SAG Awards: Netflix Wins Big During Pandemic Year With ‘The Crown,’ ‘Chicago 7’ and ‘Ma Rainey’

In a pandemic year where most viewers consumed movies and TV shows from their couches, Netflix had a big night Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday with “The Trial of the Chicago 7” winning best motion picture and “The Crown” being named best TV drama. Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek” continued its hot streak on its farewell tour, winning for best TV comedy.

It proved to be a history-making night. For the first time in the telecast’s 27 years, all four movie acting awards went to actors of color: Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman for lead actors (for “Ma Rainey’s Bottom”), Daniel Kaluuya for supporting actor (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Yuh-Jung Youn for supporting actress (“Minari”).

Netflix’s drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” won the top film prize, capping off a big night for the streaming giant. Frank Langella accepted the award, delivering a quote by Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed on the same date of Sunday’s SAG Awards on April 4, 1968. “The trial of the Chicago seven began 18 months later, ruled by a corrupt judge — me,” Langella said, as a nod to his on-screen character. Giving a nod of gratitude to director Aaron Sorkin, the actor thanked him for his leadership, saying he was “determined to tell their story, and his loving and respectful direction transformed a group of disparate actors into an ensemble.”

“The Crown” won for the second year in a row with double nominee Olivia Colman accepting the award, on behalf of the ensemble cast. The fourth season of the Netflix period drama explored the years of Princess Diana and Charles’ relationship, resonating with millions of viewers, who were also consumed by current real-life royal news with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

One of several winners who dedicated their speeches to healthcare workers, Colman said, “I think I speak for all of us, we’d all like to say thank you to our wonderful National Health service during this very peculiar year. We’re very lucky in the U.K. to have you.”

“Schitt’s Creek” continued its 2020-2021 award season takeover with the top television comedy prize prize, beating “Ted Lasso,” “Dead to Me,” “The Flight Attendant” and “The Great.” The critical darling has been a hot streak for its final season, winning top prizes at the Emmys and Golden Globes. Dan Levy made the acceptance speak, thanking his fellow cast. “What a way to say goodbye,” Levy said. “Thank you so much.”

Like the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which are voted on by members of the main acting union, celebrate both film and television.

Boseman, who died from colon cancer in August 2020 at the age of 43, won a posthumous trophy for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for Netflix “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” His widow, Simone Ledward Boseman, accepted the prize on his behalf with a quote by her late husband. “If you see the world unbalanced,” she said, “be a crusader that pushes heavily on the seesaw of the mind.”

Boseman’s “Ma Rainey” co-star Davis won her fifth SAG Award, taking home the prize for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. Nearly falling over in her seat when her name was called, Davis thanked playwright August Wilson “for leaving a legacy to actors of color that we can relish for the rest of our lives.”

Kaluuya won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for his role as activist Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Kaluuya dedicated his award to Hampton and the late Boseman.

Yuh-Jung won for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for “Minari.” In complete shock, the South Korean actor said, “I don’t know how to describe my feelings. I’m being recognized by Westerners.” As she delivered her speech, Yuh-Jung was cheered on by fellow veteran nominees Glenn Close and Colman, who were clapping and smiling wide via Zoom.

Jason Bateman won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series for Netflix’s “Ozark.” Thanking his fellow cast, crew and writers, Bateman gave a shout-out to healthcare workers saying, “I’m sure they would all agree that they biggest thank you goes to the healthcare workers who have tended to us all during this last year, and the miracle work from scientists that have given us the vaccines that are not only going to let us continue making fake life, but most importantly, the real life that we’re all yearning to get back to, so this is dedicated to them — everybody, go get your shot, and let’s get back to normal.”

Gillian Anderson took home the trophy for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for her spot-on turn as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Anderson was nominated up against her co-stars Olivia Colman, who portrays Queen Elizabeth II, and Emma Corrin, who plays Princess Diana.

Jason Sudeikis won for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series for his starring role in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV Plus, bringing the streaming service yet another major win, following the platform’s first SAG Award last year with Jennifer Aniston winning best actress for “The Morning Show.”

Catherine O’Hara won the top television comedy prize for a female actor for her critically-acclaimed role in “Schitt’s Creek,” serving as the final swan song in her impressive farewell tour that has seen her win the Emmy and Golden Globe. “I share this with Annie Murphy,” O’Hara said of her co-star and on-screen daughter, who was also nominated in the category. “I’m flattered anyone thinks I could be her mother.”

Following their wins at the Golden Globes, Mark Ruffalo and Anya Taylor-Joy both won in the television movie/miniseries categories. Ruffalo won for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for his role in “I Know This Much Is True,” using his acceptance speech to speak about mental illness, which is explored in the HBO series. “Mental illness is a real thing and I just think it’s really important that we’re honest and open about it and have no fear and have no shame,” Ruffalo said. Taylor-Joy won for “The Queen’s Gambit,” quipping about the remote show, thanking her fellow actors in the category, which included Kerry Washington and Michaela Coel. “I’m so unbelievably honored to be in this room — even though it’s not a room,” she joked.

This year’s annual SAG Awards was pre-taped and held virtually.

On Sunday night, all presenters — including Mindy Kaling, Rita Moreno and Josh Gad — were featured in highly-produced and well-lit pre-taped monologues. Nominees accepted their awards in pre-taped Zoom meetings that somehow did not leak prior to the ceremony telecast.

“It has been a year of hardship, as well as amazing resilience, and I am so proud of how our community of artists come together, bringing hope and solace to this nation,” said SAG-AFTRA president, Gabrielle Carteris. “The performances we honor tonight are storytelling at its finest — rich, inclusive and representative of our true diversity.”

This year’s Oscars will be held later than ever with the ceremony on April 25. Unlike the remote SAG Awards, the Oscars will be held in-person at multiple locations, limiting the ceremony to nominees, presenters and their guests, adopting the hybrid model seen throughout the pandemic at shows like the Globes and the Emmys, which have received varying critical responses.

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