×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SAG Award Winners Reflect TV’s Imperative to Embrace Diversity

The first 20 minutes of the 22nd annual SAG Awards reinforced television’s new world order on multiple levels. Netflix and Amazon dominated the wins throughout the night, and the level of diversity among the TV winners was impossible to miss in light of the outcry over this year’s all-white field of Oscar acting nominees.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV,” Idris Elba quipped during the telecast. Elba was a double winner for supporting actor in a film for Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation” and for actor in a TV movie/miniseries for BBC America’s “Luther.”

Wins for Viola Davis, Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba and Elba underscored how the depth and breadth of television programming has fostered meaty roles for actors that reflect the expanse of America. The fact that television is a medium piped into America’s living rooms and smartphones gives it an imperative to reflect the multiculturalism that is transforming popular culture.

The sheer sight of the 34 actors in the “Orange Is the New Black” troupe, which nabbed its second consecutive win for comedy series, demonstrated the how organic the casting of diverse roles has become in TV at a time when creators have the freedom to pursue ever-more specificity in storytelling. With Netflix’s “OITNB,” diversity extends beyond race and ethnicity to sexual orientation and women of that certain age, shape and size who in the past were rarely featured in prominent TV roles.

“This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity,” “OITNB” star Laura Prepon said in accepting the award. Her co-star Aduba was the first winner of the night, taking her second straight trophy for female comedy actor for her work on “OITNB.”

Aduba dedicated her win to “the actors who are not here in this room with us,” urging them to “keep trying, keep plugging, keep working, stay in line. You have the chance, it is yours.”

Latifah echoed that sentiment while collecting her win for female actor in a movie or miniseries for HBO’s Bessie Smith biopic “Bessie.” For those aspiring actors who don’t “come in the package that people say you should — build your own boxes,” Latifah said. “Knock that thing away and ‘do you.’ ”

Backstage, “OITNB” cast members marveled at how their show has thrived on an outlet that wasn’t even in the original programming business five years ago.

“Five years ago we wouldn’t have been having this conversation,” said Lea DeLaria. “The fact that we’re even having this conversation is a win for the good guys.” Marsha Stephanie Blake added: “Television has done a very good job of representing life. TV is stepping up to the plate in terms of representing stories and people (realistically).”

In her backstage remarks, Latifah stressed that the “change is inevitable” for the film business just as it has been for TV.

“I think some of it was already happening, but the public has to continue to demand that. We’re in a capitalist society so hopefully supply and demand will kick back in,” she said. “The people are asking for it… I hope we wake up and realize the old way of doing thing is the old way and it’s OK to evolve.”

In the same vein, Jeffrey Tambor collected his first SAG kudo after four career nominations, winning comedy series actor for his role as transgender woman Maura Pfefferman in Amazon’s ground-breaking “Transparent.”

The much-praised family comedy mines the kind of unconventional subject matter that would likely never have found a home but for the exponential demand for niche-targeted series. Tambor, who won the Emmy last September for his work on the show, thanked Amazon for its “guts and support” of “Transparent.” He also paid tribute to those transgender people who, unlike his affluent character, “don’t have a lot of cash for their operations, for their medicine and their freedom.”

SAG voters gave a second consecutive nod to Kevin Spacey as drama series actor for his work in Netflix’s “House of Cards,” an upset win over sentimental fave Jon Hamm for his final season on “Mad Men” and Rami Malek of red-hot newbie “Mr. Robot.”

Spacey in his remarks on stage referenced the surprise news last week that “House of Cards” steward Beau Willimon would not be returning as showrunner for the show’s fifth season next year. He called Willimon “an extraordinary collaborator” and asserted: “I’ve loved every second we’ve tussled and fought and argued” in making the show.

Sentimental SAG Awards favorite “Downton Abbey” didn’t go home empty-handed for its sixth and final season. The show has won twice before (in 2013 and 2015) for drama ensemble, but the recognition this year was no less meaningful for the troupe from across the Pond.

“We’re a British show. What the heck are we doing here?” said Lesley Nicol (aka Mrs. Patmore). “We’re up against your TV royalty.”

(Pictured: Queen Latifah)

More TV

  • ‘Gentleman Jack’ Gets Season 2 at

    ‘Gentleman Jack’ Renewed for Season 2 at BBC, HBO

    “Gentleman Jack” will return to TV screens on both sides of the Atlantic after the BBC and HBO ordered a second season of the period drama. The series is based on a true story and stars Suranne Jones as Anne Lister, a lesbian, and the proprietor of her family’s coal mines. She has to walk [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

  • Vida

    Why Too Much TV Can Be a Good Thing (Column)

    Three episodes into the second season of “Vida,” there’s a wedding so gloriously and specifically queer that I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. After watching countless couples walk down the aisle onscreen before, Starz’s “Vida” takes care to show a ceremony quite unlike any other, featuring drag queens, a pair of Latinx grooms in bedazzled [...]

  • Emmys: Peak TV Meets Peak FYC

    Emmys: Peak TV Meets Peak FYC With Activations and Experiences

    As the number of Emmy contenders continues to skyrocket in this era of too much choice, “For Your Consideration” events are evolving into full-fledged experiential activations. The traditional Emmy screenings and panel discussions are still around — and have grown to a point that the Television Academy now allows competing events on the same day. [...]

  • LIVE IN FRONT OF A STUDIO

    TV Ratings: ABC's 'Live in Front of a Studio Audience' Easily Tops Wednesday

    The ABC special “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” handily walked away with Wednesday night in the overnight ratings. “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” pulled in a 1.7 rating in adults 18-49 and 10.4 million viewers. For comparison, its closest competition in the demo were the season finales of “Chicago Med” and [...]

  • Star Trek: Picard - Logo ©

    'Star Trek: Picard' Drops First Teaser Trailer, Poster (Watch)

    CBS All Access has released the first look at “Star Trek: Picard,” the new series that will see Sir Patrick Stewart reprise the iconic role of Jean-Luc Picard. Little is known about the plot of the series other than it is said to tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life. Stewart played [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content