Stephen M. Silverman
January 29, 2006 10:35 PM

It was actors’ choice: The Lost and Desperate Housewives casts took top TV honors, while the cast of Crash claimed the major movie prize as actors honored their own at the 12th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night.

Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) were named best movie actress and actor, respectively, and Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman was singled out as lead in a comedy series. Sean Hayes, of Will & Grace, won as male lead in a comedy, while 24 star Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Oh, of Grey’s Anatomy, were both named best actors in a drama series.

Oh was the first of the evening’s winners to be announced. “This is unbelievable,” exclaimed the actress, who plays Dr. Cristina Yang on the ABC medical series. She also acknowledged her show’s technical adviser, “who makes us all look like doctors, because we’re not,” and said she shares her award “with all the Asian-American actors out there … be encouraged.”

S. Epatha Merkerson won as best actress in a TV movie, for Lackawanna Blues, a feat she also pulled off at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Choking up, she told the crowd inside Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium of her speech: “There’s nothing in my bra, there’s nothing in my head, it’s all in my heart.” But it wasn’t all tears. “I have to say a very public thank-you to my divorce lawyer,” she said, cracking up.

Paul Newman, who was a no-show because he is working (according to presenter William H. Macy), was named best actor in a TV miniseries for Empire Falls.

Came her time at the podium, Witherspoon said her parents thought she was crazy when she first told them that she wanted to become an actor – “They’re both doctors” – and she credited June Carter Cash, whom she plays onscreen, for being the real-life rock behind music legend Johnny Cash.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

When Hoffman claimed his male movie actor award for Capote, in which he plays author Truman Capote in the ’60s at the time the “tiny terror” put together his landmark book In Cold Blood, he credited his competitor in the race, David Strathairn of Good Night, and Good Luck, for inspiring his own work as an actor.

Sutherland picked up his second SAG award (called the Actor) for his role as CTU agent Jack Bauer on 24. “I am in shock,” he said. “This is the community I wanted to belong to my entire life.” He said the night was really special for him, because “I’m with my stepson Timothy.”

Interweaving the past with the present, the two-hour ceremony featured Dakota Fanning introducing the life-achievement award to child actor Shirley Temple Black, now 77. “I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to win a life-achievement award,” the ever-charming Black told the appreciative crowd. “Start early.”

Hayes won his third Actor for his flamboyant role as Jack on Will & Grace. “My heart is racing.” said Hayes before launching into a satire of the gay theme of Brokeback Mountain. “First of all,” Hayes said, “I’d like to thank Ang Lee for taking a chance on me. Clearly, I did not fail him, because I’m here.” Turning serious, Hayes pointed out that this is the last season of Will & Grace, “which is sad … because of how they’re going to miss me.”

(Joking aside, Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was completely shut out of the SAG honors, though the cowboy romance went into the evening with a leading four nominations.)

Huffman, named best actress in a comedy series, professed her love of actors, pointing out that she married one — William H. Macy. “All right,” she said, “a fantastic one.”

As the evening is dedicated to the art and honor of acting, the televised event opened with professionals facing the camera and telling their stories. Among them, Desperate Housewives’ resident plumber James Denton, who revealed that he was fixing toilets when, at age 30, he was asked to appear in a play in Chicago. And today? He’s still fixing toilets – but on TV.

PEOPLE Magazine and the Entertainment Industry Foundation sponsored the post-show gala.

The list of winners is as follows:

Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote.
Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line.
Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man.
Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener.
Ensemble Cast: Crash.

Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries: Paul Newman, Empire Falls.
Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries: S. Epatha Merkerson, Lackawanna Blues.
Actor in a Drama Series: Kiefer Sutherland, 24.
Actress in a Drama Series: Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy.
Actor in a Comedy Series: Sean Hayes, Will & Grace.
Actress in a Comedy Series: Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives.
Drama Ensemble: Lost.
Comedy Ensemble: Desperate Housewives.

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