Charles S. Dutton initially didn't want anything to do with "The Corner," a wrenching six-part HBO miniseries about a real West Baltimore family riven by drugs. He had not read the nonfiction book "The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood" by Baltimore-based writers David Simon and Edward Burns on which the show was based.
And Dutton really wasn't sure he wanted any part of yet another depiction of the hardships of African-Americans - this time, in his own town.
So that made his Emmy award last night as best director of a miniseries all the more remarkable.
In his acceptabnce speech from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Dutton praised HBO for making possible "a series that could derail a genocide facing these communities."
Despite his early hesitation, Dutton eventually became a full-throated advocate of the project's importance.
"We all have a family member, a friend, enduring these travails," he said yesterday.
Simon and collaborator David Mills each took home two Emmys - one for best writing in a miniseries, one for best miniseries. The two writers served as executive producers of "The Corner," along with Robert F. Colesberry.
In his remarks from the stage, Simon praised the cast and crew in making the project come to life. "In this game, the pages are just pages," Simon said. "It can't end there, and it shouldn't."
Simon lauded the work of series stars Khandi Alexander, Sean Nelson and T.K. Carter, who portray the real family of Fran Boyd, her 15-year-old son, DeAndre McCullough, and his father, Gary McCullough.
"We didn't do this to win an Emmy - we did it because the story was so compelling," Simon said later. "What [viewers] got was a story about people - you had to start caring about the people. This is just gravy." Of Dutton's work, Simon said, "Even the nuances had nuances."
Before its awards last night, the series was not considered a shoo-in because of its gritty, disquieting reflection of the power that drugs hold over many people. Boyd and McCullough, once a successful professional couple, saw their lives spin out of control when they succumbed to heroin, desperately seeking money for another fix from one day to the next.
The show was filmed a few blocks from the West Baltimore rowhouses and crack dens described in the book by Simon and Burns.
Boyd joined Simon and Mills onstage last night, and later described it as "an amazing adventure."
"This has been one wild ride," Boyd said during a phone conversation last night.
"Oh man - it feels like I'm dreaming."
Simon was also a writer on the NBC series "Homicide: Life on the Streets," a Baltimore-based series based on his book, also written with Burns.
That show's finale was also nominated for an Emmy.