"[This award] for us artists who are out there, who need to do whatever it takes to get people to wake up," said Jerome in his acceptance speech
The two actors were up against a slew of other TV and movie stars, including La La Land‘s Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, Beauty and the Beast‘s Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, Empire‘s Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, as well as Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick for Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates.
Sanders, 21, and Jerome, 19, took the stage together to accept the award for the acclaimed film, which tells the coming-of-age story about a black gay boy.
“I really have to start with saying thank you to my parents,” said Jerome. “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 take to tell the story and whatever it takes to make the change.”
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“This award is for that,” he added. “It’s for us artists who are out there, who need to do whatever it takes to get people to wake up.”
Sanders also took a moment to reflect on the importance of the honor.
“This award is bigger than Jharrel and I,” he 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.”
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Moonlight‘s win isn’t the first time the award was won for a same-sex on-screen kiss: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair took home the award in the year 2000 for Cruel Intentions, and Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott won for American Pie 2 in 2002.