The 23rd Annual Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) Awards was a true game-changer for Black actors in Hollywood, leaving fans all over the world in awe of what it looked like for successful Black actors to be rewarded for portraying thought-provoking, chilling, and often heroic roles.
After a SAG nominations’ ceremony that revealed Black actors being nominated for their individual or cast ensemble roles in almost every major category, viewers were waiting at the edge of their seats and the tips of their fingers to see if we’d actually snag the wins.
Well, the thought of a “clean sweep” of sorts became reality when famed actor Denzel Washington snagged the male category for Best Actor in “Fences”, while his co-star Viola Davis won for Outstanding Actress in the film, earning her a rightful position as the first woman of color to gain five overall wins at the SAG Awards.
Actor Mahershala Ali also left with a win for his role in the telling tale of self-discovery in “Moonlight”, awarded for Outstanding Supporting Actor in the male category.
The same-day saga continued as the entire cast of “Hidden Figures” earned the night’s top award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Actress Taraji P. Henson stated with ultimate fervor just how much the win meant not only for the cast, but also for the women whose stories were finally told.
“This film is about unity,” Henson stated. “The shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars. This story is about what happens when we put our difference aside and we come together as a human race. They are hidden figures no more!” Henson declared.
It can be said that for this year’s award season, the success of Black films is directly attributed to the type of content produced. Each film resonated as a perpetual “wrecking ball” to the traditionally more downtrodden, inferior, or antagonistic characters subconsciously expected of Black actors.
Aldis Hodge, who stars alongside the female-led cast of “Hidden Figures”, shared with the Sentinel some very poignant statements on representation with reward. “In terms of Hollywood, I think a few of the keys are that you can no longer say that women don’t lead films well, you can no longer say that Black people don’t lead films well, and you can no longer say that films about hope and education cannot crossover commercially in big numbers,” Hodge proclaimed.
Hodge further expressed his sentiments on what it takes to turn the tide of socioeconomic deformity in America and the role the film played in changing our direction as a people. “In terms of the film as a representation to the nation, I think the nation has already spoken on that, because you have people who are dealing with a time that’s not far removed from where we are today, and you have sexism, racism, classism, and people have to supersede all of those issues in order for a us to come together as a nation to create and accomplish something great,” he continued.
For actress Danielle Brooks of “Orange is the New Black” (OITNB), she explains how her role as a woman who’s been incarcerated and in foster care for most of her life is able to reach communities of people enduring the same conflicts in real life.
“I just worked with a group called A Sense of Home, where ex-foster youth help new foster youth build their new homes. So I worked with them, and it really put it back in perspective for me why we do it,” Brooks stated. “That’s why I do it, it’s for people who feel like their voice isn’t heard,” she continued. Brooks went on to take one of many statuettes issued to OITNB for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
Overall, the 23rd Annual SAG Awards brought to light Black stories of time, history and self-reflection that were once dimmed. More importantly, Black actors were rightfully awarded and celebrated for their gifts.