Jharrel Jerome, a virtual unknown just a few months ago, took the stage at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater Sunday night to accept an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. And during his acceptance speech, he thanked Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, and Korey Wise, the five men whose painful and ultimately triumphant story made his win possible.
Jerome starred in Netflix’s When They See Us, a four-part miniseries directed by Selma’s Ava DuVernay that told the story of the boys who would become known as the Central Park Five—the five black and Latino Harlem teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 who, in 1989, were falsely convicted for the brutal rape of Trisha Meili, a young investment banker who was attacked during her evening jog in Central Park. Demonized in the media—Donald Trump himself took out ads urging that they be executed—the young men eventually spent between six and 13 years in jail. They were exonerated in 2002, when the real attacker, a violent serial rapist and murderer, confessed to the crime.
While the other boys in the show were portrayed by different actors as teens and young adults, Jerome, who played 16-year-old Korey Wise, played his character both as a teenager and as an adult. His moving performance as an innocent teen navigating more than a decade in adult prisons more than earned him his win.
"This is this is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five," he said, referring to the men's newfound nickname. "To Raymond, Yusef, Antron, Kevin, and King Korey Wise."
In the audience, the men stood and applauded.
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