"Downton Abbey," "Spotlight," and "Orange Is the New Black" won the ensemble awards at the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards in the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, but diversity was the night's big winner. An array of actors claimed the awards in pointed contrast to the nearly all-white nominees for the upcoming Oscars. Balloting for the 116,741 voting SAG-AFTRA members was open during the #OscarsSoWhite backlash and closed only yesterday. The SAG Awards have proved to be a reliable indicator of the outcomes of the Oscar acting races.
SAG Awards voters gave awards to several actors of color, including "Beasts of No Nation" standout Idris Elba, whose failure to secure an Oscar nomination helped fuel this year's continued #OscarsSoWhite backlash.
"Look at this stage," “Orange Is the New Black” star Laura Prepon said, motioning to the show's diverse cast while accepting the TV comedy series award. "This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity. Different race, color, creed, sexual orientation."
That's what's going on in journalism right now. Newspapers across the world are losing money and don't have money to have investigative teams and journalists.
Had [Flint, Mich.’s local newspaper] had one, I’d argue they may be ahead of the Flint situation. It always happens in poor neighborhoods, which are normally black or Hispanic or filled with people of color. There are a zillion Flint, Mich., out there. If there had been a ‘spotlight’ put on that, I argue they may have been a little ahead of the situation.
The Screen Actors Guild could teach the Academy Awards a thing or two about promoting diversity, with four of the six awards for individual performance in a television movie, mini-series, or series going to people of color in Sunday night’s ceremony.
Uzo Aduba’s performance as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on prison dramedy “Orange Is the New Black” topped the comedy actress category, while Queen Latifah was recognized for her work as famed blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film “Bessie.” In drama actress, Viola Davis was triumphant with her portrayal of Annalise Keating on ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder.”
But it was Idris Elba making history Sunday night. His win for mini-series actor for “Luther” coupled with a victory in supporting actor in a film for “Beasts of No Nation” made him the first man to take trophies for two individual performances in a single night, a feat Helen Mirren accomplished first in 2006.
Meanwhile, things were less diverse in terms of winner turnover. Of the six main television categories, only one yielded a win for a newcomer.
While Davis, Spacey, Aduba, “Orange,” and drama ensemble winner “Downton Abbey” all took trophies last year, only Jeffrey Tambor, who portrays a gender transitioning Maura Pfefferman on Amazon’s “Transparent” was a first-time winner.
When "House of Cards" star Kevin Spacey accepted his award for male actor in a drama at Sunday's SAG Awards, he gave a tip of the hat to the series' showrunner, Beau Willimon.
The Netflix political drama was recently renewed for a fifth season, to premiere in 2017 — but Willimon will not return as its ringleader. The news comes ahead of the show's fourth season, which rolls out March 4.
"I would like to first thank our creator — no, not that one, the one grounded here on Earth," Spacey joked, before continuing, "Beau ... you have been an extraordinary collaborator, a remarkable challenge, I've loved every single time that we have tousled, fought and argued these four seasons."
Asked backstage about Willimon's exit and what it means for the show going forward, Spacey was ever the Frank Underwood with the profane beginning of his response.
"I have no ... idea how to answer you," said Spacey, who serves as an executive producer on the series. "We haven't made any decisions about who might come in. There's a tremendous amount of discussion and work to be had. I wish Beau all the best. He's worked tirelessly for four seasons — whatever he goes on to, he's going to show extraordinary range as a writer.
"I hope we will work together again some day .... we will without question honor the road that he paved."
"House of Cards," which Willimon adapted from the BBC miniseries of the same name, helped Netflix make a name for itself in the original-series arena. From its debut, the quickly drew awards recognition winning three Emmys for its freshman season in 2013.
SAG Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio acknowledged that it's been an extraordinary awards season for himself and "The Revenant."
"To have done a film that was this challenging for all of us -- honestly, to have this kind of recognition, it feels amazing because I think certainly our director Alejandro tried to achieve something different cinematically and that process was a very different one for everyone and it was challenging," DiCaprio told The Times.
I just feel deeply honored that I'm getting to represent a film that I think is an artistic epic -- the kind of film that we don't see coming from the Hollywood studio system very often. And all this recognition means we're going to see more films like this -- so there's a level of satisfaction.
How does he feel about his Oscar chances?
"It's something I have no control over," he laughed.
"I think people should do what they want to do. If they want to watch it, that’s fine. If they don't, that's fine," Viola Davis said. "What's more important is that when you walk into a theater [is] to be open to the experience of the story.
"I think that sometimes people feel like stories of people of color are not inclusive. They are."
She continued: "But you can't act alone. You need the actor, the writer, the director and the audience. So plop your money down to see 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Dope' and 'Selma.' Support directors like Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels, Spike Lee. Their stories are just as valid and important as anyone else's. That’s more important than boycotting."
'Spotlight' actors win for performance by a cast in a motion picture. Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton spoke for the cast as they accepted the honor.
"I was not expecting that honestly," Ruffalo said. "I have to first of all thank Open Road, thank Participant, thank our producers, thank [director] Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer who just took every single opportunity to tell the truth. They didn’t take any cheap way. It was always the truth and honored these people, these victims who are dead and survivors who are still alive."
"This is not only for the survivors for this horrific situation," Keaton said. "This is for every Flint, Mich., in the world. This is for the powerless, this is for the powerful who take advantage of the powerless... There's fair and there's unfair and I'm always gonna vote for the fair. I'm always going to pull for the good guys."
The other nominees were:
"Beasts of No Nation"
"The Big Short"
"Straight Outta Compton"
Leonardo DiCaprio wins the SAG Award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for his work in "The Revenant."
