By Debra Birnbaum, Kristopher Tapley, Variety
The 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild went as expected — it’s an organization that has a habit of rewarding frontrunners and repeat winners, after all. So it came as little surprise that Emma Stone and Viola Davis took home trophies.
But the voters did manage to keep things interesting, with a few notable curveballs.
SURPRISE: Denzel Washington, Fences
Casey Affleck had completely dominated the circuit leading into the night. But in the end it was Fences star Denzel Washington, winning his first-ever SAG award, who shocked in the best actor field. Only four times has the best actor Oscar gone a different direction from SAG, and the last time was 13 years ago. We officially have an exciting race here.
SURPRISE: Hidden Figures
The smart money was on Moonlight to claim the film ensemble prize, particularly as it’s seemingly been La La Land’s biggest competition for best picture all season long. But in the end, SAG pulled a fast one, honoring the cast of Hidden Figures and giving the film a wonderful opportunity to make its case for the industry’s top honor. Taraji P. Henson’s speech, part and parcel of a whole night’s worth of politically leaning sentiments, not doubt earned the film a ton of votes.
SURPRISE: Stranger Things
The retro thriller’s win was the upset of the night. Not only did the Netflix sleeper hit end Downton Abbey’s two-year long reign at the SAG Awards, but it also triumphed over Emmy champion Game of Thrones. With “Game out of contention this year, the kids certainly now have the momentum.
SURPRISE: William H. Macy, Shameless
Even William H. Macy acknowledged he was shocked when his name was called over two-time reigning champ Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent). As we said in our predictions, there’s usually nothing SAG likes more than a repeat winner. But Macy’s Frank Gallagher on the Showtime dramedy does have his charms.
SURPRISE: Bryan Cranston, All the Way
To be sure, Bryan Cranston delivered a bravura performance as Lyndon B. Johnson in HBO’s gripping biopic — the role earned him a Tony as well. But like the lawyer he played on FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, Emmy winner Courtney B. Vance was widely expected to win here, too.
SNUB: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Affleck has won 37 prizes on the critics awards circuit for his performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s film, a staggering amount of recognition. But critics aren’t actors, and the actors had someone else in mind. Granted, Denzel Washington had never been honored by the guild and it was high time, but this keeps things interesting.
HBO’s new sci-fi drama entered the night with a list-topping three nominations, but went home empty-handed. (And Game of Thrones, which also had three noms, had to settle for a stunt ensemble trophy.) The SAG voters just don’t like genre…. except when it comes in a ’80s package.
SNUB: Downton Abbey
The two-time winner for best drama ensemble was finally dethroned in its final season by those plucky kids from Stranger Things. Thanks for the memories, Grantham family.