This year’s SAG Awards are keeping it short and sweet in recognition of this socially distanced age of COVID-19. Executive producers Todd Milliner, Sean Hayes and Kathy Connell have revealed to Variety that next month’s ceremony will be pre-taped, including winner reveals, and be limited to just a one-hour running time.
“We’re looking at trying to do a unique award ceremony in an hour and leave people saying, which they very rarely do [with an awards show], ‘Man, I wish we had more,’” Milliner said.
The SAG Awards, which airs Sunday, April 4, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on TNT and TBS, won’t have a host, a red carpet or even a set. Instead, the show will include comedy bits mixed in with the SAG Awards’ signature “I Am An Actor” mini-speeches from performers. Those will be sprinkled throughout the hour along with winner announcements in 13 categories and the “In Memoriam.”
All segments will be shot beforehand, and edited together before air, allowing the producers to squeeze everything in and still end on time.
“It is a jam-packed hour, and we’re still trying to rob from one part to give to another part,” Milliner said. “When you start parsing out that hour, we didn’t really have time for a stage. Honestly if none of the rest of the show was going to be live we thought, let’s put the rest of this time into those segments [such as ‘I Am An Actor’ and In Memoriam].”
Days before the broadcast, nominees from each category will gather together in their own Zoom room, where the winner will be revealed and can give their acceptance speech. That means, in a departure from normal protocol for the show, winners and their category mates will know the results days before the rest of the world sees them on the SAG Awards telecast.
“We hope they respect the show enough and everybody does, and their fellow actors, that they don’t want to disappoint the audience at home by letting any surprises go,” Connell said.
As for the “I Am An Actor” and presenter segments, small two-person crews will be dispatched to performers’ homes if possible, but laptops will also be utilized in the case of actors who are in production bubbles.
“SAG Awards is a project where everybody has to work together, so we respect all of those protocols that are in place just to make everybody feel safe,” Hayes said.
Among performers who have already signed on to participate are Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), Lily Collins (“Emily in Paris”), Daveed Diggs (“Snowpiercer,” “The Good Lord Bird,” “Hamilton”), Ted Danson (“Mr. Mayor”) and Mary Steenburgen (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”).
“I can’t even tell you about a couple that we hope come together because it’s going to be fun,” Milliner said.
As a nod to the unconventional nature of this year’s SAG Awards, Collins and Diggs announced nominations last month via Instagram. It took a moment for Diggs to figure out how to add Collins to the livestream, but it ended up being an endearing moment as both actors interacted with each other.
Last year Milliner and Hayes first joined with Kathy Connell to produce the SAG Awards with an eye toward reinvention. This year, they faced an even bigger challenge in adjusting to the virtual event. Originally, the show was scheduled for Jan. 24, before the pandemic forced a move to March 14. But when the Grammys shifted to that date, the SAG Awards moved again, to April 4.
“It was a combination of, how do we do this, how do we acknowledge our peers, our members and the great performances they are giving — and still be respectful of the fact that there are a lot of people hurting in this country,” Connell said.