Mr. Robot

Rami Malek is the Emmys’ first non-white Best Actor in a Drama in 18 years

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On Mr. Robot, fsociety plans to take over E Corp and thwart the growing greed of the world. IRL, Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek is uprooting Hollywood with his portrayal of Mr. Robot’s main character Elliot Alderson—a hacking prodigy with a knack for reading people both from instinct and hardcore snooping, all while living with and fighting against his mental illness.

On Sunday, Malek solidified his place amongst the TV elite with his Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama after just one season of the USA Network show. He also won a Golden Globe for this role earlier this year. “I play a young man who is, like so many of us, profoundly alienated,” Malek said during his acceptance speech. “I want to honor the Elliots. There’s a little bit of Elliot in all of us.”

It was a huge win for Malek, creator Sam Esmail, and everyone who works on Mr. Robot for the Television Academy to recognize a show that’s a bit of an outsider itself. It centers around the loners, the lost, and their retaliation against what’s bad in the world. It explores the mind of someone living with mental illness by helping the viewers to understand what it’s like to be them. It’s also full of strong women, despite its focus on hacking, a field where women are often scarce. But it was even a bigger win for people of color. Malek’s Emmy win was the first for a non-white actor in 18 years in this category—since Andre Braugher won for Homicide: Life on the Street in 1998—mirroring the television world’s gradual improvement in the diversity department.

It should also be noted that, although she didn’t win, Tracee Ellis Ross was the first black women to be nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 30 years. Actors Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown took home Emmys for their performances in the limited series The People v. OJ Simpson. Regina King won for the second year in a row for her role on American Crime. And Jill Solloway was the only woman nominated in the category of comedy directing for her Amazon series Transparent and took home the Emmy.

Malek opened his acceptance speech with a line from Mr. Robot: “Please tell me you’re seeing this, too.” It was also the perfect expression of the diversity that’s deservedly taking over television right now. If only the Oscars would catch up.