Members of the Screen Actors Guild proved far more inclusive than their film academy counterparts Saturday night, honoring a diverse array of actors during their annual awards show at the Shrine Auditorium and making a pointed contrast to #OscarsSoWhite.
"Look at this stage," "Orange Is the New Black" star Laura Prepon said, motioning to the show's diverse cast while accepting the TV comedy series award. "This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity. Different race, color, creed, sexual orientation."
Idris Elba, who won two awards Saturday, put it more succinctly, making a play on words: "Welcome to diverse TV."
SAG Awards voters gave awards to several actors of color, including "Beasts of No Nation" standout Idris Elba, whose failure to secure an Oscar nomination helped fuel this year's continued #OscarsSoWhite backlash.
Elba also won a second award later in the evening for his turn as a self-destructive detective on BBC America's TV crime drama "Luther."
Also winning, all on the television side: Queen Latifah for playing blues singer Bessie Smith in HBO's "Bessie," Viola Davis for her lead turn on ABC's "How To Get Away with Murder" and "Orange Is the New Black" actress Uzo Aduba.
The casts of "Beasts of No Nation," "The Big Short," "Spotlight," "Straight Outta Compton" and "Trumbo" earned top film nods from the Screen Actors Guild as the nominees in the perfomance by a cast in a motion picture category for the 2016 SAG Awards.
By Los Angeles Times Staff
Jan 30, 2016 | 11:05 PM
"You know what it feels like?" Aduba asked The Times backstage. "It's amazing to see actors have the opportunity to celebrate other actors work and to feel empowered by the voting process so they can see whatever actor they want reflected up there. And I'm honored to have been chosen by my peers."
"What is exciting to me is that we are even having this conversation," "Orange" actress Lea Delaria added.
Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Revenant") and Brie Larson ("Room") won the top individual movie actor honors. The journalism drama "Spotlight" won the movie ensemble award.
From the outset, the show made a point of presenting the diversity of its membership and nominees. The ceremony opened with several actors -- Rami Malek, Queen Latifah, Jeffrey Tambor, Anna Chlumsky, Kunal Nayyar -- talking about what it means to be in their profession.
SAG Awards Committee Chair JoBeth Williams said the actor-focused awards show has "worked very hard to reflect the real world." Williams noted its roster of presenters and nominees as proof of that.
"We try to represent a wide range of what the world looks like," Williams said.
"This is what happens when you have the SAG group -- a group of very diverse people who understand the work that we all put in and that we all deserve the same opportunities," Queen Latifah told The Times backstage. "That's about it. I feel very positive about this day."
One of the evening's most moving moments came when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler presented Carol Burnett with SAG's lifetime achievement honor. Introducing the legendary comedian, whose classic variety series, "The Carol Burnett Show" ran on CBS from 1967-78, Fey and Poehler noted, with humor, how comedy is much more difficult than drama, mostly because you have to say everything faster -- and often with a chimp.
"Carol is better than all of us and we're giving her an award for it," Poehler said.
Burnett received a lengthy, heartfelt standing ovation. Onstage she recalled her career, including the moment when a network executive told her that "comedy variety is a man's game." Her stellar career served as a lengthy, emphatic rebuttal to that remark.
SAG Awards nominations were announced in early December, five weeks before Oscar nominations were revealed. SAG Awards voters proved then more inclusive than their film academy counterparts, nominating the cast of the N.W.A biopic "Straight Outta Compton" for film ensemble and Elba in the supporting actor category.
The 116,741 SAG-AFTRA members in good standing voted on the awards. Balloting was open during the #OscarsSoWhite backlash and closed only the day before the telecast.
The SAG Awards have proved over the years to be a reliable indicator of the outcomes of the Oscar acting races. The past three years, all four of the SAG Awards acting winners have gone on to win the Oscar. With Elba's snub at the Oscars, there will be at least one different winner this year.