The cast of “Ted Lasso," the leads of “Squid Game” and Troy Kotsur of “CODA” have won at the 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The ceremony, held Sunday at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, and broadcast on both TNT and TBS, saw history made in a number of categories. Kotsur, best supporting actor in a film, became the first deaf actor to ever win an individual SAG award. And for the first time, actors in a non-English language series - the Korean phenomenon “Squid Game” - took home awards. Lee Jung-jae won best male actor in a drama series and Jung Ho-yeon won best female actor in a drama series.
Kotsur, a veteran 53-year-old actor who gave a breakthrough performance in Sian Heder's film, had already been the first deaf actor nominated individually for a SAG award. When his name was read, Kotsur plunged his head into his hands. On stage, he praised “CODA” as the rare film to portray a deaf family authentically. But he concluded comically.
“Thank you for my wife for reminding me to check my fly before walking the red carpet," said Kotsur.
Netflix's “Squid Game,” the first non-English language series nominated by the actors guild, came on strong with three awards, including best stunt ensemble. The wins for Lee and Jung came over big names like “Succession” stars Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong, and Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston of “The Morning Show.”
“I have sat many times watching you on the big screen dreaming of one day becoming an actor," Jung told the crowd, fighting back tears.
Still, HBO's "Succession” ultimately reigned in the best drama series category. Cox fittingly accepted the award with an expletive printed on his face mask, and another uttered as he struggled to take it off. But Cox turned serious when discussing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In the evening's bluntest remarks on the invasion, he noted that the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was a comic. He urged censored dissenters in Russia to speak out.
“The people in Russia who don't like what's going on - and particularly the artists - I think we should join and celebrate them and hope that they can make a shift, as I believe they can,” said Cox while the audience stood and applauded.
The SAG Awards are considered one of the most reliable predictors of the Academy Awards - actors make up the largest percentage of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Kotsur's win suggested he may have emerged as the Oscar favorite over the competition, notably Kodi Smit-McPhee of “The Power of the Dog.”
Meanwhile, Ariana DeBose of “West Side Story" confirmed her frontrunner status with a win Sunday for best supporting performance by a female actor.
"It's taken me a long time to feel comfortable calling myself an actor," said DeBose. “My roots come from the dance world and the Broadway stage, and the Anita that we see on screen took every bit of me but she took 10 years to make."
The SAG Awards, which will be available to stream Monday on HBO Max, are presented by the Hollywood actors guild SAG-AFTRA. After the January Golden Globes were a non-event, the Screen Actors Guild Awards were Hollywood's first major, televised, in-person award show - complete with a red carpet and teary-eyed speeches - this year.
The “Hamilton” trio of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs kicked off the broadcast with the declared theme of “together again.”
“We’ve returned to a world where all we have to do to hang out like this is get dressed up, show up, get swabbed, sanitized, screened, masked, vaccinated, boosted, rapid-tested and PCR-cleared within 24 hours,” said Odom Jr. “Now who’s ready to party?”
Some casts, citing quarantine regulations related to production schedules, appeared remotely - including the lead television nominee, “Ted Lasso.” Appearing by video link with his castmates around him, Jason Sudeikis accepted the award for best actor in a comedy series. The Apple TV+ show was later named best comedy series ensemble.
While the Academy Awards aren't mandating vaccination for presenters (just attendees), it was required for the SAG Awards, which are voted on by the Hollywood actors’ guild SAG-AFTRA. Other awards went to Jean Smart of “Hacks” and Kate Winslet of “Mare of Easttown."
Five films are nominated for the SAG Awards' top honor, best ensemble: Kenneth Branagh's “Belfast,” Sian Heder's coming-of-age drama “CODA,” Adam McKay's apocalypse comedy “Don't Look Up,” Ridley Scott's high-camp “House of Gucci” and Reinaldo Marcus Green's family tennis drama “King Richard.”
The leading Oscar nominee, Jane Campion's “The Power of the Dog,” failed to land a best ensemble nomination but three of its actors - Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Smit-McPhee - scored individual nods.
Winning best ensemble doesn't automatically make a movie the Oscar favorite, but actors hold the largest sway because they constitute the largest percentage of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Last year, the actors chose Aaron Sorkin's 1960s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” while best picture at the Oscars went to “Nomadland." The year before, SAG’s pick of “Parasite” presaged the Oscar winner.
Helen Mirren, a five-time SAG winner, was honored with a lifetime achievement award.
“Honestly, any achievement that I’ve succeeded in is the result of my mantra which is basically: Be on time and don’t be ass,” said the 76-year-old actor. “Thank you, thank you, S-A-G so much for this. I hate to say the word ‘sag’ at my age.”