Uzo Aduba Opens Up About Shirley Chisholm, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Breonna Taylor

Last night as Succession and Schitt’s Creek swept most of the 2020 Emmys, Uzo Aduba pulled off the impressive feat of taking home the sole Emmy Award for Mrs. America. After winning big, she visited the Emmys’ virtual “winner’s circle,” where she answered questions from journalists.

Read on for Aduba’s take on winning the Emmy, playing real-life activist Shirley Chisholm in Mrs. America, honoring Breonna Taylor, and her feelings on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing over the weekend, courtesy of Cosmo‘s Emmys media room reporter Brandi Fowler.

Congratulations on your Emmy win! I want to read your Instagram bio: “Growing up, I never thought there was a seat for me, so I’ve decided to build my own table. Come pull up a chair. ” Now that you’ve won this Emmy, how do you read this bio?

That I’d like to add more chairs for others to come sit. To come and pull up a chair. I hope there are more people that are seated here. I think that a continuation, I guess, would be another thing of doing and creating work, being adventurous and daring enough to explore work that I thought was not possible for me, expanding beyond definition and exploring every possibility.

Uzo Aduba calling for her mom upon her win was the sweetest thing 🥰 Congrats @UzoAduba for your incredible win! #Emmys pic.twitter.com/xoqjE6t1Jc

In your speech, you were excited to tell your mom that you won. How did she react? How will you celebrate tonight?

She was excited. She was earlier today not fully grasping it. She was like, ‘What do you mean the Emmys are going to be in the house? Are people coming here?’ And I was like, no one’s coming here (laughs). We’re doing like, imagine a really big Zoom thing. So she was downstairs and so excited. So proud, when I told her, you know, this was her and the parts that I did for Shirley Chisholm, and she’s a huge, huge Shirley Chisholm fan. So that was just, I think the icing on an already well-frosted cake, and it just made me beyond happy. We high fived, we hugged. It was the best feeling. The best.

How did you feel about Regina King wearing the same Breonna Taylor shirt?

Regina is who she says she is, which is my favorite thing about her. She’s a doer. And I loved when I saw her shirt and standing in her strength and power that we all know that she has… She’s a blind leader, and it made me so happy to see her wear it and to know that we are saying her name.

Talk about lending your name to a cause that’s bigger than yourself. You’re wearing this shirt, obviously to remind people of social injustice. And why is it important for you to use your voice for this platform for change?

It’s important to me because, you know, I think it’s a wonderful evening that we’re having and it should be filled with joy and celebration. But I think I would be remiss to not bring in some of what is happening outside in the streets, and the experiences that are true for so many who look like myself. The truth of the matter is I have a unique opportunity to play a woman who made it, her life’s work is to speak, represent, and hold space for those people who are often forgotten and left behind or out of the conversation. And it became very important for me to not close the space on those who are often left behind or forgotten.

We know [Shirley Chisholm] been gone for a while, but what would you say to her right now about the time that we’re in and how she has helped us move forward?

If I could say something to Shirley Chisholm, it would be thank you for doing the hard thing. I would say thank you. Thank you for making it okay to be oneself.

She, in a time when for women—for Black women or women of color who were supposed to occupy a very narrow amount of space—she was not afraid to dare and live up to the fullness of her potential. And whether we knew it or not, her doing that carved out room that we all were desperate for. And so I would thank her for doing the very hard things. It’s very hard to be the first, and it’s even harder to be the only, and that she was willing to make that a part of her life’s work is something I think all of us can be forever grateful for.

I’m wondering what your reaction was to the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I mean, absolutely devastating. She was someone you want to say thank you to. It’s important to put into context the time in which these women are existing. You know, we’re looking at revolutionary acts today in 2020 that surround women, that surround women of color, and we’re all mind blown when we see these firsts. And when you think of a woman who was born in the 1930s, who was part of the Harvard Law Review, who graduated from Cornell, graduated first in her class in Columbia Law School, worked with the ACLU, made advancements for women with reproductive rights and pay, the list goes on, and serving as a second woman in the Supreme Court.

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The honor was OURS.

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These are remarkable historical events that changed and shaped the pathways for every single person who comes after us. So regardless of your political view on how she interprets the law, this is a woman who shaped culture and history for women, and she will be forever missed. Those are some mighty shoulders that she had and that she carried a lot on. And we thank her for carrying that weight for us. I thank her.

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