Emmy Awards 2015: The TV awards ceremony is a night of first-time wins

This year's Emmy Awards included a black woman winning the Emmy Award for best lead actress in a drama series for the first time and a victory in the prestigious Best Drama Series category for a fantasy TV show. 

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Viola Davis accepts the Emmy Award for best lead actress in a drama series.

This year’s Emmy Awards included major victories for the HBO shows “Game of Thrones” and “Veep,” actor Jon Hamm of “Mad Men,” and actress Viola Davis, who became the first black actress to win the Emmy Award for best lead actress in a drama for her work on the ABC show “How to Get Away With Murder.” 

“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," Davis said during her acceptance speech. "You cannot win Emmys with roles that are simply not there.” 

Actor Jeffrey Tambor won the Emmy for best lead actor in a comedy for the Amazon show “Transparent,” while Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “Veep” won the award for best lead actress in a comedy. Peter Dinklage of “Thrones” won the best supporting actor in a drama Emmy and Uzo Aduba won the best supporting actress in a drama Emmy for her work on the Netflix show “Orange Is the New Black.”

Meanwhile, Tony Hale won the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy for his appearances on “Veep” and Allison Janney captured the Emmy Award for best supporting actress in a comedy for the CBS show “Mom.” 

Hamm’s win for the final season of “Mad Men” came after he had been nominated for and lost the award seven times before this year’s ceremony. 

“Thrones” became the first fantasy series to win the Emmy for Best Drama Series, which is one of the most high-profile awards at the ceremony. (The ABC show "Lost" became the first science fiction show to take the prize in 2005.) The HBO drama, which takes place in the fictional land of Westeros and is based on the book series of the same name by George R.R. Martin, had been nominated before in the category but had previously won in such categories as best supporting actor in a drama series (Dinklage again) and best special visual effects.

This year, “Thrones” actresses Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke missed out on the best supporting actress prize and Diana Rigg did not win the prize for best guest actress in a drama series. However, series co-creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff won the Emmy for best writing for a drama series for the newest season finale. 

The success of “Thrones” at the Emmys echoes a first at the Academy Awards more than 10 years ago. The 2003 film “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” became the first fantasy movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars. (The previous two films in the "Rings" series were both nominated for Best Picture.) In addition to its critical success, the “Rings” trilogy found box office success, with “King” becoming the highest-grossing movie domestically of the year in which it was released. 

“Thrones” is one of the most acclaimed series on television right now, though it has received criticism for its onscreen violence, particularly with recent episodes. However, in terms of its status as a genre TV show, it has a lot of company on broadcast, cable, and streaming television. Comic book TV shows are popular right now, with almost every TV network and streaming service currently airing one, and the popular Starz show “Outlander” has science fiction elements, while ABC’s popular show “Once Upon a Time” is set in a fantasy world, as is the ABC show “Galavant.” Meanwhile, the Fox show “Sleepy Hollow” has supernatural elements. 

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