As the conversation about diversity in the entertainment industry grows ever louder, actress Kerry Washington, director-producer Roland Emmerich and ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder" were among the honorees Saturday night at the GLAAD Media Awards.
The LGBT media advocacy organization's 26th annual show, held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, honored nominees in 16 of 31 categories. Recipients were praised for the fair and accurate inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues affecting their lives.
The Vanguard Award went to "Scandal" star Washington, who highlighted the "enormous power of inclusive storytelling."
"We need more LGBT representation in the media," she said in her acceptance speech, which received a standing ovation. "We need more LGBT characters and more LGBT storytelling. We need more diverse LGBT representation. We need more employment of LGBT people in front of and behind the camera."
Various minority groups can find themselves pitted against one when in fact they should band together, Washington said.
"We must be allies and we must be allies in this business," she said. "Because to be represented is to be humanized. As long as anyone, anywhere, is being made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake and we are all vulnerable."
She called on people to "be bold and break new ground until we are no longer 'firsts' and 'exceptions' and 'rare' and 'unique.'"
She added, "In the real world, the only norm is uniqueness and our media must reflect that."
The Stephen F. Kolzak Award went to Emmerich, who accepted the honor from Channing Tatum. He called Emmerich "an out, proud, fearless storyteller" with a "wildly positive spirit."
"I know Roland mostly because of one word: 'Hellooo?'" Tatum said, imitating Emmerich's German accent. "That's what Roland said to me every single morning with the biggest ear-to-ear grin.... With this one word, he would let me know it was a great day to be alive and to work on this magical gift of a job. Wisdom really doesn't get any more beautifully simple than that."
Emmerich, known for his work as a director and producer on "Independence Day" and "White House Down," among others, is directing the upcoming film "Stonewall," about the 1969 New York City riots. He is a longtime supporter of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the marriage equality organization Freedom to Marry.
"In short, Roland is helping to create a better world around us and we need more people like him," Tatum said.
"The Imitation Game" was honored in the wide-release film category. The film, which also won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay, follows gay mathematician Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) as he tries to break Nazi Germany's Enigma code to help win World War II. Oscar-winning screenwriter Graham Moore and producer Ido Ostrowsky accepted the GLAAD Award.
The TV drama series award went to ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder." Creator Peter Nowalk accepted the award with stars Viola Davis, Jack Falahee, Matt McGorry and Aja Naomi King.
The freshman series from producer Shondra Rhimes follows a group of law school students and their professor (Davis). The show has been praised for its diversity, including Davis as the show's lead and Falahee's portrayal of openly gay, and sexually active, law student Connor Walsh.
"The question I get asked a lot about our show, particularly the sex scenes ... is if we get a lot of pushback, and I think people infer the network," Norwalk said during the acceptance speech. "I feel really bad when I have to answer because it's no. It's really boring, that answer. I think that speaks a lot to what GLAAD has done for a really long time now and what so many writers have done before me."
Norwalk thanked Rhimes, Falahee, who "plays Connor with perfection," and the rest of the cast.
GLAAD's comedy series award went to Amazon Instant Video's "Transparent," which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a parent who decides late in life to live as a woman.
"Amazon, what were they thinking? They sell paper towels and they gave the show to a radical, feminist, queer-thinking freak like me," creator Jill Soloway said in her acceptance speech.
Stars Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, Alexandra Billings, Kiersey Clemons, Michaela Watkins and Alison Sudol as well as co-producer Rhys Ernst also took the stage.
"GLAAD makes the world safer for people to walk out of their front doors," Soloway said, dedicating part of the award to the organization.
Soloway said that "people think [the show] is about politics and it's about changing laws ... and it is."
However, entertainment is "an empathy machine."
"So by doing the work we are doing, we are transforming the world for love, for empathy and for power."
GLAAD posted the full list of award honorees, presenters and special guests. It will hold another ceremony for 15 more categories in New York on May 9.