"I'm truly humbled by this because it comes from all of you, my fellow actors," the nine-time nominee said in his speech.
DiCaprio recalled being "lucky enough" to be cast in "This Boy's Life" at age 15 because it gave him "such a tremendous respect for this craft" and he has enveloped himself in the greats of the cinema since then.
"For any young actors out there, I encourage you to watch the history of cinema, he said. "We all stand on the shoulders of giants."
The actor also thanked director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and costars Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Hardy.
"And to my parents," he added. "Thanks to you for listening to an overly ambitious, slightly annoying 13-year-old who wanted to go on auditions every day after school. I would not be here without you."
The other nominees were:
Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl"
Johnny Depp, "Black Mass"
Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"
The change is that there are more women and I’m really happy for that. Amy [Poehler] and Tina [Fey] running their own shows, writing, producing. It's a beautiful way that things have changed. Women in comedy are more respected now. Kristen Wiig, wow, she’s fabulous. We used to be pigeonholed."
Brie Larson wins the SAG Award for performance by a female actor in a leading role for her work in "Room."
Accepting her statue, the actress thanked, among others, her fellow guild members for helping her as she grew up and came up in the business.
"Watching your movies ... made me feel less alone," she said, "and made me feel like there was a safe place to explore my creativity."
The other nominees were:
Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
Helen Mirren, "Woman in Gold"
Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn"
Sarah Silverman, "I Smile Back"
Updated at 7:22 p.m.
The cast of "Downton Abbey" wins the 2016 SAG Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series.
"Hello lovely room of fellow actors," said Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore on the British show and spoke on behalf of the cast. "Can I just say ... we've been coming here for six years and we've encountered the most amazing kindness and generosity from American actors.
"So to be nominated in this category is mind-blowing for us -- we're a British show and we're nominated against TV royalty."
Nicol acknowledged that acting is a collaborative process and went on to thank "the other people around us who make us look good," including "two of our big burly crew ... who on our last day of shooting, they were found in a corner, sulking."
"We love you."
The other nominees were:
"Game of Thrones"
"House of Cards"
Updated at 7:17 p.m.
For the record, 7:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled Lesley Nicol's first name as Leslie.
Fred Dalton Thompson, Maureen O'Hara, Dick Van Patten, Betsy Palmer, Natalie Cole, Taylor Negron and Alan Rickman are among the many actors who died in the past year and were honored in the SAG Awards' in memoriam montage.
The piece ended with an acknowledgement of Leonard Nimoy's passing, and featured a shot of the USS Enterprise heading off into space.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV.
Idris Elba became only the second person in history (give or take a Helen Mirren) to take home two actors for individual performance in a single night. While his prize for male supporting actor in a film role for "Beasts of No Nation" is relatively self-explanatory, his win for male actor in a television movie or miniseries for "Luther" left some scratching their heads.
Airing on BBC One in the UK and BBC America stateside, "Luther" centers around a brilliant detective chief inspector who finds himself so invested in his job that he is constantly battling to not be subsumed by the darkness he is exposed to. It's this darkness that Elba made reference to in his acceptance speech.
The series has run for three seasons, as well as an abbreviated fourth, totaling 16 episodes and received eight Emmy Award nominations in various categories and is available for viewing on Netflix.
Commenting on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, a thoughtful Queen Latifah, who won the award for her portrayal of legendary blues singer "Bessie Smith," told us:
"I think this is what happens when you have the SAG group — a group of very diverse people who understand the work that we all put in and that we all deserve the same opportunities. ... I feel very positive about this day."
Kevin Spacey wins the SAG Award for performance by a male actor in a drama series for his work in "House of Cards."
It's his second win in this category, and his third SAG Award.
"First of all, I'd like to thank our creator, no not that one. The one grounded here on Earth," Spacey quipped in his speech.
He also thanked his manager and fellow cast members.
"I just want to talk about the theory of relativity for a second. Apparently they say if you're in an elevator you don’t know if you're going up or if you're going down. But right now I feel like I'm going up."
The other nominees were:
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Rami Malek, "Mr. Robot"
Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul"
Viola Davis wins the SAG Award for performance by a female actor in a drama series for her work in "How to Get Away With Murder."
"There's a famous saying, 'I'm not who you think I am, you are who you think I am,'" she said in her acceptance speech. "I think about that, because people always say Annalise is an antihero ... and I always think, why do i have to be a hero? And why do you have to like me?
"My job as an actor is to portray a human being to the best of my ability. Flawed, messy."
She then thanked her fellow "HTGAWM" actors, proclaiming, "It's a fabulous young cast."
The other nominees were:
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Carol Burnett was a woman in a man's world when "The Carol Burnett" show was in its heyday -- and it took two women now very comfortable in comedy to introduce her as the recipient of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.
As Tina Fey and Amy Poehler lauded Burnett, they called out performers including "Spotlight" actor Michael Keaton and "The Revenant" star Leonardo DiCaprio as examples of how comedy is harder than drama.
"Michael Keaton knows," Fey said. "He takes the dramas to relax ... what was harder, looking seriously at boxes of files in 'Spotlight,' or making a grilled cheese with an iron while holding a baby in 'Mr. Mom,'?"
Poehler piled on.
"Let's all calm down about Leo DiCaprio and how hard it was to shoot 'The Revenant.' So you slept in a horse and aite bison liver. Big whoop. Carol would have slept in that horse, worn it, done a song and dance, and made a much funnier face after eating something disgusting," she said.
"Thing is, Carol's better than all of us. We're going to give her a prize for it."
And that they did, after a montage then ended with her trademark ear tug, and a standing ovation that went on and on.