“CODA,” the emotional drama about the talented daughter of deaf parents looking to make her mark on the world, won the top prize at the 28th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, while “Ted Lasso” was named best TV comedy and “Succession” took the prize for top drama series.
“CODA,” writer/director Sian Heder’s heart-tugging drama film, scored the SAG Award Sunday night for best ensemble cast in a motion picture, the guild’s rough equivalent of the best-picture Oscar.
The film’s co-star, Marlee Matlin, accepted the prize on behalf of the cast, giving full credit to Heder.
“We tip our hat to you,” she said through a sign-language interpreter. “Thank you for writing the words, including deaf culture. We love you. Thank you for directing us. … The interpreters, thank you all the `CODA’ interpreters and all the CODAs (children of deaf adults) everywhere, everywhere all over the world. My kids, four of them are CODAs.”
She also said the film was a testament to the power of deaf performers.
“OK look, you are all our peers. We deaf actors have come a long way. Thirty-five years I have been seeing so much work out there, and all this time I’ve watched all of your films,” she told the crowd at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. “And I pay the deepest respect to all of you. …. This validates the fact that we deaf actors can work just like anybody else. We look forward to more opportunities for deaf actors, deaf culture.”
Matlin’s co-star in the film, Troy Kotsur, became the first deaf actor to win an individual SAG Award, claiming the prize for best supporting actor.
Speaking through a sign-language interpreter, he hailed Apple TV+ for casting actually deaf people in the film, and hailed the overall cast and the work of SAG-AFTRA.
“I’ve been a member since 2001, so now I feel like I’m finally part of the family,” he said. “I know you all are artists and I know that you all know what it’s like to be a starving actor. Back then I used to sleep in my car. I slept in my dressing room backstage. I couch-surfed and all of that. You feel me, right?”
“… Finally, my wife. She is still here with me today. She’s been with me through all these years of struggle. Thank you so much for being my backbone.”
Will Smith won his first SAG Award, collecting the prize for best film actor for his role as Richard Williams, the father of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard.”
“That may have been one of the greatest moments of my career just now, because my name was called for `King Richard’ sitting next to Venus Williams,” Smith said as he took the stage to accept the prize. “Richard Williams is a dreamer like no one you’ve ever known. He has a power of belief that borders on insanity and sometimes tips over the border, which is absolutely necessary to take something from impossible to possible.”
Jessica Chastain was named best actress for her role as the late television evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” It was her first individual SAG Award, following her 2012 win as part of the ensemble cast of the film “The Help.”
“It was a dream of mine to play Tammy Faye,” she said. “She was a real trailblazer … and she wrapped her arms around those who were repeatedly cast aside, and she launched herself into decades of LGBTQ love. And I worked on the project for 10 years, and I hope that we made her story the way she would be proud of.
“I wanted to be an actor my whole life, and ever since I was a kid it was the only thing I really ever thought about,” she said. “And there were years of studying and auditioning and not getting jobs, and I know what that feels like … And so for those of you who are struggling and feeling unseen I just want you to know to keep going because you’re one job away, I promise.”
Ariana DeBose was named best supporting actress for her work as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story.”
“It’s taken a long time for me to feel comfortable calling myself an actor,” she said. “My roots come from the dance world and the Broadway stage. And the Anita that we see on the screen took every bit of me … and I’m extremely proud of her and of our film, and I really do believe that when you recognize one of us, you recognize all of us in a way.”
She hailed Spielberg and her co-stars, calling the film a “labor of love.”
“Thank all of you, all of you staring at me,” she said. “… I have watched so many of you for a very long time. You have inspired me and you continue to do so, and I am just thrilled to be among you, so thank you.”
On the small screen, the Apple TV+ comedy “Ted Lasso” won the prize for outstanding ensemble cast in a comedy series, with Hannah Waddingham excitedly accepting the honor on behalf of the crew from London.
“Oh my gosh. Seriously, even though we’re a complete gaggle of idiots, we are so appreciative,” she said on behalf of the cast. “Thank you so much.”
Jason Sudeikis won his second consecutive SAG Award for best actor in a comedy series for his work in “Ted Lasso.” He thanked Apple TV+ and Warner Bros., while also hailing his comedy past, including his past cohorts at Second City and “Saturday Night Live,” along with “my folks, my family and this chosen family here,” referring to his fellow “Ted Lasso” cast mates.
Jean Smart won her first SAG Award for her work in the HBO series “Hacks.”
“I love actors, nobody gets us,” she said. “But seriously, what we do is valuable. We are the tribe’s storytellers, since man crawled out of a cave and sat around a fire together. And it’s important. So we actually are the world’s oldest profession. Sometimes it feels like we’re the other world’s oldest profession.”
The top TV drama acting prizes both went to the stars of the Netflix Korean smash hit “Squid Game.”
Actor Lee Jung-jae called the win the most “truly huge” thing that has happened to him.
“Thank you to the global audience for all of your love for `Squid Game,”‘ he said through an interpreter. “And thank you `Squid Game’ team. Thank you.”
Jung Ho-yeon of “Squid Game” was named best actress in a drama series, also her first SAG win.
“First and foremost thank you so much,” she said through an interpreter. “I have sat many a time watching you on the big screen dreaming of one day becoming an actor. I just want to say thank you so much.”
With the crowd cheering, she said in English, “Make me dream and open the door for me, and I love you my `Squid Game’ crew.”
But while the two individual prizes went to “Squid Game” performers, the prize for best ensemble cast in a drama went to Emmy winner “Succession.” Star Brian Cox spent much of his acceptance speech on behalf the cast lamenting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s truly, truly awful, really. really awful what’s happening, and it’s particularly awful in terms of the what is affecting the other people, particularly in our profession,” he said. “The president of Ukraine was a comic. He was a wonderful comic performer. … But the thing that’s really distressed me is what’s happening in Russia to my fellow actors and actresses and performers and writers and critics. They are told under pain of high treason that they cannot say a word about Ukraine and I think that is pretty awful. And I think we should all stand together and also for those people, the people in Russia, who don’t like what’s going on. And particularly the artists. And I think we should really join in celebrating them and hoping they can actually make a shift, because I believe they can.”
Kate Winslet was named best actress in a TV movie or limited series for her work in “Mare of Easttown,” while Michael Keaton took the prize for best actor for the miniseries “Dopesick,” about the America opioid epidemic.
Keaton delivered an emotional acceptance speech, punctuated by a tearful tribute to his nephew, Michael, who died of a drug overdose.
“I lost my nephew Michael to drugs, and it hurts,” he said, fighting back tears. “This is for my sister, Pam.”
Keaton said he understands that people can look at Hollywood awards shows and see them as “self-serving” or “narcissistic.”
“It’s a legitimate argument to make,” he said. “But I will tell you, … I am so fortunate, and I mean, … I’m so blessed to do what I do and so fortunate. … I have a job where I can be part of a production like `Dopesick’ … that actually can spawn thought, conversation, actual change. Who gets to have that job? Seriously, how fortunate am I that good can come from something that I do just because I learned to become an actor.”
The SAG Awards marked the first major trophy announcements of the 2022 Hollywood awards season, following the tarnished Golden Globes’ non- televised, private ceremony in January.
With actors making up the biggest block of voters for the Academy Awards, the SAG Awards also are seen as a bellwether of Oscar night, which takes place March 27.