For the first time in the history of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, all four main acting categories were won by non-white actors. Chadwick Boseman took home Best Male Actor in a Leading Role, Motion Picture for his part in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, an expected win for the late actor after a string of other awards including the Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice earlier this season. He went up against seasoned actors such as Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins in the category but was still the favorite for the award. In the film, Boseman plays Levee, a jazz musician in the 1920s who dreams of making it big in the industry despite racial barriers.
His co-star Viola Davis, playing the titular role of Ma Rainey, the front-woman of the jazz band, took home the corresponding SAG Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role, Motion Picture. Davis and Boseman’s wins mark another historical moment, as they are the first Black actors to win the leading acting awards in the same year. This is Davis’s fifth SAG Award win, and in her acceptance speech, she thanked both Boseman and August Wilson, who wrote the play the film is based on.
The award for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Motion Picture came as a shock to audiences and to the woman who won it herself. Yuh-Jung Youn, the famous Korean actress, took home the award for her role in Minari, for which Steven Yeun was also nominated in the Leading Actor category and the cast as a whole was nominated as an ensemble. Up against Hollywood titans like Glenn Close and Olivia Colman, as well as Borat actress Maria Bakalova who has been sweeping nominations this season, Youn’s win came as a surprise. In her acceptance speech, she exclaimed “I don’t know how to describe my feelings. I’m being recognized by Westerners!” and got emotional over the award, expressing her sincere thanks.
On a less unexpected note, the award for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Motion Picture went to Daniel Kaluuya for Judas and the Black Messiah, after he has already taken home multiple awards for that role. The film chronicles the life of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther party back in the 1960s, and his ultimate demise due to William O’Neal, played by LaKeith Stanfield, who infiltrated the party as an FBI informant. Kaluuya dedicated his win to Fred Hampton, but also to the late Chadwick Boseman, his co-winner.
These SAG Award wins could indicate further wins at the upcoming Academy Awards, as all of the winners here are also nominated there. Kaluuya will be up against Judas co-star LaKeith Stanfield in the Actor in a Supporting Role category, but both have publicly thanked each other—Kaluuya in his acceptance speech here—for their respective roles in making the film so great. Steven Yeun, who was defeated by Boseman here, is the first Asian man to ever be nominated at the Oscars in the Actor in a Leading Role category, so not only do these SAG Award wins mark an impressive year for diversity in film, the Academy Awards will be continuing on that path.