Michael Keaton Nets First Emmy For Lead Turn In ‘Dopesick’, Recalls Getting Hooked On TV During Its First Golden Age

Michael Keaton led off the competitive categories at tonight’s Emmys by capturing the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Anthology Series or Movie for his turn in Dopesick.

Accepting the statuette from Oprah Winfrey, the lead presenter called upon to highlight the evening’s gravitas, the 71-year-old Keaton reserved his most heartfelt thanks for his family. In particular, he recalled his father winning a raffle when he was a grade-schooler, bringing home the prize of a black-and-white television set.

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“We kind of lived out in the country” in Pennsylvania, he explained, and the device became his portal to a different world as the medium was beginning to sweep across the world in the late-1950s and early 1960s. “I could not take my eyes off it. It was magic,” he remembered. “I watched all of the cowboy shows and especially the comedies, and all the gangster shows and I fell in love with it.” He recalled re-enacting what he saw on the screen and the importance of how his parents and siblings reacted to him.

“To this day, they were never demeaning, they were never dismissive, they never looked down on it,” he said. “They never made fun of it. In fact, they would ask me to re-enact scenes for them. My folks were not exactly patrons of the arts. We weren’t patrons of anything, frankly. But I want to thank them. I just want to thank all those people in my family, for never making me feel foolish because I went on to do that several times myself.” There is “huge power and merit” in making mistakes and feeling foolish, Keaton added.”

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Keaton’s win was one of the most highly tipped of the night, in a category full of first-time nominees and many whose shows failed to net broad support, making their prospects of winning less likely. Along with Keaton, the field included Colin Firth for The Staircase; Andrew Garfield, Under the Banner of Heaven; Oscar Isaac, Scenes From a Marriage; Himesh Patel, Station Eleven; and Sebastian Stan, Pam & Tommy.

Dopesick is largely based on Beth Macy’s book by the same name. Keaton plays a doctor in a small Appalachian town coming to terms with the consequences of prescriptions he wrote for OxyContin, which salespeople touted as a miracle pain reliever. The purveyors of the infamously addictive drug, the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, have denied responsibility for having caused the opioid epidemic. As part of a bankruptcy process for the company last year, the family reached a legal settlement insulating them from liability. Creator Danny Strong has called the eight-episode series “the trial that should have happened.”

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In addition to harking back to his childhood and striking serious notes, Keaton flashed some of the comedy chops that made him a star. Taking the Emmy from Winfrey, he asked her, “You have about 90 of these, don’t you?” Turning to the audience, he deadpanned, “I have to tell you, my face hurts so much from all of the fake-smiling I have been doing.” Dopesick was released last fall, so Keaton has spent the better part of a year on the campaign trail.

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