Jharrel Jerome on Being the 1st Afro-Latino to Win an Acting Emmy

Steve Granitz/WireImage

The 21-year-old actor made history on Sunday night.

Jharrel Jerome made history on Sunday night. 

The 21-year-old actor became the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy for acting when he took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role in When They See Us. He was the only Hispanic winner of the night. 

"It's an honor. It's a blessing, and I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos," Jerome told reporters backstage about the distinction. "It's about time we are here." 

When asked backstage why people of color seem to win awards only for stories that detail their struggles, Jerome replied: "Unfortunately, I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain, considering that’s what we go through on a daily basis. Our pain needs to be told, so if it has to be for the next 20 years we're just painfully telling our stories until we move on, then it has to be."

Jerome played Korey Wise in Netflix's When They See Us, which centers on the Exonerated Five. Wise, Antron McCay, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam were all at the awards show, and gave Jerome a big standing ovation when he won his award. 

"I feel like I'm on the basketball team and I made that final shot and they’re in the back [cheering]," Jerome said of having the Exonerated Five there to see him win. "I felt like I was in a championship game, and we went through our final hurrah. ... Thirty years ago they were sitting in a prison cell, falsely incarcerated, and today they’re in suits styled by designers for the Emmys."

See more from the 2019 Emmys in the video below.