Diversity Reigns at SAG Awards After Oscar Controversy; Stars Say ‘The Problem Starts Before the Academy’

sag awards 2016 oscar race
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The entertainment industry may be reeling from the lack of diversity in the 2016 Oscar nominations, but the winners at the 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards stood in stark contrast to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

Idris Elba scooped two awards, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation,” and Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for BBC America’s “Luther.”

“How to Get Away with Murder” star Viola Davis won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, while Queen Latifah took the prize for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for her titular role in HBO’s “Bessie.” For the second year running, Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” nabbed the ensemble award for a comedy series, with star Uzo Aduba once again taking home the gong for Female Actor in a Comedy Series.

Backstage after her win, Davis addressed the ongoing conversation regarding diversity in the industry. “We’ve become a society of trending topics. Diversity is not a trending topic … I see myself as an actor, no matter what is going on in the business, I will find a way to practice my art,” she said of finding roles. “All the actors of color I know don’t place any limitations on themselves either… regardless of what’s going on in the industry, no matter what’s going on in the Academy, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have and we always will.”

Davis said that people had to make their own decisions about whether to boycott the Oscars, but urged viewers, “when you walk into a theater, to be open to the experience of the story. I feel like sometimes people feel like the stories of people of color aren’t inclusive – they’re very much inclusive … When you watch Annalise, she’s not just a black woman, she’s a woman going through her life. People forget that in our business, we can’t act in a room; you need the actor; you need the director; you need the writer; and you need the audience… So plop down your money to see ‘Race,’ to see ‘Dope,’ to see ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ … to support directors like Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels, Spike Lee — their stories are just as important and valid as anyone else’s.”

“OITNB” star Laura Prepon noted on stage, “This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity,” referring to the inclusivity of the Netflix show’s cast.

Backstage, castmate Samira Wiley praised “OITNB” creator Jenji Kohan for changing the face of television. “She’s put women on your TV, in your homes, that look like a rainbow. We have different stories, different ages, different body types, different beliefs… It’s a reflection of what the world is like.”

Addressing the lack of representation in the Oscar nominations, “OITNB” cast member Selenis Leyva noted, “The problem starts before the Academy Awards … Producers, directors, casting people need to open their eyes — diversity isn’t just black and white, it’s universal and it’s a lot more than we’re focusing on; it’s religion, it’s sexuality.” She urged content creators at networks and studios to trust that viewers are hungry for stories that reflect diverse experiences. “You will make money, people will tune in.”

Latifah noted that in order for the film industry to catch up to TV in terms of diversity, she thinks “the public has to continue to demand that. We’re in a capitalist society, so hopefully supply and demand will kick back in. Hopefully our business will continue to supply the demand the people are asking for … I hope we wake up and realize the old way of doing things is the old way and it’s okay to evolve … change is inevitable.”

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  1. Richard Noel says:

    The majority of the diversity that the SAG awards are getting press about were in TV, but 19 of 20 nominees in the four SAG acting categories that the Oscars has were white actors. It seems obvious that the issue is more the lack of diversity in movies in general versus just at award time. For that reason it seems to me the Academy might be taking a bigger hit on this than deserved. The Academy says that they are working to establish a more diverse membership, which is long overdue, but the goal should always be to honor the best performances regardless of color.

  2. flosse says:

    Thanks to the controversy, people will always wonder if the black actors/actresses won because they were the best in that year or because of the week-long discussion about diversity. Maybe except for Davis who won the Emmy before.
    Fun fact: The Screen Actor’s Guild has lots of members who are in the actor’s guild in the Academy.

  3. Alex says:

    It seems all the right films and actors won…interesting. The corruption at SAG continues?

  4. ek says:

    Television is diverse and that’s why. Except for Idiris, movies were all white.

  5. Michael Dearing says:

    Reeling? Leave it to the media, to over blow this situation. I know Jada bus upset ffor no nom for Magic Mike, but such is life. Some if the BEST actors were never nommed and there has always been omissions.

    We, the public know, that unless next years noms are full of African Americans, they’ll be h##k to pay. If course Jada and friends think there us only one minority. They’d be angry if ten Asians and gays were nommed. Of course, forget merit. That has no place in Oscar anymore.

  6. The Anachronistic Oscars suffer a Huge Embarrassment and is deemed IRRELEVANT and out of touch says:

    Looks like The Oscars is not “the only game in town.”

    How refreshing !!!!

  7. wishinwell says:

    Think we need to remember diversity means more than just African-Americans or women actors being included which I think that women are but means also other groups like Latinos, Asian, Indian, etc. being given roles( not stereotypical roles) and nominated, that would truly be diverse.

    • Jules says:

      Not to Halfricans. The SAG Awards seemed more like the BET Awards, than the SAG Awards. It was extremely obvious that black actors, like the average Queen Latifah, were given the votes to quite the Affirmative Action crowd about Hollywood being racist.

      The truth is, most black movies make less money than films with white Stars.

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