“La La Land” may be the top Oscar contender, but “Hidden Figures”—the story of three Black women who overcome 1960s racial divides to play a critical scientific role in launching the nation’s space program—has more momentum after claiming the top prize at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The “Hidden Figures” win during Sunday night’s ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium likely won’t bump “La La Land” from the perch of Oscar front-runner, but it definitely put the film in the conversation. The victory was an upset of sorts over Golden Globe winner “Manchester by the Sea,” which had a leading four nominations going into the night but won none.
“This film is about unity,” actress Taraji P. Henson said while accepting the ensemble award for “Hidden Figures.”
“We stand here as proud actors thanking every member of this incredible guild for voting for us, for recognizing our hard work. But the shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson. Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars. These women did not complain about the problems, their circumstances, you know, the issues. We know what was going on in that era. They didn’t complain. They focused on solutions. Therefore these brave women helped put men into space.
“… This story is of unity,” Henson said. “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside. When we come together as a human race, we win. Love wins every time.”
Denzel Washington was named best actor for his work in “Fences,” while his co-star, Viola Davis, won for best supporting actress and Mahershala Ali was named best supporting actor for the coming-of-age film “Moonlight.”
For Washington, the win was surprisingly his first career Screen Actors Guild Award, although he was a four-time prior nominee. Washington praised the film’s crew and gave kudos to his fellow cast members who don’t always get proper recognition.
“We’re just actors, you know,” he said. “I’m famous and all that kind of stuff but I have the same fear opening night, the first preview, that anybody else has. We all have the same job.”
He gave particular praise to end his speech, saying, “One last thing—to Viola Davis,” holding his award toward her.
Davis’ win was her second career SAG Award for her film work, having won for best actress for “The Help.” She also won twice previously for her work on the ABC series “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Davis, considered a heavy favorite to win the supporting-actress Oscar, heaped praise on the work of playwright August Wilson, who died in 2005.
“He honored the average man who happened to be a man of color,” Davis told the crowd. “… He elevated my father, my mother, my uncles, who had eighth and fifth-grade educations, and he encapsulated them in history. So thank you, August.”
Ali gave one of the night’s more poignant acceptance speeches while collecting his supporting actor prize for “Moonlight.”
“What I’ve learned from working on ‘Moonlight’ is we see what happens when we persecute people—they fold into themselves,” Ali said. “And what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan, was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered, that he was OK and accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.”