With all the controversy of the whitewashing of Hollywood and most notably, the 2016 Oscars, it was guaranteed that #OscarsSoWhite was going to be a heavy topic on and off the red carpet at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG).
The statement of diversity was made at the SAG Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2016, after actors of a different race, color, creed and sexual orientation went home with a SAG “Actor” trophy.
The SAG Awards is a peer based award show and this year, one hundred and sixteen thousand, seven hundred and forty-one members of SAG-AFTRA voted for their peers. The show brings the brightest stars of film and television together once a year for a chance for actors to mingle with friends and colleagues all while recognizing outstanding achievements by their fellow actors. Noted, the selection process of who would be nominated began six weeks before the chaotic announcement of Oscar nominations.
‘Mad Men’ actress Sola Bamis was nominated along with her cast for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series and during her red carpet strut; Bamis shared what being actress meant to her and her views on #OscarsSoWhite.
“Being an actress means, being able to use my talents and to give voice to the things that are important to me. I feel like inclusion of all kinds is important and anything that I can do to give off a message to let the world know that every single human being, no matter what color they are, no matter what religion they are and no matter what sexual orientation they are. They are important. They have a story, they have a journey and we should all see that in our media. That should all be represented. Whatever I can do to get that message out, that is what I am here for.”
In regards to, #OscarsSoWhite, Bamis continued, “I think it is a reflection of the times. We live in a world that hasn’t fully embraced inclusion of all cultures, of all backgrounds and it is reflected in #OscarsSoWhite. Not only are Oscars so white, a lot of our best public schools in the country are white, the executive board rooms are white; we have a long way to go in a lot of different institutions and in a lot of different ways. So, if we can start the conversation here, hopefully we can start the conversation in other places. It is very important.”
Actor Idris Elba had three nominations under his belt and celebrated a double win during the annual ceremony. He accepted the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for “Beasts of No Nation,” in addition to winning Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for BBC’s ‘Luther’.
Elba’s win is not only deserving, but historical. With all the talk of Hollywood and the Oscars being “all-White”, the 43-year-old became not only the first male to take home two SAG “Actor” trophies in one night, but the first Black male actor as well.
When Elba took to the stage for a third time, as a presenter, he briefly summed up the night in seven words and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV!”
Following his win, were the vast and diverse cast of, “Orange is the New Black” for An Ensemble in a Comedy Series; Queen Latifah in “Bessie,” for a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries; Viola Davis in “How to Get Away with Murder,” for a Female Actor in a Drama Series; Uzo Aduba in “Orange is the New Black,” for a Female Actor in a Comedy Series; Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant” for a Male Actor in a Leading Role; and break out star, Alicia Vikander for her supporting role in the movie “The Danish Girl,” just to name a few.
After the cast of “Orange is the New Black” won their respective category, they were flooded with questions regarding diversity in the press room.
In response, actress Lea DeLaria said, “I just wanted to say, as someone who has been out as long as I have been out, doing the work that I have done for over 30 years, being this individual, what is exciting to me is that we are even having this conversation; because I can tell you that five years ago, we would not have been having this conversation, even as recently as five years ago. So that we are even having this conversation, is a win for the good guys.”
Even “How to Get Away with Murder” star Viola Davis shared her thoughts on the highlighted topic of inclusion in Hollywood.
“We have become a society of trending topics. Diversity is not a trending topic; it’s just not. I have always considered myself an actor since I have received my equity card in 1988. I have never put any limitations on myself. I see myself as an actor,” Davis said. “No matter what is going on in the business, I will find a way to practice my art and all of the actors of color that I know don’t place any limitations on themselves either. So, regardless of what is going on within the Academy, regardless of what is going on in Hollywood, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have, and we always will.”
In the wake of the Oscars talk, this year’s SAG Awards proved that diversity reigns. At this rate, let’s see if the discussion about diversity in Hollywood will continue once awards season is over.