Egyptian-American Rami Malek Wins Historic Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series

Last night’s Emmys–the most diverse in the awards show’s 68-year history–were a beacon of hope in an entertainment industry known for #OscarsSoWhite. For the first time, actors of color were nominated for awards in every leading acting category. Of the 73 nominations in the lead and supporting categories for comedy, drama, and miniseries, 18 of the nominees were people of color.

And the Emmy’s major strides didn’t stop with the nominations.

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang picked up Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for their spectacular second episode of Master of None, “Parents,” which explores dynamics between second-generation Americans and their immigrant parents.

Key & Peele took home Outstanding Variety Sketch Series. Regina King walked away with her second Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie in a row for her role as Terri Lacroix in American Crime. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’s Courtney B. Vance (Johnnie Cochran) and Sterling K. Brown (Christopher Darden) won awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series Or Movie and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series Or Movie respectively.

Among the biggest winners last night was Rami Malek, star of the USA Network drama Mr. Robot. The son of Egyptian immigrant parents, Malek, 35, made history with his Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of the anti-social hacker Elliot Alderson in the show’s debut season. His win marks the first time a non-white actor has won the category in 18 years, when Andre Braugher was awarded the best actor Emmy for Homicide: Life on the Street in 1998. It also makes Malek the first Egyptian-American to win an Emmy acting award.

Malek quoted his character when he took to the stage to receive his award: “Please tell me you’re seeing this too,” he joked before thanking Mr. Robot showrunner and fellow Egyptian-American, Sam Esmail.

“I play a young man who is, I think like so many of us, profoundly alienated,” the TV star went on to say. “I want to honor the Elliots. Right, because there’s a little bit of Elliot in all of us, isn’t there?”

Backstage at the awards, Malek continued to reflect on the award’s significance.

“For me to stand here as not the typical leading man, and to have come home with this, I think speaks a lot about where we’re headed, and I think we can just keep going further in that direction. Obviously, not just limited to entertainment, but socially and politically, to continue and strive to be as progressive as possible.”

Asked if he relates to his Mr. Robot character at all, Malek responded: “We live in a world right now where so many of us feel voiceless, like we’re not being heard by our governments; we’re not being heard by our society. I grew up in a family that immigrated here. My dad worked door-to-door to sell insurance, and my mom was pregnant with my brother and I, taking three buses going to work, so they would give their children an opportunity to be special. My sister’s an ER doctor, my brother’s a teacher, and I’m standing here today. I think a lot of people can relate to wanting an opportunity; and I’ve wanted an opportunity, and now I have it. And I just want everyone, no matter how you grew up, your socioeconomic standard that you were born into, to have an opportunity regardless. To not be stifled in this time in the world, but to be given a chance like I’ve been given a chance.”

Congrats, Rami!

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