Jean Smart Brings Us to Tears While Thanking Her "Unselfish" Kids and Late Husband During Emmys Speech

Jean Smart took home the prize for Lead Actress in a Comedy at the 2021 Emmys, where she paid tribute to her late husband Richard Gilliland: "I would not be here without him."

By Lindsay Weinberg Sep 20, 2021 1:59 AMTags
Watch: Jean Smart Says Being Honored "Never Gets Old" at Emmys

Selina Meyer. Midge Maisel. Fleabag. Moira Rose. Now, Deborah Vance can join the ranks of the most recent characters to deserve an Emmy Award for their leading lady.

Jean Smart won the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Hacks at the 2021 Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 19. 

While accepting her fourth-ever Emmy Award, Jean paid tribute to her late husband, actor Richard Gilliland, who died in March following a brief illness. 

"Before I say anything else, I have to acknowledge my late husband Richard Gilliland, who passed away six months yesterday," she told the crowd, following an emotional standing ovation. "I would not be here without him, and without his kind of putting his career on the back burner so I could take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that I have had." 

Jean, 70, also thanked her "incredible" and "unselfish" children, Connor and Forrest. The Frasier alum called them both "creative individuals" who have "put up with Mommy commuting from Philadelphia and back."

See the Winners of the 2021 Emmys

Backstage, she told reporters that she believes Richard would be "really happy for me." She shared, "I was thrilled to share it with my youngest and he's ecstatic so that was really special," referring to Forrest, who was "proud" to walk the red carpet by her side.

Jean said it was "moving" to receive such a huge applause from Hollywood's biggest stars. "I didn't expect that," she added. "To have your peers respect you is huge and its meant a lot because it's been such a difficult last six months so this has been something that has been kind of a strange counter point that's been very much appreciated." 

Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

After winning the trophy, Jean continued her speech onstage by thanking her team. "Hacks has been such a thrill," she said. "I read this and I said, 'I have to do this.' It checked off every box I was hoping for."

She also shouted out the "unbelievable cast, led by Hannah 'Mind-Bender' Einbinder," saying, "I could not have asked for a person to bounce everything off of every day. She is a natural. She is a precious human being. She is incredible and every day we go to work is a joy."

Jean beat out the tough competition for the Emmy Award: Aidy Bryant (Shrill), Kaley Cuoco (The Flight Attendant), Allison Janney (Mom) and Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish) were all nominated.  

It's hardly the first Emmy nomination of these A-listers. Allison is the most decorated, going into the night with seven Emmy Awards. She's also the only 2021 contender that's won in the category before, earning the statue for playing C.J. in The West Wing.

The Oscar winner received two Emmys for playing Bonnie on Mom in years past, but they were in the supporting category. She then got three nominations in the lead actress category. 

Anne Marie Fox/HBO Max

Jean also has multiple Emmy Awards at home. She scored a trophy for Frasier in 2000 and 2001 and then for Samantha Who? in 2007.

Though Hacks and The Flight Attendant will each get a season two on HBO Max, Shrill finished its run on Hulu and Mom closed out its time on CBS. ABC has renewed Black-ish for an eighth and final season. 

See all the latest Emmys news by clicking here.

For a full recap of the 75th Emmy Awards, check out E! Online's Emmys homepage here.