Trophies for the 32nd annual NAACP Image Awards were handed out last weekend at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, honoring black achievements in film and TV. Comic Chris Tucker hosted the kudocast — airing March 9th at 8 pm on Fox — which included special honors for former President Bill Clinton and actor Sidney Poitier.
Tucker, taking a short break from filming Rush Hour 2 in Las Vegas, gave a quick lesson in awards-show etiquette at the top of the show. "If you don't win, act like you're happy," he told the nominees. And to avoid long acceptance speeches, he advised, "Just thank your mama and God."
Steve Harvey and his self-titled WB series, which ends its run this season, were the big winners of the night with four awards. An emotional Harvey was named Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series and Entertainer of the Year. "This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me, hands down," Harvey marveled backstage. "I'm Entertainer of the Year. You diggin' that?" Meanwhile, The Parkers's zaftig Mo'Nique was chosen Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.
Poitier was honored with a special tribute and presented with the Hall of Fame Award. "It feels great," Poitier winked. "Of course, I've been at this gig for 52 years."
Clinton, who entered the auditorium before the show to a standing ovation, was on hand to receive the President's Award from NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume. As he accepted, Clinton speechified: "What really matters is our common humanity. When we forget it, we suffer. When we remember it, we prosper."
A stunned Natalie Cole took home an award for playing herself in the NBC movie Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story. As she collected her trophy, Cole admitted she thought Khandi Alexander (who appeared in Cole's "Pink Cadillac" video back in the '80s) would win for her work in HBO's The Corner. Cole joked to Alexander that she was welcome to "come over and get it any time."
Backstage, Cole reflected on the surreal experience of making the movie. "I had to be an actress as well as playing the character of Natalie Cole," she said, "so it was really a great experience for me and some of it was very painful."
Another of the night's big winners was debonair Blair Underwood, who cleaned up in both TV and film actor categories, winning for his role on CBS's now-defunct City of Angels and for Rules of Engagement. Backstage, City of Angels producer Steven Bochco talked about the late series, which was named best TV drama: "We did a fine show, and I really do believe that the show we made didn't fail, it just wasn't a commercial success."
In the film categories, sleeper hits Remember the Titans and Love & Basketball were both honored with two awards each. Basketball star Sanaa Lathan (daughter of Stan Lathan, The Steve Harvey Show's executive producer) and Alfre Woodard, who played Sanaa's mother in the film, accepted Outstanding Actress and Supporting Actress honors, respectively. "I was just thrilled to be nominated," a nervous Lathan offered. "Love & Basketball was such a great experience for me. I'm very happy."