SAG Awards: Five things to know, from Viola Davis's amazing reaction shot to a big win for 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'
By Emily Yahr
The strangest award season ever continued Sunday night with the 27th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Like past shows in the pandemic era, the organization presented all awards remotely over Zoom, but also kept things brief: The entire program was only an hour, including commercials, and it was all pre-recorded to avoid any technological mishaps. (Still looking at you, Golden Globes.)
While there were a few blurry Zoom screens and brief audio issues, for the most part, it went quite smoothly and even managed to have some entertaining moments. Here are five things to know:
"The Trial of the Chicago 7" won the night's big prize.
The final category, outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, is a frequent predictor of best picture at the upcoming Oscars.
Although "Nomadland" is currently the front-runner among prognosticators, it wasn't nominated in the category - and the trophy went to "The Trial of the Chicago 7," a courtroom drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, about the anti-Vietnam War activists charged with inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Frank Langella accepted on behalf of the cast and quoted Martin Luther King Jr. ("God give us leaders"), noting the SAG Awards were taking place on the same date that King was assassinated in 1968.
"The trial of the Chicago seven began 18 months later," he said. "Aaron Sorkin was determined to tell their story, and his loving and respectful direction transformed a group of disparate actors into an ensemble."
"Reverend King was right. We need leaders to guide us towards hating each other less," he continued. "We owe a debt of thanks to the voices of the Chicago seven. And most especially Aaron Sorkin, our leader, whose voice is the soul of this movie."
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" triumphed in the lead actor categories.
Viola Davis was in a tough category for female actor in a leading role, which included Frances McDormand in "Nomadland" and Carey Mulligan in "Promising Young Woman."
But she must have really assumed she didn't have a shot, because she nearly fell off her chair when she was named the winner for her starring role as blues singer Ma Rainey in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," easily making it the night's most amazing reaction shot.
Davis thanked the cast and crew members, as well as August Wilson, who wrote the play on which the movie is based.
"Thank you, August, for leaving a legacy to actors of color that we can relish for the rest of our lives," she said.
A few moments later, Davis's co-star, the late Chadwick Boseman, won for male actor in a leading role. His wife, Simone Ledward Boseman, accepted the honor with a quote she attributed to her husband: "If you see the world unbalanced, be a crusader that pushes heavily on the seesaw of the mind."
There were many supportive Zoom screens of actors.
As Mark Ruffalo noted when he won the male actor in a TV movie/limited series prize for HBO's "I Know This Much is True," this award is particularly gratifying to actors, considering that it's voted on by fellow actors - and no one is more critical than fellow actors.
Sure enough, the stars cheered one another on in their group Zoom screens in each category. "Nicely done, Mark!" Ethan Hawke called out to Ruffalo.
The highlight may have been Youn Yuh-jung, who earned the trophy for female actor in a supporting role for "Minari" and was overwhelmed with emotion.
"I don't know how to describe my feelings," she said, adding she was "very, very honoured."
When she expressed concern about her English, the other actors cheered her on: "Perfect!" Glenn Close and Olivia Colman yelled. (According to the Hollywood Reporter, Yuh-jung also made SAG history as the first Asian actor to win in an individual movie category.)
'The Crown' and "Schitt's Creek" dominated yet again.
It's a familiar scene: Netflix's "The Crown" and Pop TV's "Schitt's Creek" went home with multiple trophies.
Gillian Anderson won for playing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the cast walked away with the prize for ensemble in a drama series.
"Schitt's Creek" earned the ensemble in a comedy series prize, while Catherine O'Hara took another victory lap for her role as eccentric matriarch Moira Rose.
Elsewhere on the TV side, Jason Bateman triumphed in the lead role for Netflix's "Ozark," and gave shout-outs to medical workers and urged everyone to get a coronavirus vaccination: "Go get your shot and let's all get back to normal."
There were a few "only in an award show during a global pandemic" moments.
