Hollywood’s acting community provided a stark contrast to the all-white acting nominees in this year’s Oscar race with Saturday’s 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards. Idris Elba collected two solo Actor statuettes, sharing the night’s honors with other black performers Queen Latifah, Viola Davis, and Uzo Aduba.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV,” said Elba, who came up to present after winning trophies for his work in the Netflix film Beasts of No Nation — which many felt was unjustly overlooked at the Academy Award nominations — and BBC TV show Luther, and right after Viola Davis won her third career SAG Award for her role in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder.
Davis, a two-time Academy Award nominee, addressed the issue in the pressroom backstage. “I think people should do what they want to do [about boycotting] the Oscars, but more importantly when they walk into a theater they need to be open to the experience of the story. I think sometimes people feel stories about people of color aren’t inclusive. They’re very much inclusive.”
Aduba scored her second win for the Female Actor in a Comedy Series category for her role as Crazy Eyes in Orange Is the New Black; she returned to the stage when OITNB won its second SAG Award for Ensemble in a Comedy Series. Accepting on behalf of the cast, OITNB’s Laura Prepon pointedly said that the Netflix show’s ethnically diverse, mostly female cast “is what we talk about when we talk about diversity.”
Latifah also reference the hot topic of diversity in her acceptance speech for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for her role as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith on HBO’s Bessie. “Thank you, my compadres, brothers, and sisters in the struggle,” she said. Once backstage, she expanded on the issue: “The public has to continue to demand [diversity]. We’re in a capitalist society, so hopefully supply and demand will kick back in. Hopefully our business will continue to supply the demand the people are asking for … I hope we wake up and realize the old way of doing things is the old way and it’s OK to evolve … change is inevitable.”
The night’s wins even had observers tweeting a hashtag in response to #OscarsSoWhite. Yes, #SAGsSoBlack became a welcome trending topic during the ceremony.