The Show Kicks Off With "I Am An Actor"
The show began, as always, with various famous faces saying a few words about what it means to be an actor. Kerry Washington kicked off the “I am an actor” sequence with a political message that would be echoed throughout the night. “A lot of people are saying right now that actors shouldn’t express their opinions when it comes to politics,” the actress said. “But the truth is, actors are activists no matter what, because we embody the worth of all people.” Jeff Bridges followed on a lighter note, observing that his career has been “the product of luck and nepotism.” Ellie Kemper, a new mom, began by saying that motherhood has given her the greatest role of her life, then added, “I’m kidding! My favorite role is playing Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix!” Finally, Ashton Kutcher, onstage to present the first award, welcomed everyone to the show on a political note. “Everyone in airports that belong in my America, you are a part of the fabric of who we are, and we love you and we welcome you.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Wins and Speaks Out on Trump
The first award of the night, for Actress in a TV Comedy, went to Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She kicked off the night of political acceptance speeches mocking Donald Trump with jokes about Russian interference with the SAG vote and shouts of, “I’m the winner! The winner is me! Landslide!” Then, on a more serious note, the actress commented on Saturday’s immigrant ban. “I want you all to know that I am the daughter of an immigrant,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France, and I’m an American patriot, and I love this country, and because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American.”
Orange Is the New Black Wins Big
Orange Is the New Black star Taylor Schilling took the mic when the cast won Best Television Comedy Ensemble. Surrounded by her elated co-stars, she addressed Trump’s immigrant ban: “We stand up here representing a diverse group of people, representing generations of families who have sought a better life here,” she said, rattling off various countries from which different cast members emigrated. “We know that it’s going to be up to us, and all of you, too, to keep telling stories that show: What unites us is stronger than the forces that seek to divide us.”
Viola Davis Celebrates August Wilson
Winning Best Supporting Actress in a Movie for her performance in Fences, Viola Davis began her speech by thanking a whole host of people, including Fences playwright August Wilson. “What August did so beautifully was he honored the average man, who happened to be a man of color,” the actress said. “Sometimes we don’t have to shake the world and move the world and create anything that is going to be in the history book. The fact that we breathe and live a life and was a god to our children — just that means that we have a story, and it deserves to be told.” Visibly emotional, Davis continued, “We deserve to be in the canon, in the center of any narrative, and that’s what August did — he elevated my father, my mother, my uncles, who had eighth- and fifth-grade educations, and he encapsulated them in history. Thank you, August.”
Mahershala Ali Gets Serious
In a crisp white suit, Moonlight star Mahershala Ali took the podium to accept the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie. “I think what I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people: They fold into themselves,” he said. “What I was so grateful about, in having the opportunity to play Juan, was playing the gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as the result of the persecution of his community, and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered, and he was okay, and accept him. And I hope that we do a better job of that.” He spoke about the importance of not allowing ourselves to become divided by “the details that make us all different” and addressed issues of religious intolerance with a personal anecdote: “My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago,” he said. “But you put things to the side, and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown, and that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”
Dolly Parton Drops In
As her scheduled co-presenter Jane Fonda unfortunately had to call in sick, Dolly Parton took the stage alone to present the SAG’s Life Achievement Award to her 9 to 5 costar Lily Tomlin. Luckily, the songstress came with jokes and charm to spare. “Greetings from Dollywood, Hollywood!” she greeted the standing ovation she received. “Somebody said, ‘Be funny.’ I said, ‘Okay, I can,’” she said. “Lily is receiving an award for something I’ve spent my whole life trying to avoid — a SAG Award. I see something sagging, I’m calling Dr. Markowitz to get that nipped, tucked, and stuffed right away.” Before calling her friend Tomlin up to the stage, Parton said she agreed with fans that it’s about time for a 9 to 5 sequel — so maybe Fonda didn’t need to show up to the SAG Awards for us to see that reunion.
Lily Tomlin Nabs the Biggest Honor
“What a week this has been!” Tomlin said as she accepted her SAG Life Achievement Award. “You are kind of anticlimactic. Did you hear the Doomsday clock has been moved two and a half minutes before midnight? This award came just in the nick of time.” The veteran actress transitioned into dispensing advice to the next generation, cracking jokes the whole time. After her first and most essential tip, to wear sunscreen, she told younger actors, “Don’t leave the house when you’re drunk. And if you’re already out there, well, you must learn to tell when you’ve had too much to drink. Listen to your friends — when they stop talking to you and they start talking about you, saying things like, ‘Did she have a purse?’ And don’t be anxious about missing an opportunity. Behind every failure is an opportunity someone wishes they had missed,” she said. “Meryl is laughing at this and there’s absolutely no time she’s had a failure.” She couldn’t help but make a topical fake news joke, advising, “Live your life so that when you’re being honored for your achievements, the people called upon to make laudatory remarks can feel reasonably honest about their comments. Otherwise, in these times, all their words or a phrase might be perceived as alternative facts, or worse yet, fake news.” She finally concluded with the advice to “thank those people on whose shoulders you stand,” and gave her thanks to her partner, writer Jane Wagner, “the woman on whose shoulders I stand the tallest.
Stranger Things Gets Real
The freshman season of Netflix’s Stranger Things took home the award for Best Television Drama Ensemble in one of the most thrilling moments of the night. Star David Harbour delivered a fiery political speech on behalf of the cast, while Winona Ryder’s expressive face made for the most GIF-able moment of the telecast. “This award from you, who take your craft seriously and earnestly believe, like me, that great acting can change the world, is a call to arms from our fellow craftsmen and women to go deeper, and through our art, battle against fear, self-centeredness, and exclusivity of our predominantly narcissistic culture and through our craft to develop a more empathetic and understanding society,” Harbour said to an enthusiastic crowd (and enthusiastic Ryder). “We are united in that we are all human beings and we are all together on this horrible, painful, joyous, exciting and mysterious ride that is being alive.” He continued, “We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the weak, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized.”
Emma Stone and Denzel Washington Take the Stage
Emma Stone and Denzel Washington took home the Actor statuettes, respectively, for Best Actress and Best Actor in a Film. “Wow. To be an actor, playing an actor, and receiving an Actor by a guild of actors — it’s pretty exceptional. Thank you,” began Stone, who won the accolade for her performance in La La Land. “I forgot everything that I ever have thought in my life.” Before leaving the stage, she thanked her “inspiring” fellow nominees and her costar Ryan Gosling, whom she called “the best. That’s just the truth. No one can argue with it.” Washington, who won for his performance in Fences, immediately admitted he was unprepared to win. “I’m a God-fearing man, I’m supposed to have faith, but I didn’t have faith,” he said. “I didn’t even prepare, but I am prepared.” He went on to thank Fences playwright August Wilson, as well as Wilson’s fellow giants of the American theater Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, and Edward Albee. He concluded with shoutouts to “the guys who don’t get recognized” and his co-star, fellow SAG winner Viola Davis.
Hidden Figures Steps Into the Spotlight
In the final award of the night, the cast of the inspiring historical drama Hidden Figures took home the award for Best Ensemble in a Movie. Taraji P. Henson, who stars as the real-life NASA scientist Katherine Goble Johnson, spoke for the group. “This film is about unity,” she began. “The shoulders that the of the women that we stand on are three American heroes: Katherine Johnson. Dorothy Vaughn. Mary Jackson. Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars.” Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, who played Vaughn and Jackson, stood alongside Henson as she delivered her powerful speech. “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.” An emotional Henson concluded, “Thank you so much for appreciating these women. They are hidden figures no more.”