“Abbott Elementary”'s Quinta Brunson Is Moved to Tears as First Black Comedy Lead Actress Emmy Winner in 42 Years

Christina Applegate, Rachel Brosnahan Natasha Lyonne and Jenna Ortega were also competing for the outstanding actress in a comedy series honor on Monday



Quinta Brunson just made history!

The Abbott Elementary creator and star became the first Black woman to win outstanding lead actress in a comedy in 42 years when she took home the prize at Monday’s 75th annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

"Thank you so much just I don’t know why I’m so emotional, I think just like, the Carol Burnett of it all," she said while accepting the award.

"Thank you so much I love making Abbott Elementary so much and I am so happy to be able to live my dream and act out comedy, and I say it every time and I just love comedy so much that I am so happy to be able to get this," she continued. "I didn’t prepare anything because I just didn't think... Oh god. I love my mom, my dad. My sisters, my brothers. My entire family so much. I love my husband. I'm so happy. I love my cast. Oh, I love Abbott Elementary. Thank you so much."

The last Black woman to take home the honor was Isabel Sanford for her role in The Jeffersons in 1961. Brunson's win alongside Ayo Edebiri's win marked the first time a pair of Black actresses won the two comedy categories in the same year.

Related: 'Succession', 'White Lotus' and More Dominate 2023 Emmy Nominations: See the Full List

Brunson, 34, plays Philadelphia school teacher Janine Teagues in the ABC series. She earned three Emmy nominations this year, including a comedy series nod for Abbott Elementary — which she created, writes and executive produces — and recognition in the outstanding guest actress in a comedy series category for hosting Saturday Night Live.

“Performing and writing and creating, producing — I feel like I’m still doing it for my family,” Brunson told Oprah Winfrey last year. “They’re the best focus group because growing up, we all as a family used to laugh together despite being a multigenerational household. Having these different people with vastly different senses of humor, vastly different educational levels. The programs that brought us together were meaningful to me.”

Abbott Elementary will return for third season on Feb. 7, picking up after a long-awaited kiss between Janine and Gregory (outstanding supporting comedy actor nominee Tyler James Williams).

Related: The Abbott Elementary Cast's Best Behind-the-Scenes Photos

<p>Saeed Adyani/Netflix</p> Christina Applegate in 'Dead to Me'

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Christina Applegate in 'Dead to Me'

Brunson beat out nominees including Christina Applegate from Dead to Me, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan, Natasha Lyonne of Poker Face and Wednesday's Jenna Ortega.

Applegate's 2023 nomination marked the 52-year-old’s eighth Emmy nod. In Netflix’s Dead to Me, she played a window seeking out the driver who killed her husband. The actress has said that working on the show helped her cope with her August 2021 multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

"The beauty of Dead to Me is that it gave me almost this weird platform of dealing with it, where I didn't have to be on all the time and I didn't have to make all the jokes and I could fall apart in a scene," Applegate said on The Kelly Clarkson Show. "And it was, like, me. It was my soul actually falling apart, unfortunately, in front of the world, but it was cathartic in a beautiful way."

After Dead to Me wrapped after its third season in November 2022, Applegate said she doesn’t think she’ll work again on screen due to her MS. "I'm probably not going to work on-camera again," she told Vanity Fair.

Related: Christina Applegate Spreads Her “FU MS” Message Two Years After Diagnosis Through Cane Collaboration (Exclusive)

<p>Philippe Antonello/Prime Video</p> Rachel Brosnahan on 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'

Philippe Antonello/Prime Video

Rachel Brosnahan on 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'

Brosnahan, 33, was an Emmys mainstay during The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s five-season run. She was named outstanding lead actress in a comedy series in 2018 for playing Miriam “Midge” Maisel and has earned a total of six nominations over the years.

Prime Video’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel came to an end with season 5, which saw how Midge’s comedy career played out.

“She's proud that she did exactly what she set out to do after doing exactly what she set out to do the first time and having the rug ripped out from under her,” Brosnahan told Entertainment Weekly. “She's proud that she rebuilds, that she headed in a completely different direction that she didn't know was possible, that she found a partner and the love of her life in a lot of ways in both Susie and stand-up. She's proud and she's fulfilled. Is she happy? I don't know.”

Related: Rachel Brosnahan Says Goodbye to 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel': 'Thank You and Goodnight'

<p>Peacock</p> Natasha Lyonne on 'Poker Face'


Natasha Lyonne on 'Poker Face'

Lyonne, 44, picked up her fifth Emmy nomination this year for Peacock’s Poker Face, in which her character has the power to identify if someone is lying. “It was very fun to return to case-of-the-week and have audiences in communion with the work for a longer stretch of time,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

The Russian Doll star also received a nod for her work on Poker Face at this year’s Golden Globes, where she was recognized in the best performance by a female actor in a television series, musical or comedy category (the award ultimately went to The Bear's Ayo Edebiri).

Related: Natasha Lyonne Reveals the Iconic Roles She Almost Had — Including 'Blossom' and 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch'

Netflix Jenna Ortega on 'Wednesday'
Netflix Jenna Ortega on 'Wednesday'

Ortega, 21, found herself a first-time nominee at the Emmys this year thanks to her megahit series Wednesday. After its debut in November 2022, the Addams Family-inspired series beat out Stranger Things to become Netflix’s show with the most hours viewed in a week for an English-language TV series.

Related: Jenna Ortega on Embracing Wednesday Addams' Unique Style: 'I've Always Respected Goth Culture'

Netflix renewed Wednesday for a second season last January, and Ortega has teased that the show's sophomore turn will focus more on its spooky side.

“We’ve decided we want to lean into the horror aspect of the show a little bit more,” she told Variety. “Because it is so lighthearted, and a show like this with vampires and werewolves and superpowers, you don’t want to take yourself too seriously.”

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