Zoom really is the great equalizer, even for A-list celebrities. Thanks to the SAG Awards, we learned that on Zoom, Mark Ruffalo goes by "Mark R.," Hugh Grant is just "Hugh," and Catherine O'Hara streamed in from "Catherine's iPad." And we can't forget "The Queen's Gambit" nominee Bill Camp appearing in a car:
The producers also included many filler segments with celebrity presenters, and at one point, everyone had to name their favorite TV shows.
This is how we now know that Helen Mirren is a fan of Hulu's "Pen15"; Sterling K. Brown can't get enough of HBO's "Succession"; Mindy Kaling has been watching Netflix's "Unorthodox"; Daveed Diggs's guilty pleasure is ITV's "Love Island"; Daisy Ridley enjoys Bravo's "Below Deck"; and Cynthia Erivo, Riz Ahmed and Dan Levy are fans of HBO's "I May Destroy You."
NOMINEES AND WINNERS
Cast in a motion picture
"Da 5 Bloods"
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
"One Night in Miami"
"The Trial of the Chicago 7" - winner
Female actor in a leading role
Amy Adams, "Hillbilly Elegy"
Viola Davis, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" - winner
Vanessa Kirby, "Pieces of a Woman"
Frances McDormand, "Nomadland"
Carey Mulligan, "Promising Young Woman"
Male actor in a leading role
Riz Ahmed, "Sound of Metal"
Chadwick Boseman, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" - winner
Anthony Hopkins, "The Father"
Gary Oldman, "Mank"
Steven Yeun, "Minari"
Female actor in a supporting role
Maria Bakalova, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"
Glenn Close, "Hillbilly Elegy"
Olivia Colman, "The Father"
Youn Yuh-Jung, "Minari" - winner
Helena Zengel, "News of the World"
Male actor in a supporting role
Chadwick Boseman, "Da 5 Bloods"
Sacha Baron Cohen, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Daniel Kaluuya, "Judas and the Black Messiah" - winner
Jared Leto, "The Little Things"
Leslie Odom Jr., "One Night in Miami"
Male actor in a TV movie or limited series
Bill Camp, "The Queen's Gambit" (Netflix)
Daveed Diggs, "Hamilton" (Disney Plus)
Hugh Grant, "The Undoing" (HBO)
Ethan Hawke, "The Good Lord Bird" (Showtime)
Mark Ruffalo, "I Know This Much Is True" (HBO) - winner
Female actor in a TV movie or limited series
Cate Blanchett, "Mrs. America" (FX on Hulu)
Michaela Coel, "I May Destroy You" (HBO)
Nicole Kidman, "The Undoing" (HBO)
Anya Taylor-Joy, "The Queen's Gambit" (Netflix) - winner
Kerry Washington, "Little Fires Everywhere" (Hulu)
Male actor in a comedy series
Nicholas Hoult, "The Great" (Hulu)
Dan Levy, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)
Eugene Levy, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)
Jason Sudeikis, "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV Plus) - winner
Ramy Youssef, "Ramy" (Hulu)
Female actor in a comedy series
Christina Applegate, "Dead to Me" (Netflix)
Linda Cardellini, "Dead to Me" (Netflix)
Kaley Cuoco, "The Flight Attendant" (HBO Max)
Annie Murphy, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)
Catherine O'Hara, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV) - winner
Ensemble in a comedy series
"Dead to Me" (Netflix)
"The Flight Attendant" (HBO Max)
"The Great" (Hulu)
"Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV) - winner
"Ted Lasso" (Apple TV Plus)
Female actor in a drama series
Gillian Anderson, "The Crown" (Netflix) - winner
Olivia Colman, "The Crown" (Netflix)
Emma Corrin, "The Crown" (Netflix)
Julia Garner, "Ozark" (Netflix)
Laura Linney, "Ozark" (Netflix)
Male actor in a drama series
Jason Bateman, "Ozark" (Netflix) - winner
Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us" (NBC)
Josh O'Connor, "The Crown" (Netflix)
Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul" (AMC)
Rege-Jean Page, "Bridgerton" (Netflix)
Ensemble in a drama series
"Better Call Saul" (AMC)
"The Crown" (Netflix) - winner
"Lovecraft Country" (HBO)