The 25th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations were announced last week and per usual the actors produced a couple of major surprises. 2018 ended up being a huge year for Netflix with shows like Ozark and The Kominsky Method singled out in a major way while former favorites were shockingly left out like Westworld and Black-ish.
Because of the guilds size and voting methods SAG has a strong history of being one of the best Emmy predictors. In fact there was a time when every nominee was guaranteed to go on to the Emmys year after year. However in the past couple years there has been a major shift that can probably be traced to the SAG-AFTRA merger. Last year a noticeably large group of SAG nominees were forgotten by Emmy voters – most notably GLOW’s Alison Brie and Marc Maron as well as Uzo Aduba, Sean Hayes, Jane Fonda, and Laura Linney. On top of that after This Is Us won the drama ensemble award it was mostly ignored at the Emmys. This year will be interesting to watch to gauge whether or not that year was an anomaly or if SAG voters are quickly becoming a more detached group.
So why are the SAG nominations changing so quickly and not necessarily lining up with the Emmys and other guild groups? SAG-AFTRA is a massive guild with members all across the country many of which aren’t influenced at all by massive awards campaigns that are LA based. On top of that a lot of voters that came from AFTRA aren’t really in the TV industry in the same way. So with such a wide-spread group the most accessible shows are dominating but that doesn’t necessarily mean what it used to. The most accessible networks used to be on broadcast television but this year those shows were mostly shutout. Now the most accessible and widely consumed programming clearly comes from Netflix. Families across the country all have accounts to the groundbreaking streaming service and for the second year in a row its shows have reigned supreme with voters from The Kominsky Method and Ozark to Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and the cast of GLOW.
With four SAG nominations Ozark is above and beyond the biggest surprise coming out of the SAG nominations. Building off of last year’s nominations for Jason Bateman and Laura Linney the crime drama was also nominated for its ensemble as well as Julia Garner. The drama is clearly a sleeper hit with audiences, so much so that a supporting performance from a lesser-known name was able to beat out huge competition from the likes of Julia Roberts, Keri Russell, Thandie Newton. With strong support from actors and a WGA nomination for episodic drama Ozark is quickly becoming a major Emmy contender next year.
Speaking of the WGA there are three dramas that were singled out in the top category by both actors and writers: The Americans, Better Call Saul, and The Handmaid’s Tale. The support for The Handmaid’s Tale comes as no surprise although the individual nominations for both Elisabeth Moss and especially Joseph Fiennes are hints that the show is still incredibly well-regarded even after leaving the Emmys empty handed. The ensemble nomination for the fourth season of Better Call Saul is a big deal because prior to this the show was mostly recognized for Bob Odenkirk. As Better Call Saul grows into its own and loses any sort of stigma of being a Breaking Bad sequel it will be interesting to see if it racks up even more Emmy nominations.
In terms of snubs the only major drama to be completely forgotten by SAG voters was the second season of Westworld. So far the HBO robot drama has been completely shutout of the guild awards which is not good sign since the first season was collecting an endless amount of guild support. The second season went through a drastic sophomore slump and was heavily criticized for being convoluted. The fact that actors didn’t even nominate Emmy winner Thandie Newton is a sign that most have completely given up on the show.
This year all five nominated comedy ensembles were related to the entertainment industry in one way or another. Both Barry and The Kominsky Method prominently feature an aging Hollywood acting coach. GLOW is the true story of a group of actresses and B movie director as they put together a televised wresting show in 80s LA. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is centered in the world of stand-up comedy. Even Atlanta depicts the rise of an up-and-coming rapper.
All five ensemble nominees were some of the most talked about comedies of the year so their recognition isn’t much of a surprise but it’s interesting to see how limited the actors branch has become in their taste. Broadcast sitcoms were completely snubbed in all three comedy categories for the first time in the history of the SAG awards. Repeat winners like Orange Is The New Black and William H. Macy were forgotten for the first time in years.
Both featuring Hollywood icons as aging acting coaches, The Kominsky Method and Barry are shaping up to be the big comedy story of the year. Time and time again the shows and their stars are nominated alongside each other. At the SAG awards the male actor race is filled with these two shows with Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Alan Arkin, and Michael Douglas all nominated. While all four men are beloved in their own right it will be interesting to see if Michael Douglas’s status as a Hollywood legend will help him standout.
Last year The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiered right as SAG voters were filling out their ballots and wasn’t widely known enough to breakthrough. This year the Emmy winning series broke into the SAG awards in a major way with four SAG nominations for series, Brosnahan, Shaloub, and Borstein. Supporting performances tend to have a hard time being recognized by SAG so the fact that two were singled out is a big deal for the Emmy winning series proving that its popularity was not a fluke.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace continued its 2018 awards run with SAG nominations for Darren Criss and Penelope Cruz. The only other nominated performance from the first half of the year was Antonio Banderas for his portrayal of Picasso in the second installment of Genius. The rest of the nominated performances came from the second half of the year and gave a leg up for the crowded Emmy race later in 2019.
Sharp Objects has proven to be popular with two nominations for Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson. Both actresses have shown up now at SAG, the Golden Globes, and the Critics’ Choice awards cementing their early status as the Emmy front runners. Patricia Arquette was also nominated by her peers adding to her career best narrative. As Escape at Dannemora continues to grow in ratings it will be interesting to see if Arquette is able to pull off an upset wit SAG voters or at the Golden Globes.
After being completely shutout by the HFPA Maniac seems to be doing well with guild voters. Emma Stone was singled out by SAG voters and the series earned a WGA nomination. Audiences have been divided over the Netflix limited series but at the very least Stone seems to be on her way to an Emmy nomination especially after an added boost from Oscar season. Jonah Hill on the other hand has been shutout by every major awards group both for Maniac as well as his directorial debut Mid 90s.
Hugh Grant was singled out by SAG voters for A Very English Scandal and the continued popularity of the show has helped it pop up at nearly every winter awards group. Voters are easily won over by British TV most notably with the recent success of Black Mirror, Sherlock, and The Hour. The surprise success of A Very English Scandal might be a signal that Hugh Grant is a strong Emmy contender especially as he continues to receive critical acclaim for Paddington 2 and other recent film projects.
Readers, what are your takeaways from the 2019 SAG nominations? Have you noticed a change over the past couple of years? What do you think these nominations and snubs mean for next year’s Emmys?