LOS ANGELES — “La La Land” may be the top Oscar contender, but “Hidden Figures” — the story of three black women who overcome 1960s racial divides to play a critical scientific role in launching the nation’s space program — has more momentum after claiming the top prize at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Jan. 29.
The “Hidden Figures” win during ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium likely won’t bump “La La Land” from the perch of Oscar front-runner, but it definitely put the film in the conversation. The victory was an upset of sorts over Golden Globe winner “Manchester by the Sea,” which had a leading four nominations going into the night but won none.
“This film is about unity,” actress Taraji P. Henson said while accepting the ensemble award for “Hidden Figures.”
“We stand here as proud actors thanking every member of this incredible guild for voting for us, for recognizing our hard work. But the shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson. Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars. These women did not complain about the problems, their circumstances, you know, the issues. We know what was going on in that era.
“They didn’t complain. They focused on solutions. Therefore these brave women helped put men into space. … This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside. When we come together as a human race, we win. Love wins every time.”
“La La Land” wasn’t even nominated by SAG for the ensemble film cast prize — the guild’s equivalent of a best-picture honor. The film has already won Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards, the top prize from the Producers Guild of America and a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations.
It did, however, win a best actress prize for Emma Stone. Denzel Washington was named best actor for his work in “Fences,” while his co-star, Viola Davis, won for best supporting actress and Mahershala Ali was named best supporting actor for the coming-of-age film “Moonlight.”
For Washington, the win was surprisingly his first career Screen Actors Guild Award, although he was a four-time prior nominee. Washington praised the film’s crew and gave kudos to his fellow cast members who don’t always get proper recognition.
“We’re just actors, you know,” he said. “I’m famous and all that kind of stuff but I have the same fear opening night, the first preview, that anybody else has. We all have the same job.”
He gave particular praise to end his speech, saying, “One last thing — to Viola Davis,” holding his award toward her.
Davis’ win was her second career SAG Award for her film work, having won for best actress for “The Help.” She also won twice previously for her work on the ABC series “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Davis, considered a heavy favorite to win the supporting-actress Oscar, heaped praise on the work of playwright Wilson, who died in 2005.
“He honored the average man who happened to be a man of color,” Davis told the crowd. “He elevated my father, my mother, my uncles, who had eighth- and fifth-grade educations, and he encapsulated them in history. So thank you, August.”
For Stone, her best-actress win was her first individual SAG Award. She won previously as part of the ensemble casts of “Birdman” and “The Help.”
She said she often suffers from insecurity, and “feeling like I could deserve anything like this requires a little mental gymnastics for me.”
“To get to be a part, even a tiny, tiny part of a group of people that cares about reflecting society and bringing people joy and making them laugh and giving people hope, maybe, … just we’re in a really tricky time in the world in our country and things are very inexcusable and scary and need action and I’m so grateful to be part of a group of people that cares and wants to reflect things back to society,” Stone said.
Ali gave one of the night’s more poignant acceptance speeches while collecting his supporting actor prize for “Moonlight.”
“What I’ve learned from working on ‘Moonlight’ is we see what happens when we persecute people — they fold into themselves,” Ali said. “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, that he was OK and accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.”
On the television side of the awards, the freshman Netflix series “Stranger Things” won for best ensemble in a drama series. Actor David Harbour earned cheers from the crowd for a rousing political speech noting that the fact “great acting can change the world is a call to arms … to go deeper and battle against fear.” Speaking breathlessly as the audience cheered, he said the cast of the show “will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no homes.”
Claire Foy and John Lithgow both took home SAG Awards for their dramatic series leading roles as Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill in Netflix’s “The Crown.” Foy previously won a Golden Globe for her work in the series, but it was her first SAG honor.
Lithgow’s win was his first for a drama series, although he won twice for his leading role in the comedy “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
Lithgow noted that the SAG Awards are about actors honoring actors, and he praised his fellow nominees in the category. He added that “a great” actress “somehow managed to speak my exact thoughts three weeks ago in another awards ceremony and that’s Meryl Streep,” referring to her much-publicized anti-Trump speech at the Golden Globe Awards, which drew the retort from Trump that she is “over-rated.”
“Orange Is the New Black,” meanwhile, won its third consecutive SAG Award for outstanding ensemble cast of a comedy series. Lead actress Taylor Schilling spoke on behalf of the cast, praising the company’s diversity and the fact it is made up of performers from immigrant families from across the globe.
“We stand up here representing a diverse group of people … representing generations of families that have sought a better life here,” she said. “And we know that it’s going to be up to us and all of you … to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that seek to divide us.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the prize for best actress in a comedy series for her work in “Veep.” It was her second win for her role in the series. She also won the award twice for her work in “Seinfeld.”
Her acceptance speech was targeted solely at Trump, calling his immigration executive order a “blemish” on the country. She also poked fun at Trump’s focus on attendance at his inauguration and allegations of voter fraud.
“I look out on the million or probably million and a half people in this room and say this award is legitimate and I won,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “I’m the winner. The winner is me. Landslide.”
William H. Macy, meanwhile, was named best actor in a comedy for his work in Showtime’s “Shameless.” It was his second award for his work in the show, having taken home the prize in 2015.
“I’m shocked. I’m probably not as shocked as Jeffrey [Tambor], but I’m pretty shocked,” Macy joked, poking fun at his fellow nominee and last year’s winner for “Transparent.”
“But I’m pretty shocked,” he said. “I love being an actor. I love being in this room. … If you ever get a chance to work for Showtime, do it. If you ever get a chance to work with my cast, do it.”
Sarah Paulson won the award for best actress in a TV movie or miniseries for her portrayal of prosecutor Marcia Clark in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
Bryan Cranston was named best actor in a TV movie or miniseries for “All the Way,” for his portrayal of Lyndon Johnson in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Mel Gibson’s war film “Hacksaw Ridge” picked up the award for outstanding action by a stunt ensemble in a motion picture — an award announced prior to the main awards show — beating out “Captain America: Civil War,” “Doctor Strange,” “Jason Bourne” and “Nocturnal Animals.”
“Game of Thrones” was the winner among television stunt teams, competing against ensembles from Marvel’s “Daredevil,” Marvel’s “Luke Cage,” “The Walking Dead” and “Westworld.”