In a year the Oscars failed to nominate a single person of color in the major acting categories, the Screen Actors Guild had no trouble awarding people of color and diverse casts.
Idris Elba won two Screen Actors Guild Awards in Saturday’s ceremony. Queen Latifah won. Viola Davis won. So did Uzo Aduba and the diverse cast of her show, “Orange Is the New Black.” The only white individual winners in the first hour of the show, Jeffrey Tambor and Alicia Vikander, won for projects that explore transgender people, who have historically been even less represented in Hollywood than people of color.
SAG’s message was clear: There is no shortage of diverse actors deserving of praise.
It felt almost like a direct response to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. And that response was: We hear you.
“Ladies and gentleman,” Elba said at one point, “welcome to diverse TV.”
Many Oscar voters are also in SAG. So were they trying to apologize Saturday for their Oscar choices? Not quite.
While almost all members of the Oscar voters’ actor branch are in SAG, only a small number of SAG voters are Oscar voters. The Oscar actors branch is about 1,100 people, but SAG voting membership is around 115,000 people.
Also, SAG recognizes TV as well as film, and the early wins for people of color were all for TV — except for Elba’s film win for “Beasts of No Nation.” (He did not receive an Oscar nomination for the Netflix film.)
Once SAG began handing out awards in the film categories, viewers began to see many more white people accepting awards. For example, the predominantly African-American casts of “Beasts of No Nation” and “Straight Outta Compton” lost out to the predominantly white cast of “Spotlight” in the motion picture cast category.
“Spotlight” star Michael Keaton accepted the ensemble award on behalf of disenfranchised people everywhere — including in the largely African-American city of Flint, Mich., which faces a public health crisis over its poisoned water.
“This is for every Flint, Michigan in the world. This is for the powerless,” Keaton said.