The MTV Movie & TV Awards kicked off with one of the biggest honors of the night when breakout TV star Asia Kate Dillon (from Orange Is the New Black and Billions) presented the award for Best Actor in a Movie. Unlike in previous years, the award was not being divided into two categories — male and female actors — but instead had both genders competing for the Golden Popcorn together.
Before getting to the award itself, Dillon spoke about her role on TV. “I am the first non-binary actor to play a non-binary character on a major television show,” she explained. “And now it’s so cool to be here presenting the first acting award ever that is free of any gender distinctions.” Up for the honor were Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out, Hailee Steinfeld for The Edge of Seventeen, Hugh Jackman for Logan, James McAvoy forSplit, Taraji P. Henson for Hidden Figures, and Emma Watson for Beauty and the Beast. The show opened with a comedic take on one of the most famous scenes from the beloved Disney classic, so it seemed fitting that Watson nabbed the award.
The 27-year-old actress was clearly emotional as she took to the stage. “I feel I had to say something about the award itself — the first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex — says something about how we perceive the human experience,” she began.
“MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone, but to me, it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself into somebody else’s shoes, and that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories. Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits,” she added. “This is very meaningful to me, both to be winning the award and to be receiving it from you, Asia. Thank you for educating me in such an inclusive, patient, and loving way. Thank you so much.”
Watson then scurried over to Dillon to give her a hug. Upon returning to the microphone, she added, “I think I am being given this award because of who Belle is and what she represents. The villages in our fairy tale wanted to make made Belle believe that the world was smaller than the way that she saw it with fewer opportunities for her, that her curiosity and passion for knowledge and her desire for more in life were grounds for alienation. I loved playing someone who didn’t listen to any of that. I’m so proud to be a part of a film that celebrates diversity, literacy, inclusion, joy, and love the way that this one does.”
Based on the audience reaction, it’s safe to say that many people agreed with her.
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