Unlike the Golden Globes and Critics’ Awards, the SAG Awards do not have a tendency to celebrate new programs and performances. Out of the 31 nominees in the comedy and drama categories 23 are repeat nominees from last year, leaving only 8 opportunities for new shows to be recognized. Of these eight open slots, four were because of the end of shows like Boardwalk Empire and cast changes in True Detective. Because SAG has no shame in repeat nominees and name-checking viewers might experience a good amount of déjà vu on Saturday.
All five nominees in the ensemble in a drama series race (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, and Mad Men) have been nominated in the past. Mad Men and Downton Abbey have both won this award twice in the past and one of them could easily win for a third time. The cast of Mad Men will easily win votes for its final season but that did not help it win the Emmy race earlier last year where it lost to Game of Thrones. The HBO fantasty has the biggest cast and is the most popular of the nominees it’s hard to see SAG voters awarding a fantasy show when they have been so reluctant to in the past. Actors have notoriously snubbed genre shows of wins in the past but the show might be too big for voters to ignore now. Being a couple years into the SAG-AFTRA merge does not hurt either.
In the individual acting categories the voting members of SAG tend to go with well-respected performers that are also a part of a nominated ensemble (as have the past eight drama actor winners). Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) are all nominated twice because of their individual and ensemble nominations while Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) are the only nominations for their shows this year. Jon Hamm has yet to win an individual SAG award and he is currently on a winning streak having recently won his first Emmy and first televised Golden Globe. Voters could easily go with the Oscar winner of the group (and last year’s winner), Kevin Spacey.
Unlike other categories, SAG voters have spread the wealth over the years having already awarded four out of five of this year’s nominees. and throughout that time four of this year’s nominees; Claire Danes (Homeland), Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), and Dame Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). Robin Wright (House of Cards) is the only nominee who has yet to win a SAG award. Usually an actress stands out in this category because she is part of a nominated ensemble and is a well-established respected actress in Hollywood, however this doesn’t narrow down the group at all. Four of the nominees are also nominated with their show’s ensemble and all five nominees have been well known for decades. When in doubt the easiest prediction to make is to simply go with the winner from the previous year, Viola Davis who has never lost a peer voted award for her role on How to Get Away With Murder.
The only categories that have any new nominees (without being forced to) are the comedy races. In the ensemble race Brooklyn Nine-Nine was left out after only one nomination and replaced with Transparent and Key and Peele. The four returning nominees are The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Orange Is the New Black, and Veep. Some ensembles stand out because of their sheer size and no other ensemble is larger than Orange is the New Black. SAG, one of the most diverse guilds in the industry, loves to award shows that reflect that. No other nominated ensemble has a more diverse cast in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and age. On top of all that voters have already proven that they love the show, awarding it to win both awards it was nominated for last year.
SAG voters’ love for veteran actors will probably be reflected in their winners for best male and female actor in a comedy. Jeffrey Tambor (Trasparent) is probably the most respected actor in a category that includes past winners and nominees like Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Louis CK (Louie), William H. Macy (Shameless), and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory). Tambor is only helped by the fact that Transprent is loved and respected enough throughout the industry. The support for other shows is also clearly diminishing as we have seen their support diminish here at SAG as well as at the Emmys. In a similar situation, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) is the most respected comedic actress currently on television and SAG members are bound to vote for her off of name alone. Her main competition is last year’s winner Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) who has yet to lose a peer voted award for her performance as Suzanne. The other nominees are Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation).
The miniseries/TV movie races tend to be an award for the most famous film actors working in television. Over the past couple years the winners have included Mark Ruffalo, Kate Winslet, Michael Douglas, Julianne Moore, Kevin Costner, and Helen Mirren. Over the past ten years 19 of the past 20 winners have been the stars of prestigious HBO projects. This is great news for Queen Latifah who is also a previous winner in the category. Her competition includes Nicole Kidman (Grace of Monaco), Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles), Susan Sarandon (The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe), and Kristen Wiig (The Spoils Before Dying). Kidman and Sarandon are well respected actresses that are also Oscar winners but their projects are nowhere near as respected as Latifah’s Bessie.
The actor race is filled with well-respected actors that aren’t from HBO projects; Idris Elba (Luther), Ben Kingsley (Tut), Ray Liotta (Texas Rising), Bill Murray (A Very Murray Christmas), and Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall). This is the second category where Elba and Rylance are both nominated this year and there is a good chance both could go home winners on Saturday. Rylance is more likely to win in the miniseries/TV category. In the past, performances from period pieces and stage adaptations have done well in this category and Mark Rylance fits this bill. The only question is whether he is well known enough to amongst SAG voters. There is a chance that Elba and Rylance could split the vote and make room for a dark horse contender to win. Ben Kingsley is bound to receive votes off of name recognition alone. Sir Ben Kingsley also stands out for playing an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.
Over the years we have seen just about everyone of this year’s nominees accept a major awards from a SAG award to the Emmys and even the Golden Globes and Critics Choice. There will probably not be a single fresh face at the podium during the entire television portion of the SAG awards unless Ellie Kemper, Christina Ricci, or Key and Peele win in their respected categories, however this doesn’t mean there can’t be surprises. Maybe SAG voters will want to recognize Amy Poehler or Edie Falco for their final seasons or Bob Odenkirk and Rami Malek for their freshman seasons. My official predictions are below. Who are you predicting at the SAG awards this year and who would you love to see win? Is anyone being grossly underestimated?
Prediction: Orange is the New Black
Dark Horse: Veep
Comedy Male Actor
Prediction: Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
Dark Horse: William H Macy (Shameless)
Comedy Female Actor
Prediction: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Dark Horse: Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black)
Prediction: Mad Men
Dark Horse: Game of Thrones / Downton Abbey
Drama Male Actor
Prediction: Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Dark Horse: Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Drama Female Actor
Prediction: Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder)
Dark Horse: Robin Wright (House of Cards)
TV Movie/Miniseries Male Actor
Prediction: Sir Ben Kingsley (Tut)
Dark Horse: Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall)
TV Movie/Miniseries Female Actor
Prediction: Queen Latifah (Bessie)
Dark Horse: Susan Sarandon (The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe)