Sunday night’s 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards had a lot of firsts. The SAG awards have always adhered to a “no host” policy, but this year’s ceremony made an exception with its first-ever host, Kristen Bell.
While last year’s SAG awards focused on Hollywood’s political outrage over Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban, this year’s backdrop was the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. As a nod to these movements, the show’s executive producer, Kathy Connell, came up with the idea to feature all-female presenters.
In typical fashion, the SAG awards kicked off with the traditional “I’m an Actor” speeches in which an actor explains why he or she became an actor. But this year’s opening featured only female speeches from Allison Janney of “I, Tonya”, Tracee Ellis Ross of “Black-ish”, Millie Bobby Brown of “Stranger Things” and host Kristen Bell.
During her “I’m an Actor” speech and monologue, Bell showcased her self-deprecating humor and comedic timing. Bell’s monologue did take a serious turn when “The Good Place” actress emphasized the importance of using “empathy and diligence” during this “watershed moment” as “fear and anger never win the race.”
The first award of the night was presented by Maya Rudolph and Kristen Bell for outstanding performance by a male actor in a comedy series. The category was easily the most awkward of the night as Aziz Ansari was notably not present despite being nominated. When Ansari’s name was read aloud, no applause could be heard from the audience and it seemed as if no time was allotted for clapping at all. Ansari was nominated for his performance in “Master of None” but did not attend the ceremony due to recent sexual harassment allegations. Instead, William H. Macey won for his role in “Shameless” but is now in hot water for his backstage comment: “It’s hard to be a man these days.”
On the other hand, James Franco was in attendance despite being in the midst of multiple sexual misconduct allegations. Nominated in the outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role category for his performance in “The Disaster Artist,” Franco decided to attend the SAG awards after being a no-show at the Critics Choice Awards a week earlier. In the end, Franco lost to Gary Oldman who became emotional while accepting his award for portraying Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”
Julia Louis Dreyfus made history with her SAG award win for “Veep,” becoming the most decorated recipient in SAG awards history with nine awards. The “Veep” star was not present at the ceremony, as she recently finished chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in September. “Veep” also scored the comedy series ensemble win for the first time after losing to Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” cast three years in a row. The following category, outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role, went to Allison Janney for her performance in “I, Tonya.” Janney is the frontrunner for the Oscars with this SAG win under her belt, but Laurie Metcalf of “Lady Bird” might pull off an upset win.
Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard continued to win for their roles in HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” Kidman and Skarsgard had their first SAG wins, which was long overdue for Kidman, who has been nominated 10 times. Kidman delivered a powerful acceptance speech that appeared to resonate the most with the audience. During her speech, Kidman brought up the topic of ageism in Hollywood, highlighting “how wonderful it is that [women’s] careers today can go beyond 40 years old.”
The biggest winner of the night was the cast of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which swept its categories after leading with four nominations. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell both won in their respective categories, best performance by a lead actress and supporting actor. Rockwell had his first SAG win and thanked the women in the room who are “trying to make things better” during his acceptance speech. Later in the night, Rockwell had his second SAG win as the film won in the final category presented, outstanding performance by a cast. McDormand and Rockwell have emerged as the frontrunners for this year’s Oscars after winning at both the Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice Awards.
The other big winner of the night was the small screen cast of “This Is Us” with the upset win in the outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series category. Many expected “Stranger Things” to have a repeat win for their sophomore season or the Emmy-winning “Handmaid’s Tale” to take home the prize. Sterling K. Brown once again made history by becoming the first black actor to win in the outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama category. With this SAG win, Brown continues to break barriers after being the first black actor to win a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama TV series for his role as Randall Pearson in the NBC drama. Toward the end of the broadcast, Morgan Freeman accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award, the union’s highest honor.
For more awards celebrating film, the 90th Academy Awards will take place on March 4.