emmys 2021

All Hail Jean Smart

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

At the 73rd Primetime Emmys, the inimitable Jean Smart — of Fargo, Watchmen, and Designing Women fame — took home one of the most coveted awards in the funny-people business: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Smart’s Hacks win was almost guaranteed, although she was going head-to-head with Tracee Ellis Ross, whose Black-ish Emmy is long overdue, and Aidy Bryant, who was up for her final season of Shrill. (Not to mention Kaley Cuoco’s shockingly good performance as an unhinged, alcoholic, flight-attendant murderess in The Flight Attendant.)

Alas, at the end of the day, the competition had nothing on Smart’s career-defining performance as ​​Deborah Vance, a brassy Vegas comic who develops a fraught intergenerational relationship with the 20-something comedy writer sent to spice up her material (Hannah Einbinder).

Looking radiant in a sheer black gown by Ralph Lauren, she accepted her award (after a standing ovation, of course) with a speech devoted to her late husband, actor Richard Gilliland, who passed away in March. “I would not be here without him,” she said, “without him putting his career on the back burner so I can take advantage of the wonderful opportunities I’ve had.”

It’s not Smart’s first time on the Emmys stage. The 69-year-old actress has received 11 nominations and three Emmys, two as a guest actress for two different characters on Frasier, and the third in a supporting role in Samantha Who? She was also up for an Emmy in the stacked category of Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role as Kate Winslet’s mom in the gloomy, small-town crime drama Mare of Easttown, but was beat by her castmate Julianne Nicholson. The Hacks Emmy, however, is her first for a leading role, and as Smart might say, it’s about damn time.

All Hail Jean Smart