It was on the SAG Awards stage in 2009 where winner Meryl Streep exclaimed about her Doubt co-star, fellow nominee Viola Davis, “My God, somebody give her a movie.” Three years later Davis won a SAG Award for Help but never got the true showy starring vehicle Streep was lobbying for until ABC drama pilot How To Get Away With Murder came along. This morning, Davis kicked off her awards run for the breakout hit series with a lead actress in a drama series nomination.
It was a rare feat for a freshman series. There’s a tremendous amount of inertia among SAG Award voters who tend to stick with favorites (Alec Baldwin, Edie Falco, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Smith, Jessica Lange) and neglect newcomers. Shows like Homeland and Orange Is The New Black failed to land a single SAG nomination for their first seasons. Add to the list this year’s snubs — acclaimed Amazon comedy Transparent and breakout star Gina Rodriguez of Jane The Virgin, Showtime’s The Affair. The SAG Awards today rectified last year’s shutout of Orange and the omission of Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany and gave a surprise first nom to sophomore Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
HTGAWM became the first freshman series to get a SAG nomination since Patrick J. Adams landed a surprise first (and only) nom for Suits in 2011. For a new fall series, we have to go back five years to 2009 when Julianna Margulies received a nomination two and a half months into the freshman season of CBS’ The Good Wife. Margulies won that time, something that Davis has a very good chance of repeating.
Davis is facing more competition as the drama actress field has been expanded to six this year. It features a surprising number of first-timers (for SAG Awards standards) — Davis and two leading ladies that were snubbed last year —Orphan Black‘s Maslany and House Of Cards’ Robin Wright. After being surprisingly left out last year for the first time after The Good Wife‘s launch, Margulies, tied with Baldwin for most Actor wins, 8, is back in contention. This year’s winner in the category, Downton Abbey‘s Maggie Smith, extended her streak, landing a nomination for every season of the show (she started in the longform category). Rounding out the field is last year’s winner, Homeland‘s Claire Danes. Left out were a SAG Awards favorite, Jessica Lange, who has been a fixture in the category since the launch of American Horror Story, and Davis’ fellow ABC Shondaland Thursday star, Scandal‘s Kerry Washington, who broke into the field last year.
No major surprises in the actor in a drama series category. True Detective‘s Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson got nominations alongside returning favorites Buscemi, Peter Dinklage and Kevin Spacey. With this year’s winner, Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston who upset McConaughey at the Emmys, no longer in contention, McConaughey appears primed for repeating as a SAG Award winner. (He won for Dallas Buyers Club in January en route to an Oscar.)
While both McConaughey and Harrelson landed noms, the buzzed about HBO drama did not make the cut in the top drama ensemble category, underscoring the show’s perception as a showcase for the two actors. Two other HBO series, Boardwalk Empire and Game Of Thrones, did, as the drama ensemble field remained virtually unchanged from last year, with House Of Cards taking the spot of the departed (and 2014 winner) Breaking Bad. The other four nominees remained the same, GOT, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland and 2013 winner Downton Abbey.
Buscemi and Boardwalk Empire completed their perfect run, landing best drama actor and ensemble noms for all five seasons (and winning both the first time, in 2011.) Meanwhile, soon-to-depart AMC drama Mad Men, winner for best ensemble in 2009 and 2010, was shut out completely for a second straight year. And the SAG Awards are yet to recognize Showtime dramas Ray Donovan and Masters Of Sex and FX’s The Americans. (FX boss John Landgraf used the series’ Matthew Rhys as an example of actors who get hurt by what he called an unfair competition in the drama acting category from movie stars like McConaughey and Harrelson who only commit to a limited run.)
It is hard to believe, but The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons, who has been dominating the Emmys, is yet to win a SAG Award as the comedy actor category had been dominated by Baldwin who won seven consecutive times until this past January when Emmy winner Ty Burrell landed the first individual win for Modern Family. Burrell and Parsons are back, joined by Burrell’s fellow Modern Family co-star and Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet, Louie‘s Louis CK and Shameless‘ William H. Macy.
Despite the controversy surrpounding Showtime’s decision earlier this year to move Shameless from the drama to the comedy field, it has resulted in two major nominations for Macy, at the Emmys and now the SAG Awards, his first for the dramedy. While Macy made inroads, fellow Showtime star Don Cheadle, who earned his first SAG Award nomination for House Of Lies last year, was left out.
Like Shameless, Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black is having better awards luck submitted as a comedy vs drama as it did until the Emmys last season. Emmy-winning co-star Uzo Aduba landed a comedy actress nomination (but not star Taylor Schilling), and the show is nominated for best comedy ensemble, mounting a strong challenge to reigning four-time winner Modern Family.
After Edie Falco and Alec Baldwin last year set a new record for most SAG Award nominations, 20, Falco today earned another nom for Nurse Jackie to go to 21, a new high mark. Falco has been nominated for every season of the Showtime series. Falco and Aduba are joined in the comedy actress race by this year’s SAG and Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Veep, Golden Globe winner Amy Poehler of Parks & Recreation and previous Emmy winner Julie Bowen of Modern Family. The ABC comedy was the most nominated TV program with four noms.
Like in the best drama ensemble category, the changes in the best comedy ensemble were by attrition, with Orange and Brooklyn Nine-Nine taking the spots vacated by 30 Rock and Arrested Development and joining returning nominees Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory and Veep. This marks a surprise comeback for Brooklyn, which had been largely ignored by awards following its breakthrough at the Golden Globes in January.
Emmy winner Benedict Cumberbatch has emerged as the most nominated actor this year with 3 noms, for his lead roles in Sherlock: His Last Vow and movie The Imitation Game and a cast nomination for The Imitation Game. Two of his rivals in the actor in movie/miniseries category also have nominations on both the TV and film side, Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart, Foxcatcher supporting) and Adrien Brody (Houdini, The Grand Budapest Hotel ensemble).