The actors have spoken and what they’ve said is historic.
Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens took to Instagram Live and announced the nominees for the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards on Wednesday morning, honoring the best performances in film and television of the 2021 calendar year. The SAG Awards are a special accolade, voted on by the 124,000 eligible voters in SAG-AFTRA, a prize determined entirely by a performer’s peers.
As far as TV goes, the nominations furthered one show’s status as the comedy everybody loves to love and finally embraced the performances on a drama series from which the organization had been withholding its affection. But the biggest breakthrough as acknowledged by the actors came in the form of a dangerous, but history-making, game.
Netflix’s “Squid Game” garnered four nominations for its performers, making it the first non-English language series and first Korean series to be nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, with individual nods for Lee Jung-jae (male actor in a drama series) and Jung Ho-yeon (female actor in a drama series), as well as recognition for show’s ensemble and stunt ensemble.
The four nominations for “Squid Game” are impressive, but still one shy of the morning’s big winners, the aforementioned comedy darling and drama breakthrough.
Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” scored five nominations from SAG-AFTRA voters, an expansion from the two nominations it earned last year for the show’s first season. Repeat nominations were earned for Jason Sudeikis (male actor in a comedy series) and the show’s ensemble, while Juno Temple (female actor in a comedy series) and Emmy-winners Brett Goldstein (male actor in a comedy series) and Hannah Waddingham (female actor in a comedy series) were also nominated.
Meanwhile, it took a bit, but HBO’s “Succession” has finally won over the industry’s collective actors, as the series nabbed five nominations. While it might not seem surprising to see the heavily-acclaimed drama become even more acclaimed, it’s significant for the fact that the show has never been invited to this particular rodeo before. Strange as it may seem for a series so rooted in its ridiculously deep ensemble — nine performers were Emmy-nominated for “Succession” Season 2 — it had never been the Screen Actors Guild Awards’ cup of tea.
Graeme Hunter / HBO
But this year is different. The series had three actors (Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, and Jeremy Strong) nominated in male actor in a drama series and one actor (Sarah Snook) nominated in female actress in a drama series. That previously mentioned ensemble? Also nominated.
Other shows that felt the love included HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” and Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show,” each of which had four nominations and newcomer “Only Murders in the Building” from Hulu which was nominated three times.
As is so often the case with awards nominations, what might be more interesting than what was nominated is what was not. They’re not snubs, per se, but the decisions do shed light on what SAG-AFTRA members are interested in celebrating.
Falling under the category of slight curiosity is the exclusion of Michael C. Hall for his work on Showtime’s “Dexter: New Blood.” If the series doesn’t strike you as particularly awards-worthy, remember that Hall was SAG Award nominated five times for actor in a drama series for his work on original flavor “Dexter” and eight times for drama series ensemble between “Dexter” and HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”
It’s further disappointing that Amazon Prime Video’s “The Underground Railroad” was unable to get traction with the actors, continuing its tendency to underperform with awards bodies, though it did win the Golden Globe for Limited Series over the weekend. That doesn’t mean much, but, yeah, it doesn’t mean much.
Beyond that is a wealth of overlooked new series, whose performances could really have used the signal boost that awards conversations can provide. Among them, FX’s “Reservation Dogs,” a one-of-a-kind comedy that, at the very least, should have been in the conversation for comedy ensemble.
Other disappointing oversights include the lack of love for HBO Max’s “Station Eleven” and Showtime’s “Yellowjackets.” While the latter might be a little far out for SAG Award sensibilities (and by far out I mean fucked up and amazing) the former seems primed to get the organization’s motors rumbling. Well-watched, well-reviewed, and chock full of nuanced performances, “Station Eleven” deserved better.
The primary takeaway with regards to this year’s SAG Award nominations is that the best way to break through is to be incredibly buzzy. And if you can’t be buzzy, cast stars. HBO’s “The White Lotus” had tremendous chatter while it was airing, fueling nominations for both Murray Bartlett and Jennifer Coolidge. Netflix’s “Maid” (nomination for Margaret Qualley) and “The Chair” (nomination for Sandra Oh), to say nothing of “Squid Game,” all proved to be lasting winners amongst the streamer’s Top 10.
It’s been said before, but the SAG Awards seem to fall into the trap that plagues so many other awards bodies and that will only get worse as the streaming boom continues. With limited resources and nearly unlimited options, all voters can do is vote for what they watch or whose names they recognize. This wasn’t as problematic when TV had a relatively static number of options from year to year but that’s a far cry from where the industry stands now.
But with that in mind, the best thing fans can do if they want to get people on board with their favorite shows is to get people to watch. The more eyes, the more buzz, the more buzz, the more awards, the more awards, the more buzz, and the cycle continues.
This year, we all lucked out. The series that took the world by storm was one that didn’t originate on our own shores and that, plainly said, is awesome. Until awards bodies figure out a way to recalibrate in light of Peak TV, the best way to diversify and expand considerations for series is by expanding and diversifying your own viewing habits. The more you love, the more you buzz, the more the industry takes notices of shows they might otherwise overlook.
For now, SAG-AFTRA has proven a willingness to embracing populism for better or worse. Luckily, since TV is good enough, that strategy mostly works.