Jharrel Jerome Wins Emmy for ‘When They See Us’

By Dan Verderosa, September 23, 2019
Former IC acting student is first Afro-Latino to win an acting award at the Emmys.

From the moment “When They See Us” began streaming on Netflix, critics predicted Jharrel Jerome would contend for an Emmy for his portrayal of Korey Wise, one of five teenagers wrongfully convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger case. He didn’t just contend, though. Jerome took home the award for best actor in a limited series, becoming the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy for acting.

The 21-year-old Dominican American, who studied acting at Ithaca College, beat out established performers and Oscar winners Mahershala Ali, Benicio Del Toro, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris and Sam Rockwell.

A four-part miniseries directed by Ava DuVernay, “When They See Us” tells the story of five Harlem teenagers who were wrongfully convicted for the rape of a woman in Central Park in 1989. They were eventually exonerated. Jerome dedicated his award to the “Exonerated Five,” all of whom were in attendance. They reacted by giving the young actor a standing ovation.

Backstage, Jerome discussed the importance of creating art that depicts the injustices committed against people of color in the U.S. “I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain considering that’s what we go through on a regular basis ... I think the truth is our pain needs to be told,” he said.

He also reflected on being the first Afro-Latino to win an acting award at the Emmys. “I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos,” he told the assembled press. “It’s about time we are here.”

Jerome’s win was celebrated on social media by Hollywood figures like DuVernay and excited IC students and alumni.

Jerome broke onto the acting scene during his first year at Ithaca College when he was cast in Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” which won the Academy Award for best picture in 2017. Jerome has said that IC’s theatre arts program allowed him to study acting without the distractions that come with living in a city like New York.

“It was a lot about just finding a place where I can be comfortable,” Jerome told IC News in a 2016 interview. “I also think nature and the open space gives me a lot of time to get in tune with myself and connect with myself.”

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Read IC News’ full interview with Jharrel Jerome.