Lifting each other up. Jharrel Jerome had the support of the exonerated Central Park Five and his When They See Us cast when he won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 22.
Jerome, 21, won for his portrayal of Korey Wise, one of five juvenile males of color who were wrongly convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger case. In his acceptance speech, Jerome dedicated his Emmy to the five men — Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana — who were seen on camera cheering, saluting and giving a standing ovation to the actor from the audience.
“Most importantly, this is for the men we know as the Exonerated Five,” Jerome said.
The Central Park jogger case investigated the assault and rape of Trisha Meili, a woman who was attacked while jogging in New York City’s Central Park on April 19, 1989. The case led to the wrongful convictions of Wise, Richardson, McCray, Salaam and Santana, who were all under 18 at the time of their convictions. Because Wise was 16 years old and classified as an adult at the time of his sentencing, he was sent to an adult prison on Rikers Island in New York City, while the rest of the Five served time in a juvenile facility.
In 2001, a man named Matias Reyes confessed to the rape and assault of Meili. New York state subsequently withdrew all charges against the Central Park Five, who had finished their sentences at the time of Reyes’ confession, and removed them from the sex offender registry. The men filed a lawsuit against New York City in 2003 for wrongful conviction and were awarded a settlement in 2014.
When They See Us, a four-episode miniseries on Netflix, follows the exonerated Central Park Five as children and adults. Jerome played Wise at both ages. The show was nominated for seven awards at the 2019 Primetime Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special for creator Ava DuVernay.
In an interview with Us Weekly at the 2019 Emmy Performers Nominee Reception on Friday, September 20, Jerome opened up about what When They See Us meant to him.
“It was a very, very emotional experience and very hard to get through,” he said. “But just to be here tonight, I mean, for the rest of the weekend, and to see them, it’s going to be incredible.”
With reporting by Marisa Sullivan