Hidden Figures took the top prize tonight at the 2017 SAG Awards, but President Trump was no hidden figure onstage or in the press room backstage, as many of the night’s big winners continued their political thoughts for assembled hacks.
Answering questions after winning Best Supporting Actor for his paternal role in Moonlight—and as part of Hidden Figures’ award-winning cast—Mahershala Ali explained what his impassioned speech meant to him. “It’s hurtful to see what’s happening to immigrants, and so on and so forth. It’s a challenging time,” Ali said. “As artists, as actors, we have an opportunity to make certain choices that shine a light on situations that light needs to be shined on. It helps our conversation, helps raise awareness because with awareness you can bring about change. That’s what we can do, and that’s the optimistic approach that I would like to have.”
SAG Awards: 'Hidden Figures' Wins Ensemble Prize; Two For 'Fences': Complete Winners List
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“I remind you that I’m African American, so this is not new to me. My grandfather marched, he was in the NAACP, my great grandfather and great grandmother were active in the civil rights movement, and when my great grandmother died, they announced that she was a communist, and she wasn’t,” Ali continued, providing personal context. “My great grandfather lost his job, and he had five kids to take care of. This is not new. These things have existed before. It’s just as painful as it’s ever been, so it’s sad. It pains me, and I do identify with that struggle, what Muslims are dealing with specifically.”
For Hidden Figures, Taraji P. Henson celebrated the women at NASA whose stories inspired the film. “We have agency now as women. We can say what’s on our mind. Don’t focus on the problems. Focus on the solutions. What are we going to do to get past this?” Henson said. ” I think that’s why this film is so timely. The beautiful thing in 2017 is that the majority is on the right side of history. Fear not. Fear and faith cannot coexist. Pick your battles. I choose faith.”
“We have to speak up against injustice, and we have to kick some ass,” Emma Stone said emphatically, backstage for her latest La La Land accolade. “We have to speak up. Staying silent only helps the oppressor, not the victim. Right now I hope that people seeing things that are being done that are unconstitutional and inhumane would say something. I would hope that people would fight for what’s right, and what’s just f–king human. What’s f*cking human.”
After becoming the surprise winner of the Best Actor award, director/star Denzel Washington said that citizens and artists need to hold their representatives accountable. “I think we as Americans better learn to unite. We need to put our elected officials’ feet to the fire and demand that they work together or they won’t get back into office. We’re getting further and further apart in this technological age,” Washington said. “Everybody can’t be right. I think this is an opportunity, actually, to look at ourselves and say, ‘Are we together, really, and are we holding our officials accountable to make sure they’re working together?’ This is what’s happening, and God only knows where it’s going.”
Accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAGs, actress Lily Tomlin was also very vocal about our troubling times, suggesting that stars use their platforms to actively pursue the passage of legislation. “Any activist should be talking about how to mount some legislation against what they’re opposed to. You’ve got to change the laws. Trumps changing the laws now. He’s trying to change the laws,” Tomlin said. “I don’t want to make this comparison, but the Nazis, they changed the laws. They just changed the laws, and they could do whatever they wanted. We have to be vigilant and stop certain behaviors.”
With all the doom and gloom in the room tonight, Cranston emphasized also the importance of staying positive, and seeing the good in the works of art being celebrated this evening. “There’s a lot of strife in the world and in our country, but I think it’s important to embrace the good things that we have as well, and the collective of creative people coming together and talking about the issues, which you’ve seen tonight. It’s alive,” he said. “This is what artists do best, taking the fear and putting it back into the work. Hopefully, that creates a groundswell of understanding and compassion. I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate good work that has nothing to do with other things.”
Coming backstage after winning the Female Actor award for Limited Series for The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Sarah Paulson reflected on the impassioned speech she gave on stage, placing the focus on ACLU and encouraging those in the audience to make donations. “It wasn’t a tough decision to come up with what I wanted to say. I am not an immigrant, I was born here, so in terms of how I can speak from it from a personal perspective, it wasn’t available for me,” Paulson said. “I just wanted to have an opportunity to mention the inclusivity that I think is required right now. The ACLU, to me, represents that.”
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