Sterling K. Brown in This Is Us

“I’m bugging out!” said Sterling K. Brown of last night’s Emmy Award win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Brown is the first African-American man to win the male lead in the category in 19 years (since Andre Braugher in 1998) for his role in This Is Us.

Before his acceptance speech on the Emmy stage was cut short first by the music, then with his microphone being turned off—much to the dismay of the audience—Brown alluded to the significance of the win, as well as gave a shout-out to fellow Emmy Award-winning St. Louisan Jon Hamm in a cryptic sort of way.

“Dick Whitman held this joint?!” he said in disbelief. “I may have lost some of y’all, but you know. Google it.”

Of course, die-hard Mad Men fans had no need to google it. Hamm’s conflicted Man Men character was known as Dick Whitman before he assumed the identity of Lt. Don Draper, a fellow soldier who died in Korea.

When asked backstage whether he wanted to finish his speech, Brown replied, “I wouldn’t mind finishing. Thank you for the invitation.”

photo courtesy of CBS

Brown first thanked the writers’ “impeccable, beautiful, powerful writing,” as well as the producers and directors of the blockbuster NBC sitcom, before finally focusing on his family, including his wife of 10 years.

“They cut me off before I got to thank my wife…you’re everything, you make my life worth living…you gave me two of the most beautiful things: my sons,” he said, adding a greeting to his boys. “Daddy loves you with the strength of a thousand suns…see you Monday after work.”

Brown, who won an Emmy last year for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie for his portrayal of Christopher Darden in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime, says this second win “feels big.”

“Because of the category, and because it’s been 19 years, it feels big… I’m bugging out!” he exclaimed.

Brown remembers seeing Andre Braugher speak at New York University, where Brown received an MFA from Tisch School of the Arts.

“There was a Gideon’s Crosing poster above the public theater, I would see his face all the time when I left my apartment to go to school,” he recalled. “To be standing here, 19 years after him…I wanna represent. I don’t want to be a flash in the pan…I love what I do so much…I feel like a have a thousand different people living inside of me and just want an opportunity to let them all out.”

Brown grew up in Olivette, and graduated from MICDS. He earned a BA in drama from Stanford University, where he met his wife, actress Ryan Michelle Bathe. He then went on to attend NYU, where he earned an MFA.