Get ready for what looks to be a really funny Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony, which will keep us in stiches for some time. The show, which will not be live from the Santa Monica Beach this year due to Covid, has tapped SNL’s Melissa Villaseñor to host this year’s 2021 edition.
Villaseñor, who cut her teeth on the stand-up circuit here in Los Angeles, and was further propelled by being a semifinalist on the 2011 edition of America’s Got Talent before landing on the SNL cast, is famed for her impersonations of such celebrities as Owen Wilson, Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more. This year’s show will be airing on Thursday, April 22, on IFC and AMC+ at 10PM ET, breaking tradition as the Spirits typically take place on the Saturday afternoon before Sunday’s Oscars.
Said Blake Callaway, Executive Director, IFC and SundanceTV, “Melissa and the unique circumstances of now will make this year’s ceremony like no other. It will
certainly be a departure from the past, but with Melissa, the chances of Dolly, Ariana Grande, Bjork, Gwen Stefani, Julie Andrews and Lady Gaga showing up
The Spirit Awards are the nonprofit art org’s primary fundraiser for its year-round slate of programs, which cultivate the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity and inclusion across the film industry. One such program—the Directors Close-Up, an annual series featuring in-depth panel discussions with the year’s lauded filmmakers—will be comprised of Spirit Award nominee panelists for the first time ever. The series, which will be available for streaming, will include nine sessions taking place over two months, featuring the best directors from indie film, documentary and television.
“As someone who considers herself a pretty dependent person, I’m truly honored to host the Film Independent Spirit Awards,” said Host Melissa Villaseñor, who in 2016 made history by becoming SNL’s first-ever Latina cast member.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Melissa Villaseñor into the club of smart, funny film lovers to host the Spirit Awards. The time to laugh has definitely arrived, and not
a moment too soon,” said Film Independent President Josh Welsh. “We’re also excited to launch the Spirit Awards edition of the Directors Close-Up, our awards season program that celebrates and explores the art of directing, in both film and television.”
Outside of SNL, Villaseñor has provided voiceovers in such pics as Toy Story 4 and Ralph Breaks the Internet. She also was a guest on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee; and in projects such as Hubie Halloween, Barry and Crashing, among others. She is currently working on her first book, a creative self-help journal forthcoming from Chronicle Books. Villaseñor was first introduced as an SNL featured player in October 2016. She was promoted to the rep cast in September 2018.
While past Spirit Awards hosts have included Aubrey Plaza, Nick Kroll, Kristen Bell, Joel McHale, Patton Oswalt, Queen Latifah, John Waters, Samuel L. Jackson and Kumail Nanjiani, there have been a few SNL alums as well including John Mulaney (who co-hosts with Kroll), Kate McKinnon, Fred Armisen, Sarah Silverman and Andy Samberg. This year’s show will be executive produced and directed by Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Production for the seventh consecutive year. Shawn Davis returns as executive producer for Film Independent for his 19th year, Rick Austin returns as producer for his sixth year and Danielle Federico and Andrew Schaff also return as co-producers.
This year’s Spirit Award nominations include a new TV section. This year’s Best Feature nominees include First Cow, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Minari, Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Nomadland. Additionally, for the first time ever, this year’s Spirit Award nominees will make up 100% of the panelists at this year’s expanded Directors Close-Up series.
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