Jharrel Jerome accepts the award for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie for "When They See Us" at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards. Picture: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Jharrel Jerome has hailed his Emmy Award win a "blessing".

The 21-year-old actor took home the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for "When They See Us" - Ava DuVernay's series about five men of colour who were wrongly prosecuted for rape and assault and later had their convictions vacated - at the ceremony on Sunday and hopes becoming the first Afro-Latino to win an acting honour will be a "step forward".

He said: "It's a blessing and I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro Latinos. It's about time we're here."

And the actor was stunned to learn he was also the youngest ever winner of the category.

He quipped backstage: "Well damn, that's incredible.. kids are smart too."

Jharrel thinks it is "unfortunate" that darker material continues to get more recognition when it comes to telling stories about people of colour but also believes it is important for "pain to be told".

He said: "Unfortunately, I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain considering that's what we go through on a daily basis. It is unfortunate that comedies or light pieces of work aren't as praised and aren't sent to the award season.

"The truth is our pain needs to be told. So if it has to be for the next 20 years where we are just painfully telling our stories until we can move on then I guess it has to be."

When he picked up his award at Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater, Jharrel dedicated it to the "Exonerated Five" whose stories were told in the movie and who were in attendance at the ceremony.

After thanking Ava for "giving [him] this opportunity" and his mother, who was his guest for the evening, Jharrel said: "Most importantly, this is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five. Thank you so much. It's an honour; it's a blessing.

Bang Showbiz