UPDATED with backstage quotes: Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale finished off its big night by winning the Outstanding Drama Series trophy at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, marking the first-ever win in the Emmys’ marquee category by a streaming service.
The rookie series was a bit of an underdog entering the night — Hulu was the latest of the streaming services to jump in on the original series game among rivals Amazon and Netflix. But it snagged early wins for Outstanding Writing in a Drama (Bruce Miller), Supporting Actress (Ann Dowd), and Directing (Reed Morano) and started to make clear there was a drumbeat building.
When star Elisabeth Moss won for Best Actress — her first Emmy in nine tries — it was clear that it had a real shot to take the night’s biggest prize. That was saying something as it beat out a strong list that included fellow streaming nominees House of Cards, The Crown and Stranger Things from Netflix; HBO’s rookie Westworld, which led all noms this year with 22; AMC’s Better Call Saul; and NBC’s This Is Us.
Westworld and Stranger Things, the latter of which had 18 nominations going in, were both shut out tonight. This Is Us was looking to become the first broadcast series to win the Best Drama Series statuette since Fox’s 24 in 2006.
But Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and produced by MGM, kept winning. In the end, it tied with HBO’s Big Little Lies for the most wins on the night with five, and gave Hulu bragging rights with the Best Series win.
“The way that Hulu handled our show, they were bold and behind us and really committed to making something interesting,” Miller said backstage after the show’s win. “If the streaming services continue to do that, I don’t see a limit to how many [Emmys] they can win.”
Added executive producer Warren Littlefield: “Streaming has arrived. Our partners at Hulu are fearless. They took a very controversial book and said they wanted to do it. Each and every day they encouraged us to go for it. That kind of support for all of us as artists is exceptional. Our greatest fear would be to let them down in any way given the amount of support.”
Miller spoke onstage after presenter Oprah Winfrey announced Handmaid’s Tale as the winner, with the cast and crew — and Atwood, whom he thanked as she “created this world for us all.” It’s a world that has gained resonance with the current political climate — as noted several times during the CBS ceremony with all the references to President Donald Trump, including from his former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer whose cameo highlighted the opening number.
The drama series based on Atwood’s 1985 novel tells the story of life in a totalitarian America facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate. The community of Gilead is ruled by a twisted fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state. Moss stars as Offred separated from her family and relegated to a Handmaid in the Commander’s household where she’s forced into sexual servitude as a desperate attempt to repopulate the devastated world.
Said Atwood backstage: “Never believe it could never happen here… Nothing went into the book that people hadn’t done at some point in time at some place. In a way you can say the Handmaids have escaped. They’re out there, and they’re coming to you again in Season 2.”
The series already has been renewed for a second season.
Said Miller to cap off his speech:” It’s been lovely, go home, get to work, we have a lot of things to fight for.”
Watch the entire acceptance speech above.