Host Jimmy Kimmel kicked things off in his monologue by joking about the strangeness of hosting an awards show during a pandemic -- which he delivered to b-roll footage of past awards show audiences -- and it set the tone for the blend of comedy and political potency that would define the night.
Here's a look at the most powerful and memorable political moments from this year's Emmy Awards.
Jimmy Kimmel Addresses the Empty Audience
The host surprised fans by seemingly addressing a jam-packed audience of celebs, who all laughed uproariously at his jokes about the pandemic. However, he soon revealed that the reaction shots were all just b-roll from past awards shows, and he was actually standing onstage in front of an empty audience. "Of course I'm here all alone. Of course we don't have an audience. This isn't a MAGA rally, it's the Emmys!"
Before the show even kicked off, Regina King sat down for a pre-Emmys interview, and she used her time to make a subtle-yet-stirring political statement. The Watchmen star wore a fuchsia Schiaparelli suit over a T-shirt featuring Breonna Taylor's portrait, under the words "Say Her Name."
It was the same outfit she had on when she took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie and used her speech to encourage people to vote, to go to ballotpedia.com to research who they are voting for, and closed her speech with a special tribute: "Rest in power, RBG."
Tracee Ellis Ross Disavows Awards
Decked out in a stunning gold gown, Tracee Ellis Ross came out as one of the presenters of the night and shared a simple message: "Stay safe, make a plan for voting, and goodnight!" When pressed to actually announce the winner of the Outstanding Writer of a Comedy Series, Ross said, "People are very fragile right now, and'm fragile right now... Don't you think there's enough, like, dividedness in this country? Aren't we tired of people pitting each other against each other? Isn't art subjective? What are prizes? What is this prize stuff?" However, when Kimmel reminded her that she wouldn't get a fancy gift bag if she didn't read the winner, she eventually bit the bullet.
Jason Sudeikis Gets a Coronavirus Test
When the former Saturday Night Live star came out to announce the winner of Best Comedy Series, he was "interrupted" by a nurse who had to give him a nasal swab as part of the mandatory coronavirus testing protocols.
Dan Levy Shines His Spotlight on Voting
After Schitt's Creek took home the award for Best Comedy Series -- the seventh award of the night for the record-breaking show -- star Dan Levy delivered his acceptance speech and used his time to advocate for using your voice. "Our show at its core is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and that is something we need more now than we've ever needed before... for any of you who have not registered to vote, please do so, and then go out and vote. That's the only way that we are going to have some love and acceptance out there. Please do that. I'm so sorry for making this political, but I had to!"
When Mark Ruffalo took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his performance in I Know This Much Is True, the outspoken star delivered the most impassioned political speech of the night thus far. "We have to come together with love, for each other. And if you have privilege, you have to fight for those who are less fortunate, and more vulnerable. And that is what is great about America, our diversity... we're stronger together when we love each other and we respect each other's diversity."
"And so we have a big, important moment ahead of us. Are we going to be a country of division and hatred, a country only for certain kind of people, or are we going to be one of love, strength, and fighting for all of us, who have the American dream and the pursuit of life, liberty, love, and happiness, in this great country of ours," Ruffalo continued, as his wife, Sunrise Coigney, gleefully cheered on his powerful remarks. "That's what we're facing right now. So go out and vote, make a plan, and vote for love and compassion and kindness. I love you all. Thank you so much, and God bless you."
Cord Jefferson and Damon Lindelof Remember the Tulsa Massacre
Damon Lindelof (with Cord Jefferson) wears a “Remember Tulsa ‘21” t-shirt accepting the #Emmy for writing limited series “Watchmen.” The massacre of African Americans in Tulsa’s Black Wall Street in 1921 was central to the hit series. pic.twitter.com/zTF9HkFm2H
The creators of Watchmen made sure to once again raise awareness of the horrific events that occurred in Tulsa in 1921, which also played a key role in their celebrated series. Lindelof wore a shirt that read, "Remember Tulsa '21" and Jefferson addressed the event directly. "I think I would be remiss if we didn't recognize all the men and women who died in Tulsa in 1921," Jefferson shared. "This country neglects and forgets its own history, often at its own peril, and I think we should never do that."
Uzo Aduba Wins Big and Honors Breonna Taylor
When Uzo Aduba won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role in Mrs. America, the actress was overjoyed. The win proved to be doubly fortunate because it also allowed the world to see her shirt, which honored Breonna Taylor, and was yet another subtle but powerful call for justice.
Jesse Armstrong Shares His "Un-Thanks"
Jesse Armstrong gets a room service call in the middle of his "Succession" speech where he handed out "unthank yous" to:
When Succession creator Jesse Armstrong accepted the award for Outstanding Drama Series, he made sure to share his love for the show's cast, but also to call out some problems in the world with some "un-thank yous" -- starting with one for COVID-19, after so many in the world were "robbed of the opportunity to spend time with our peers and with the cast and crew."
"Un-thank you to the virus for keeping us all apart this year. Un-thank you to President Trump for his crummy and uncoordinated response... Un-thank you to the nationalists and quasi-nationalist governments in the world who are the opposite of what we need right now," Armstrong continued. "And un-thank you to the media moguls who do so much for all the people in power. So un-thank you!"
The political messages began with the Creative Arts Emmys last week, where winners like Jasmine Cephas Jones used their acceptance speech moment to make some meaningful statements.
"As I sit here on my rooftop in the middle of Brooklyn, in the middle of a pandemic and this social climate that we're in, I am honored and grateful to be a part of the important story that is #FreeRayshawn, to be an emotional vessel, to shed light on these victims and what their families go through," Jones said as she accepted her award for the Quibi series, which tells the story of a black veteran who finds himself in a confrontation with New Orleans police. "Let's vote in November, and let's continue to tell these important stories."
RuPaul also used his speech -- for his fifth consecutive win for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program -- to urge fans and viewers to make their political voice heard.
"I've always said, every time I bat my false eyelashes, I'm making a political statement. Well, tonight, the only political statement I want to make is this: Love," he said. "Love for our LGBT brothers and sisters, love for Black queens and brown queens, and love for the United States of America, where a little gay boy with nothing more than a pussycat wig and a dream can build an international platform that celebrates sweet, sensitive souls everywhere."
"Hey, I've got an idea," RuPaul concluded, "on Nov. 3, make this your ringtone: 'The time has come for you to vote for your life!'"
The Emmys aren't the only place A-listers are using their platforms to encourage fans and followers to get politically active. The Weeknd, Lady Gaga and more honorees sent powerful messages at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards last month, and host Amanda Seales made sure the 2020 BET Awards back in June made its own statement, starting with her powerful opening monologue.
Kim Kardashian West and Chelsea Handler joined female politicians like Rep. Maxine Waters to celebrate women's suffrage as part of the Be Woke. Vote. campaign, and Michelle Obama urged viewers to vote for Joe Biden "like our lives depend on it" during her speech at the Democratic National Convention last month.
See more on the historical power of the Emmys in the video below.