Hollywood Gets Political: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mahershala Ali, More Slam Trump's Immigration Ban at SAG Awards
The stars are speaking out against President Donald Trump's controversial immigration ban at the SAG Awards
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was among the first to address the issue while accepting the award for best actress in a comedy series on Sunday, saying, “I want you all to know that I am the daughter of an immigrant. My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France, and I’m an American patriot and I love this country.”
The topic was brought up again during the acceptance speech for the very next award. The cast of Orange Is the New Black, who won for best comedy ensemble, highlighted the many nationalities — from Nigeria and the Dominican Republic, to Puerto Rico, Colombia and Ireland — that make up their diverse cast.
“And we know it’s going to be up to us and all of you probably too to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that seek to divide us,” starTaylor Schilling concluded.
Moonlight star Mahershala Ali indirectly addressed the immigration ban while accepting his award for outstanding performance in a dramatic role. “I think what I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is we see what happens when you persecute people: they fold into themselves,” he began.
Ali noted that his mother, an ordained minister, “didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted [to Islam] 17 years ago.” But in time, they were able to put religious differences aside. “We love each other and the love has grown. And that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.”
Earlier, Ashton Kutcher addressed the refugee ban as he addressed the crowd at the top of the show.
“Good evening, fellow SAG members and everyone at home and everyone in airports that belong in my America,” Kutcher said. “You are a part of the fabric of who we are and we love you and we welcome you.”
Kutcher also pointed out on Twitter that his wife, Mila Kunis, came to this country as a refugee from the Soviet-controlled Ukraine.
Lily Tomlin also got political while accepting her Lifetime Achievement Award: “Live your life so that when you are being honored for your achievements, the people called upon to make laudatory remarks can feel reasonably honest about their comments. As, in these times, all their words of praise might be perceived as alternative facts or worse yet fake news,” she quipped.
Speaking about her life moving forward, the 77-year-old actress also said, “I feel like I’m just getting started. What sign should I make for the next march, so much to do. Global warming, standing rock, LGBT issues, Chinese missiles, immigration.”
Paulson began her message onstage while accepting the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or limited series for her work on American Crime Story, by calling for people to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has successfully challenged the ban in court.
In the press room, Paulson was asked if it was difficult to decide what to put in her speech. “It wasn’t a tough decision to come up with what I wanted to say. I mean, I am not an immigrant. I was born here … I just wanted to have an opportunity to mention the inclusivity that I think is required right now in general, and the ACLU to me represents that across the board. And they do really rely on funds from people like you and me at this time.”
The actress also spoke about her mixed emotions celebrating at an award show during turbulent times: “It’s an odd thing, because this has been a very celebratory time in my life with my work being recognized, and at the same time it’s dovetailing with a very interesting time in our country. And so even as I was getting ready tonight, as excited and honored as I was, I felt the duality of the celebration and also the seriousness of people who are at JFK right now, people who are at LAX right now, people who are at airports all over the country. It just feels like a grave time. So at the same time, I also feel very honored and proud, so I’m trying to find a place to put it where I can be celebratory and also give the day its appropriate weight.”
Cranston, who won the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a television movie or limited series for his performance as President Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way, also addressed the controversy backstage.
“There’s a lot of strife in the world and in our country, but I think it’s important to embrace the goods things that we have as well,” he began.
Cranston went on to defend actors who have chosen to speak out about politics. “We are human beings before we ever became actors and activists or artists of any kind. If something is important to you, if something appears in a way that feels [like] oppression, it’s up to the citizen to speak out. Not everybody agrees. But the best part of democracy, we’re allowed to do that. [There are] so many countries around the world where you’re not allowed to voice objections. Our country was founded on it. We shouldn’t be afraid of it. We should embrace everything so that the voices are all heard. And then people can make up their own minds on how they want to continue.”
While accepting his award during the show, Cranston also gave some advice to President Trump from his onscreen character, President Johnson: “Just don’t piss in the soup that all of us gotta eat.”
Even some of the cast from Stranger Things got involved with the political discussion, with the show’s star David Harbour — in a nod to his character’s lingo — promising the audience, “We will repel bullies, we will shelter freaks and outcasts, we will get past the lies, we will hunt monsters, and when we are lost, we will punch some people in the face, and we will do it all with soul, with heart and with joy.”
Emma Stone brushed on the immigrant ban while accepting her best actress award for La La Land, but struggled to find her words onstage. She clarified her comments later in the press room, and defended her right, and the rights of other entertainers, to speak out on political issues. “I think if we’re human beings and we see injustice, we have to speak up because staying silent, as they say, really only helps the oppressor, it never helps the victim,” she explained. “I think that yes, right now, I would hope that everyone seeing things being done that are absolutely unconstitutional and inhumane would say something in any venue, whether it’s at school or at an award show or at their offices [or] online,” she added.
Denzel Washington, who won the best actor prize for Fences, spoke about holding elected officials responsible and unifying the country in the face of political division. “I think we as Americans better learn to unite. I think we as Americans need to put our elected officials’ feet to the fire and demand that they work together or they won’t get back in office,” he said.
“You know, this age we live in, the accelerated information age, we’re getting further and further apart. We’re not getting together, we’re getting further and further and further apart. Everybody can’t be right. But I think this is an opportunity actually. You see how people are being energized and protesting and all that. But I think this is an opportunity for us to look at ourselves as a country and say, ‘Are we together? Really?’ ” he added.
The actors’ comments come in the wake of President Trump‘s executive order suspending entry of all refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, barring Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocking entry into the U.S. for 90 days for nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
The order, which has sparked outrage around the globe, has also led stars to boycott the Oscars. Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian national whose film The Salesman is up for Best Foreign Language film, announced he would not attend the award show in response to the immigration ban.
Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in The Salesman, announced on Saturday that she is also boycotting the Oscars in response to Trump’s ban.
By addressing the controversy onstage at the SAG Awards, stars like Louis-Dreyfus, the cast of Orange Is the New Black and Ali join the likes of Meryl Streep, who used her time while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes to deliver a powerful speech criticizing President Trump.
Although Streep never mentioned the president by name, she spoke at length about an incident on the campaign trail in which President Trump appeared to mock a disabled reporter during a rally. “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. The powerful — use definition to bully others, we all lose,” Streep said during her speech.