Belle found true love in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, and now the actress who helped bring her to life has reason to celebrate as well.[[Emma Watson]] has won the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Actor in a Movie, beating out stiff competition from stars of commercial crowdpleasers (The Edge of Seventeen‘s Hailee Steinfeld, Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya) and seasoned industry vets like James McAvoy (Split), Hugh Jackman (Logan), and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures).
Accepting the award Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Watson said the fact that the awards show has done away with gender-specific acting categories “says something about how we perceive the human experience.”
“MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone,” she added. “But to me, it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories.”
She also thanked presenter Asia Kate Dillon, the Billions star and first gender non-binary identifying actor to be cast on a major TV series, saying, “Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits. This is very meaningful for me, both to be winning the award and to be receiving it from you, Asia. Thank you for educating me in such an inclusive, patient, and loving way.”
Watson continued, “I think I’m being given this award because of who Belle is and what she represents. The villagers in our fairy tale wanted to make belle believe that the world was smaller than the way she saw it with fewer opportunities for her, that her curiosity and passion for knowledge and her desire fore more in life were grounds for alienation. I loved playing someone who didn’t listen to any of that. I’m so proud to be a part of a film that celebrates diversity, literacy, inclusion, joy, and love the way that this one does.”
This is Watson’s first win on her fifth overall nomination. She was first recognized for her portrayal of Hermione Granger in the 2009 fantasy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; she would go on to receive two additional nods for playing the character (for both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) ahead of scoring a nomination for her performance in 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Each of Watson’s nominations have resulted from appearances in films based on literary titles.
Beauty and the Beast — which has grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office — bagged five total MTV Movie & TV Awards nominations in April, including Movie of the Year, Best Kiss (Watson, Dan Stevens), Best Duo (Luke Evans, Josh Gad), and Best Musical Moment (Ariana Grande and John Legend’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast”).
“Beast and Belle begin their love story really irritating each other and really not liking each other very much. They build a friendship, slowly, slowly, slowly, and very slowly that builds to them falling in love,” Watson previously told EW of her take on the iconic role. “They are having no illusions about who the other one is. They have seen the worst of one another, and they also bring out the best.”
For the first time since its 1992 inception, the MTV Movie & TV Awards (rebranded this year to include television honorees in a addition to recognizing performers from the film world) has done away with gender-specific categories, instead pooling actors and actresses together for the 2017 event.