Spirit Award: Quinta Brunson Wins Best Lead Performance in New Scripted Series, Dedicates Award to Aspiring Kids

The award for best performance in a new scripted series at the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards went to Quinta Brunson for her role in Abbott Elementary.

“I feel like the least independent person here because of having wonderful supporters like Warner Bros., who’s in the room tonight, and ABC and Disney — the big bad one,” the actress said in her acceptance speech at Saturday’s ceremony, drawing laughter from the audience for the latter comment. She also expressed gratitude for the series’ cast and crew, “because of the spirit of my show and all that goes into it. We have a bunch of people … who come from making things out of nothing. And my show, Abbot Elementary, is made by people who make something out of nothing every day. We just got very fortunate to be supported by the studios and networks that we’re supported by, but we have that spirit.” 

Brunson went on to recall how she got her start in the industry and dedicated the award to other inspiring creatives and children. “I’m very used to making Instagram videos with nothing with my phone,” she added. “I do want to dedicate this award to whatever kid out there right now is making a video on TikTok and the rest of the kids are telling them that you’re probably never gonna win an award anywhere. If you care about it enough and you respect the craft and the craft is important to you and you believe in it and you study it, that little TikTok video. … I hope that you know that with enough care for your craft, you can make it to win an award. So thank you guys so much.” 

Brunson also showed her appreciation for the other nominees in the category, saying, “What a wonderful category to be in. I mean, just actors and actresses that are incredible. I kind of like the gender-neutral thing. It’s like, it’s kind of tight. It’s like, hell yeah … in there with your peers.” 

The 38th annual Spirit Awards marked Film Independent’s first year with gender-neutral categories, replacing best actor/actress and supporting actor/actress with the best performance award.

Brunson was up against Aml Ameen (The Porter), Mohammed Amer (Mo), Bridget Everett (Somebody Somewhere), KaMillion (Rap Sh!t), Melanie Lynskey (Yellowjackets), Himesh Patel (Station Eleven), Sue Ann Pien (As We See It), Adam Scott (Severance) and Ben Whishaw (This Is Going to Hurt).

The Spirit Awards’ decision to create gender-neutral categories comes on the heels of other awards shows making similar choices, with the Grammys, Gotham Awards, British Independent Film Awards and MTV Movie & TV Awards, all of which dropped gender from their awards.

Film Independent president Josh Welsh announced the news in August, saying, “We’re thrilled to join the other festivals and award shows that are already moving to celebrate great acting without reference to gender. We’re also happy to welcome non-binary performers into the Spirit Awards without forcing them to choose to identify as male or female.”

The Independent Spirit Awards aired live on IMDb, as well as across various social platforms, including Film Indepdent’s YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook.

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