Sheryl Lee Ralph captivated viewers during the Emmys on Monday, when she won her first trophy, for supporting actress in a comedy for her work on Abbott Elementary, after decades in show business. Only the second Black woman to win in the category, she delivered a rousing speech in the form of... a song!
Ralph felt less jubilant as she watched Quinta Brunson, the creator and star of Abbott Elementary, accept the honor for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Weries — the second Black woman to win in that category. Only it had nothing to do with Brunson; her feelings were about Jimmy Kimmel, as the late-night host laid on the stage near the podium while Brunson delivered her speech, as part of a bit that didn't go over so well.
"I was absolutely confused," Ralph said Wednesday during a virtual panel of the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, according to reports. "I didn't know what was going on. I was like, 'I wish that man would just get up off of the ground.' And then I realized it was Jimmy Kimmel, and I was like, 'Ooh, the disrespect, Jimmy!' But that's just me."
Ralph laughed and sarcastically added, "Sorry! I'm so sorry, it was lovely that he was lying on the floor during her wonderful acceptance speech!"
Ralph did not keep her feelings to herself.
"I told him, too! To his face!" she said of the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host. "And he understood."
At the same event, Brunson herself again addressed what happened. (She had said in the press room after the show that the incident didn't bother her much, and noted that it was Kimmel who gave her her first late-night spot. She said that she was scheduled as a guest on his show Wednesday: "Tomorrow maybe I'll be mad at him.")
"I'm anticipating that we are going to have a good old-fashioned time," Brunson said of her appearance. "I have talked with Jimmy since, and I think no matter what, it's important to just showcase that Abbott Elementary is premiering next week. It's gonna be a good time and you'll probably just have to tune in and watch."
While Brunson was forgiving, the internet agreed with Ralph that the gag was a miss.
Kimmel's reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the comedian joked to Entertainment Tonight at an Emmys afterparty what was going on with him in the moment: "I had my eyes closed, I had no idea where I was," he said. "It was one of the weirdest things that's ever happened to me."
He also seriously raved about Brunson.
"She is so unbelievably talented. And I saw her pilot before it came out on ABC, and I wrote to her, and I was like, 'I don't know how we got this, but congratulations. You made a pilot that any network would be ecstatic to get,'" Kimmel said. "She's a lovely person as well."