Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome accepted the award for best kiss for “Moonlight” at the MTV Movie & TV Awards on Sunday night.
“Moonlight” competed in the category against Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in “Beauty and the Beast,” Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in “Empire,” Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in “La La Land” and Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick in “Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates.”
“I really have to start with saying thank you to my parents,” Jerome, 21, told the crowd. “I love y’all so much. But on a real note I think it is safe to say that it is okay for us young performers, especially us minority performers, to step out of the box. It’s okay for us to step out of the box and do whatever it takes to tell the story and whatever it takes to make the change. This award is for that. It’s for us artists who are out there, who need to do whatever it takes to get people to wake up.”
Sanders, 19, dedicated the award to “the unders” and “the misfits,” acknowledging the gravity of two black, queer characters winning an MTV award.
“This award is bigger than Jharrel and I,” Sanders said. “This represents more than a kiss. This is for those who feel like the unders, the misfits — this represents us. We love y’all and thank y’all.”
Adam Devine hosted the awards ceremony which merged movie and TV categories together for the first time this year. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won for best reality competition and while RuPaul did not give an acceptance speech on stage, the show’s Instagram posted its thanks.
The awards were also the first to present gender-neutral acting categories in movie and TV. Emma Watson won best actor in a movie and was presented the award by nonbinary actor, Asia Kate Dillon. Dillon, who portrays Taylor Mason on “Billions,” is the first nonbinary actor to play a nonbinary character on a mainstream TV show.
“This is very meaningful to me. Both to be winning the award and to be receiving it from you, Asia [Kate Dillon]. Thank you for educating me in such—in such an inclusive, patient, and loving way,” Watson said in her acceptance speech.
Millie Bobby Brown received the other gender-neutral acting honor with the best actor in a show for her role as Eleven on “Stranger Things.”
“Beauty and the Beast,” the first Disney film to include a gay character, won best movie and “Stranger Things” won the best show category.