Nominated for seven Emmys, Philly-based TV series “Abbott Elementary” took home two of them Monday night, and one of its leading ladies became the impromptu star of the awards.
Show creator Quinta Brunson secured the win for best comedy writing, and Sheryl Lee Ralph won best supporting actress in comedy for her role as Barbara Howard, the Jim Gardner-loving kindergarten teacher at the sitcom’s fictional Philadelphia school.
Ralph, a veteran actor with a four-decade career, took the stage overcome with emotion about her first Emmy — and promptly stole the show with an unforgettable acceptance speech.
Her rich voice took over the hall as she sang a few a cappella lines from “Endangered Species” by Dianne Reeves. She was the second Black woman ever to take home the statue, and the first in three decades, following Jackée Harry for “227” (a role Ralph auditioned for, per Harry’s tweet thread).
Ralph’s next words resonated even more loudly than her song.
“To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream — and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true — I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like.” Ralph said, smiling through tears. “This is what striving looks like. And don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”
She went on to thank Brunson, her husband — state Sen. Vincent Hughes, who represents Philly in Harrisburg — their children, and “everybody who voted for me, cheered for me, loved me.”
As her thanks rang out, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation, and social media was immediately full of praise and plaudits, with elected officials, community leaders, and Philadelphians lauding Ralph for her contributions to a show that has elevated the plight of Philly schools with its wit and commentary.
“So, can we maybe start the Philly school day tomorrow playing this message tomorrow in like all classrooms?” asked Inquirer columnist Helen Ubiñas.
ICYMI, Ralph’s reaction to learning she’d been nominated for an Emmy was also fire.