SAG Awards 2017: Acceptance Speeches Turn Pointedly Political

Any doubts that Hollywood would take sharp aim at President Trump’s immigration order were swiftly vanquished at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night. Amid upsets, winner after winner lashed out at the policy, pleaded for acceptance of differences in a bitterly divided time and, in the case of the cast of “Stranger Things,” adopted the stance of political firebrands.
Denzel, 62, couldn't believe he won. (Net photos)
Denzel, 62, couldn't believe he won. (Net photos)

Any doubts that Hollywood would take sharp aim at President Trump’s immigration order were swiftly vanquished at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night. Amid upsets, winner after winner lashed out at the policy, pleaded for acceptance of differences in a bitterly divided time and, in the case of the cast of “Stranger Things,” adopted the stance of political firebrands.

“We will get past the lies, we will hunt monsters,” said David Harbour, a cast member of the Netflix series, which won for best television drama, as the audience roared its approval. “And when we are lost amid the hypocrisy and casual violence, we will punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the weak and the disenfranchised and the marginalized.”

The political defiance dominating the night almost overshadowed the upset wins: “Hidden Figures” picked up best film ensemble over “Moonlight,” and Denzel Washington, the star of “Fences,” won best actor over Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea.” The Screen Actors Guild Awards are heavily predictive of Oscar wins, and actors make up the biggest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which doles out those prizes next month.

But in a weekend when the eyes of the world were fixed on the immigration order and widespread resistance to it, Hollywood was clearly primed to sound off.

The awards, which were held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, opened with Ashton Kutcher welcoming viewers and “everyone in airports that belong in my America. You are a part of the fabric of who we are. And we love you, and we welcome you.”

The mantle was quickly picked up by the night’s first winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (best actress in a comedy series for “Veep”).

“My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France,” Ms. Dreyfus said. “I’m an American patriot. And I love this country, and because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish, and it is un-American.”

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Mahershala Ali won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for his role in Moonlight

Mahershala Ali, who won the award for best supporting film actor, made a heartfelt speech that touched on his experiences playing Juan in “Moonlight” and detailed how he bridged religious differences with his mother after he converted to Islam 17 years ago.

“What I’ve learned from working on ‘Moonlight’ is, we see what happens when you persecute people,” Mr. Ali said, referring to the story of a gay black boy growing up in poverty in Miami. “They fold into themselves. And what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was, playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered and that he was O.K. and accept him and, uh — I hope that we do a better job of that,” he said, to applause.

“You know, when we kind of get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different, I think there’s two ways of seeing that,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique.”

“And then there’s an opportunity to go to war about it, and to say that that person is different than me, and I don’t like you, so let’s battle,” he continued. “My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do back flips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, we put things to the side, and I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me — we love each other, the love has grown, and that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”

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Taraji gave a very impassioned speech

Viola Davis, who won the award for best supporting actress for her performance in “Fences,” stood out for not taking a jab at the ban — because virtually every other winner did.

Mr. Washington, accepting his award, called for a more empathetic society. Emma Stone, who won best actress in a feature for her performance in “La La Land,” ended her speech with, “Things are very inexcusable and scary and need action. I’m so grateful to be part of a group of people that cares.” Sarah Paulson, who won for best actress in a television mini-series, for “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” urged people to donate to the A.C.L.U.

Lily Tomlin, who won a lifetime achievement award, said, “The Doomsday Clock has been moved to two and a half minutes before midnight. And this award came just in the nick of time.” She later added, “What sign should I make for the next march? So much to do.”

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The entire cast of Orange Is The New Black accepted Ensemble in a Comedy Series for the third consecutive year

Bryan Cranston, winning best actor in a television movie for his performance as Lyndon B. Johnson in “All the Way,” said he was often asked what that president would think about Mr. Trump. “I honestly feel that 36 would put his arm around 45 and earnestly wish him success,” Mr. Cranston said. “And he would also whisper in his ear something he said often, as a form of encouragement and a cautionary tale: ‘Just don’t piss in the soup that all of us got to eat.’”

And Taraji P. Henson, who starred in the night’s big winner, “Hidden Figures,” noted that the film was about unity, and she praised the real-life women the movie was based on for focusing on solutions. “When we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win, love wins. Every time.”

 

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