Jeffrey Tambor took home tonight the primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, capping off a year full of acclaim for his portrayal of Maura Pfefferman, the transgender woman who comes out to her family late in life on Amazon’s Transparent. The win continues a solid string of nods from Emmy voters for Transparent, who gave the show 3 statuettes during last week’s Creative Emmys ceremony and has already awarded Jill Soloway the Emmy for Comedy directing.
“I’d like to thank Jill Soloway for giving me the privilege and responsibility [of the role]” Tambor said. “I’d like to thank this gorgeous cast, everywhere you rest your eye there’s genius.” He also thanked his teachers and his wife, without whom, he said, “I wouldn’t even be standing here.”
Finally, Tambor dedicated his win to the transgendered community. “Thank you for your patience” he said. “Thank you for your courage, thank you for your stories, thank you for letting us be part of the change.”
Tambor’s win is the second time the Emmys have honored an actor playing a trans character, the term used for several categories of men and women asserting gender identity, including cross-dressers and transgender people. The first happened last week, when Bradley Whitford won in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy category for playing the cross-dresser Marcy on Transparent.
Backstage Tambor repeated his onstage sentiment that he considers his transgender role huge responsibility because “lives are at stake… with real humor, you can kill prejudice and keep it far away… I’m not bashful about holding this (Emmy statuette) up because this is bigger than me.”
Prior to the current era, trans characters have largely appeared as comic relief, and have rarely garnered awards notice. Vanessa Redgrave was nominated for an Emmy in 1987 for her portrayal of transgender professional tennis player Renee Richards in the 1986 CBS movie Second Serve, and Tom Wilkinson was nominated for playing transitioning transgender factory worker Ruth in the 2003 HBO movie Normal. Last year, Laverne Cox made history when she became the first-ever Emmy nominated transgender actor for her work on Orange Is The New Black.
Among the other nominees in the category in the 67th Emmys were Blackish star Anthony Anderson, Louie star nd creator Louie C.K., Don Cheadle for House of Lies, Will Forte for The Last Man On Earth, 7-time Emmy nominee Matt LeBlanc for Episodes, and William H. Macy for Shameless.