“Wow, ok. To be with these [fellow nominees] is such an honor. You’re such beautiful performers this year, and beautiful people. I want to thank HBO. The Academy, thank you so much, and Derek Cianfrance, brother, you did something beautiful,” said the actor, whose nomination marked the series’ only recognition by the Television Academy. “You gave me these performances. I couldn’t have done it without you. It was a great collaboration.”
In an impassioned speech, the actor went on to discuss what the story he was telling with Cianfrance was about, and how it relates to the world as it is now. “Our story is about family. It’s about a man who’s fighting for his brother, who’s living with mental illness. It’s a story that’s common throughout so much of the United States and the world today, and it asks a big question: How are we going to deal, and honor, and take care of each other, and our most vulnerable people? We do that with love and compassion, and we do that by fighting for them, and that’s what we have to do today,” he said. “We have to come together with love for each other, and if you have privilege, you have to fight for those who are less fortunate and more vulnerable. That’s what’s great about America, our diversity, and the one thing I’ve learned in my family is that we are stronger together, when we love each other and we respect each other’s diversity.
Referencing without specific mention the upcoming presidential election, the actor made a clear case for the stakes this time around. “We have a big, important moment ahead of us. Are we going to be a country of division and hatred, a country only for a certain kind of people, or are we going to be one of love and strength, fighting so all of us have the American dream?” he asked. “That’s what we’re facing right now, so go out and vote for compassion and kindness.”
Based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Wally Lamb, Derek Cianfrance’s drama centers on identical twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey (both portrayed by Ruffalo). Examining Dominick’s troubled relationship with Thomas—who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia—the series follows the former brother, in his fervent efforts to get Thomas released from a psychiatric facility.
Ruffalo’s win tonight is his second, resulting from his third career nomination. The actor’s last win came in 2014, as a co-executive producer on Ryan Murphy’s HBO film The Normal Heart. Taking the statuette for Outstanding Television Movie, that project also landed Ruffalo a nod in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie—the same one that he triumphed in tonight.
At this year’s Emmys, the actor bested substantial competition, including Hugh Jackman (Bad Education), Jeremy Pope (Hollywood), Paul Mescal (Normal People) and Jeremy Irons (Watchmen). Premiering in May, I Know This Much Is True’s ensemble also included Rosie O’Donnell, Melissa Leo, Kathryn Hahn, Rob Huebel, Archie Panjabi, Michael Greyeyes and Imogen Poots.
Up next for Ruffalo is a pair of projects. First, there’s What If….?, a series exploring—and subverting—pivotal moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The three-time Oscar nominee is also set to star in Newsflash, a ’60s drama from David Gordon Green, recounting the moment when CBS newsman Walter Cronkite was tasked with reporting live on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.