 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.
“I have the right, you have the right, we all have the right,” he said.
English actress Jodie Comer was honoured as best drama actress for Killing Eve. She competed with co-star Sandra Oh, who received a Golden Globe for her role and 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, who is a dwarf.
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.
“Most important, this is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five,” said Jerome, naming the five wrongly convicted men who were in the audience. They stood and saluted the actor as the crowd applauded them.
It was the only honour for the acclaimed Netflix series of the evening; Chornobyl won the best limited series honour.
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 selections of Porter and Jerome that made the show.
HBO retained its durable front-runner status with the help of Game of Thrones’ record-tying 12 wins. The channel had 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, honoured as 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 “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.”