The Screen Actors Guild Awards celebrate the year’s best performances both in movies and on TV — but they’re particularly scrutinized as one of the most important forecasters on that red-carpeted road to the Oscars.
So: Ahead of this year’s awards show — which will air live on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. ET/5 PT on Sunday, Jan. 29 — let’s forecast, starting with the film nominees!
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See all the SAG nominees and get your own ballot here!
Male actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Fresh from his win at the Golden Globes, and already tinseled with accolades from a slew of critics’ associations, Affleck could probably just stand at the edge of the sea and watch the tide bring further trophies to his feet, although trophies don’t float. He’s a pretty safe bet for this performance of quiet, jagged sorrow, one that recalls Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies way back in 1984. Duvall earned an Oscar for that, and Affleck probably will for Manchester.
Female actor: Emma Stone, La La Land
Possibly the night’s most interesting contest, notable not only for the big names in the running but for the big names left out: Elle’s Isabelle Huppert, an unexpected winner for dramatic actress at the Golden Globes, and the Oscar-buzzy Twentieth Century Women’s Annette Bening and Loving’s Ruth Negga. Stone, who has the twinkle of a star glimpsed through the telescope at the Griffith Park Observatory, won best musical-comedy actress at the Globes and may have the edge over Jackie’s Natalie Portman (a SAG winner for Black Swan in 2011). Then again, this is Amy Adams’ fifth nomination (her only win was for the American Hustle cast in 2014), and she’s wonderful as the linguist who decodes alien lingo in Arrival. And wouldn’t it be a neat trick if she could squiggle her acceptance speech on the air with black ink? Still, probably Stone.
Supporting actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
He seemed to have a lock on the Golden Globe before losing to Nocturnal Animals’ Aaron Taylor-Johnson. You’d like to think he has the lock, again, here. For one thing, he’s already won almost as many prizes as Affleck. For another, Moonlight would have no real moral center without him — there’s no supporting actor more supportive. But the competition is tough, and very likely to resurface at the Oscars. Hugh Grant, as a roué who seems to realize that his charm is a regrettably cheap commodity, enjoyed something of a comeback in Florence Foster Jenkins. In Manchester by the Sea, Lucas Hedges has one of the year’s most powerful scenes when he collapses in a paroxysm of grief and panic. But then, everyone in Manchester does that. They can’t all get awards.
Supporting female actor: Viola Davis, Fences
Davis’ performance isn’t, strictly speaking, “supporting,” but awards would never get handed out if the governing bodies had to nominate stars for “Role That Approximates Three-Quarters of a Lead” or “Supporting Role with a Margin of Error of Plus or Minus 3 Percent.” Davis just won the Golden Globe, she kills in her pivotal scene with Denzel Washington, and she carries the final stretch of the film on the strength of her own with wisdom and grace. She’ll win this, and probably the Oscar.
Performance by a cast in a motion picture: Moonlight
Moonlight is a revelation — for the unusual virtue of managing to make us accept three actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) as the same character, a troubled African-American man struggling with his homosexuality, at three distinct times in his life. They form a kind of triptych, each panel composed and styled differently, but in the end we recognize them as one haunting portrait. But fellow nominee Hidden Figures has turned out to be a serious mainstream hit with its powerhouse cast (including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe) and could very well pull an upset. And don’t discount Captain Fantastic: Viggo Mortensen and a large, young cast rally (and fight) as a family raised to reject modern society. They’re like a survivalist version of the Von Trapps.
And then there are the television categories.
Male actor in a drama series: John Lithgow, The Crown
As with Viola Davis in Fences, this is a performance that feels like a supporting role that’s overflown its boundaries — not a complaint! — with sheer acting talent and commitment. Lithgow’s Winston Churchill is cagey, frail, hungering after power and, as he should be, thrillingly larger-than-life. This is Lithgow’s ninth Screen Actors Guild nomination, including two wins for Third Rock From the Sun.
Female actor in a drama series: Claire Foy, The Crown
Male actor in a comedy series: Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Jeffrey Tambor won last year for Transparent, and Modern Family’s Ty Burrell already has four trophies (one for actor and three for ensemble). On black-ish, Anderson is able to squeeze dramatic juice out of a comic moment, and vice versa: His gift, which is a unique one, is more for compressing than expanding emotion. This would be a good year to honor him.
Female actor in a comedy series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
She hasn’t dominated here as she has at the Emmys — last year she lost to Orange Is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba, who’s also nominated this year — but her role on Veep is the best-written female role on TV, and she performs it with furious, occasionally rabid energy and humor. The only actress who eclipsed her last year was Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Amazon’s Fleabag. But she’s not nominated.
Male actor, limited series: Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
It probably won’t help that his competition includes costar John Turturro, but Ahmed‘s performance as a Pakistani-American kid transformed (and not for the better) after being arrested as a murder suspect was broodingly powerful. He also happened to be everywhere in 2016, from Rogue One to Netflix’s The OA, doing consistently good work.
Female actor, limited series: Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
It’s hard to imagine that she won’t repeat her Golden Globes win for her performance — empathetic, grounded and always blessedly alert to comedy — as prosecutor Marcia Clark. (It’s also hard to believe she’s never been nominated for her outstandingly weird work on American Horror Story.)
Ensemble in a drama series: The Crown
The many esteemed British character actors who didn’t board the SS Harry Potter seem to have ended up here instead, padding about privileged surroundings, brooding over the 1936 abdication and warning young Lilibeth that she mustn’t be a big silly and do the things she wants to do.
Ensemble in a comedy series: black-ish
Just check out the Jan. 11 episode, “Lemons,” a smart, pointed, funny assessment of how Donald Trump’s win played out at home and at the office, across races and sexes. Every performance clicks and meshes.
Tune in to the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 8 p.m. ET/5 PT live on TNT and TBS.