It was a night of politically-driven celebration at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 29. Given by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to recognize performances in movies and television, the awards ceremony was celebratory but also somber, with almost every single speech referring to President Donald Trump and his ban on immigrants that dominated the headlines over the weekend.
The political messages were apparent on the red carpet, where “Big Bang Theory” actor Simon Helberg carried a sign that read “refugees welcome” and his wife, Jocelyn Towne, walked with the words “Let Them In” on her chest.
“Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series, mentioned her own father, an immigrant from France, and declared the ban “a blemish and un-American.” Criticism of Trump continued when William H. Macy, who won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance on “Shameless,” thanked the outspoken and controversial President for making the character of Frank Gallagher on the series “seem normal.”
A celebration of diversity was echoed in the acceptance by the cast of “Orange Is the New Black,” who won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. And Viola Davis, who won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for her performance in “Fences,” emphasized the importance of the everyman, thanking August Wilson, who wrote the play the film is based on for, bringing the lives of black Americans to the stage and screen.
Mahershala Ali got personal in his acceptance speech for Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in “Moonlight,” sharing that he is Muslim and his mother is an ordained minister. But despite their differences, he said, “I am able to see her, and she is able to see me.”
Sarah Paulson asked that everyone who has money to spare donate to the American Civil Liberties Union in her acceptance speech for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series in “The People vs. OJ Simpson,” in which she played District Attorney Marcia Clark. And Bryan Cranston poked fun at the President as he accepted the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series for “All the Way,” in which he played President Lyndon B. Johnson, saying he would like to put his arm around Trump’s shoulder and whisper in his ear, “Just don’t piss in the soup that all of us got to eat.”
“The Crown” took home two wins, for Best Actress and Actor in a Drama Series, won by Claire Foy and John Lithgow. In his speech, Lithgow mentioned, “a great and underrated actress who somehow managed to speak my thoughts in another speech three weeks ago: Meryl Streep.”
“La La Land” continued its winning streak as Emma Stone won Outstanding Female Actor in a Leading Role. In an emotional speech, a visibly flustered Stone said, “I forgot everything I have ever thought in my life,” before discussing her own insecurities and the value of art reflecting culture. “Thank you. I said that twice. I’m sorry. Good God!” she exclaimed before leaving the stage.
And when her “Fences” co-star, Denzel Washington, won Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role, Viola Davis embraced him happily before he walked to the stage and gave a casually improvised speech. The two had previously starred in a Broadway production of the play in 2010.
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series went to “Stranger Things,” and the young children in the cast were visibly overjoyed, jumping and shouting as they approached the stage, where David Harbour gave an impassioned speech about the importance of art in society.
The joy was also apparent in the winners of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, the cast of “Hidden Figures.” Taraji P. Henson spoke to the audience, stressing the importance of taking action to fight limits, while her crying co-stars stood beside her.
The awards gave a lifetime achievement award to comedian and actress Lily Tomlin, who gave an amusingly self-deprecating acceptance speech, advising young actors, “Don’t leave the house when you’re drunk,” and ending with the statement, “We could all go out and really change things,” listing global warming and LGBT issues as just two of them.