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'Hidden Figures' win shocks Screen Actors Guild Awards

Movies & Theatre

The cast of "Hidden Figures" rocketed to the Screen Actors Guild top award at a fiery, protest-laden ceremony that was dominated by defiance over President Trump's sweeping immigration ban.

An uplifting drama about African-American mathematicians who aided NASA's 1960s space race, "Hidden Figures" was the surprise best-ensemble winner Sunday night at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium. With the Oscar front-runner "La La Land" not nominated in the category, most expected a contest between "Moonlight" or "Manchester by the Sea."

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Octavia Spencer, from left, Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, and Kirsten Dunst accept the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for "Hidden Figures" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APMahershala Ali accepts the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role for "Moonlight" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall  in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APMeryl Streep, left, and Viola Davis attend the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APThe cast and crew of "Orange is the New Black" pose in the press room with the awards for the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/APSimon Helberg, left, and Jocelyn Towne display protest signs against the US policy of temporarily barring refugees and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/APLily Tomlin accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APJulia Louis-Dreyfus accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series for "Veep" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APViola Davis accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role for "Fences" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APViggo Mortensen, left, and Kathryn Hahn speak at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APDamien Chazelle arrives at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/APWilliam H. Macy poses in the press room with the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a comedy series for "Shameless" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/APJohn Lithgow accepts the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series for "The Crown" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APAshton Kutcher presents the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APTaylor Schilling, center, and the cast of "Orange Is the New Black" accept the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APBryan Cranston appears backstage with the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a television movie or limited series for "All the Way" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Matt Sayles/Invision/APEmma Stone accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role for "La La Land" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APTaraji P. Henson, from right, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, Kimberly Quinn, and Saniyya Sidney, foreground left, accept the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for "Hidden Figures" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/APEmma Stone poses in the press room with the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role for "La La Land" at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

"This story is about unity," said Taraji P. Henson, who stars alongside Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae in "Hidden Figures." ''This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins. Every time."

From the first remarks by presenter Ashton Kutcher, the ceremony was peppered with speeches that argued passionately for inclusion. In a very well dressed version of the demonstrations sparked nationwide over the weekend, most award winners spoke in some way — either through personal anecdote or a call to arms — against Trump's halting of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who added another honor for her performance on the political satire "Veep," said she was the daughter of an immigrant who fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France.

"Because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes," said Louis-Dreyfus. "And this immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American."

Perhaps the most moving speech came from Mahershala Ali, who won best supporting actor for his acclaimed performance in Barry Jenkins' coming-of-age portrait, "Moonlight." Ali said he saw lessons for today in "Moonlight," in which he plays a character who makes a difference in a shy, gay Miami boy's hard life. "We see what happens when you persecute people," Ali said. "The fold into themselves."

Ali said his relationship with his mother exemplified tolerance. The son of an ordained minister, Ali converted to Islam 17 years ago.

"We put things to the side," Ali said of their differences. "I'm able to see her. She's able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. That stuff is minutia. It's not that important."

Ali was among the several Oscar favorites who cemented their front-runner status, including best-actress winner Emma Stone for "La La Land" and best-supporting actress winner Viola Davis for "Fences." But best actor went to Davis's co-star (and director) Denzel Washington for his performance in the August Wilson adaptation. Most expected the award to go to Casey Affleck, apparently including Washington, himself.

"I'm a God-fearing man," he said, still shaking his head as he reached the podium. "I'm supposed to have faith, but I didn't have faith."

The most blistering speech was by David Harbour, who led the cast of Netflix's "Stranger Things" — another big surprise winner — on stage to accept best ensemble in a TV drama series. "We will hunt monsters," Harbour vowed in lengthy remarks that drew a standing ovation.

The hit Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black" won best ensemble in a comedy series for the third straight year.

"We stand up here representing a diverse group of people, representing generations of families who have sought a better life here from places like Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Ireland," said star Taylor Schilling, while a cast member added "Brooklyn!" ''And we know that it's going to be up to us and all you, probably, to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that divide us."

A pair of veteran actors took other TV honors: John Lithgow for best actor in a drama series ("The Crown") and Bryan Cranston for his Lyndon Johnson portrayal in the HBO movie "All the Way." Sarah Paulson ("The People v. O.J. Simpson") and Claire Foy ("The Crown") also took home awards.

"La La Land" may have tied an Oscar record with 14 nominations, set a Golden Globes record with seven wins and won the top prize at Saturday's Producers Guild Awards, but it wasn't competing for the top Screen Actors Guild award. That means if Damien Chazelle's musical is to go on to win best picture, it will be just the second film to do so without a SAG ensemble nod in the category's history. Only Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" managed it in 1996.

Actors, the largest group in the motion picture academy, hold considerable sway. SAG, though, is much larger, with about 160,000 members, compared to about 1,200 actors in the academy.

Lily Tomlin was the lifetime achievement honoree Sunday. The 77-year-old actress gave a warm, rollicking speech that dispensed both drinking advice and regret over wasting "a lot of time being ambitious about the wrong things."

"Did you hear? The Doomsday Clock has been moved up to two and a half minutes before midnight," said Tomlin. "And this award, it came just in the nick of time."

Associated Press

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