#SAGsPrettyWhite? Screen Actors Guild contenders fall short on diversity

With contenders such as “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Atlanta” receiving ensemble cast nominations and a nominations announcement delivered by Awkwafina and Laverne Cox, the Screen Actors Guild Awards looked to sidestep the criticism that has been levied around Hollywood of late surrounding a lack of inclusion and diversity in awards and the industry overall.

And indeed, the list of SAG contenders doesn’t immediately reveal a glaring omission such as the Golden Globes’ shutout of female directors or the absence of acting contenders of color that led to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign in previous years. But a closer examination reveals there remains work to be done.

A favorite at the Emmys over its two seasons, FX’s “Atlanta” was for the first time recognized by the guild Wednesday in the ensemble category after being shut out entirely in its first season. (The SAG Awards are frequently slow on the uptake when it comes to new shows not on Netflix.) However, series creator and star Donald Glover was once again left out of the lead actor in a comedy category, as was last year’s nominee Anthony Anderson of ABC’s “black-ish.”

Among black actors in the TV category, only 2018 winner Sterling K. Brown was recognized this year, for his work in “This Is Us.” The only individual performances by black actors nominated in the film field are supporting actor nominee Mahershala Ali from “Green Book” and lead actor nominee John David Washington of “BlacKkKlansman.”

The diverse cast of Steve McQueen’s heist film “Widows” was snubbed despite the inclusion of awards-caliber talent ranging from Viola Davis to Robert Duvall, and no black women were nominated for a SAG award in movies or TV outside the ensemble categories. Regina King, widely expected to earn a nomination for her already multiple award-winning work in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” was one of the nomination list’s biggest snubs.

Breakout newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, the star of Alfonso Cuarón’s acclaimed “Roma,” was also snubbed alongside supporting co-star Marina de Tavira and the ensemble cast of that Spanish-language film.

“Black Panther,” the year’s top-grossing film and a presumptive contender for best picture at the Oscars, was only honored in the ensemble category, along with “Crazy Rich Asians,” which, like “Black Panther,” was a big hit both at the box office and with critics.

Elsewhere, the SAGs took a few welcome steps forward. Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” was nominated, a first in the category for an actor of Egyptian descent. In the TV field, Sandra Oh’s performance in “Killing Eve” continued her string of recent nominations (she won in the same drama actress category in 2006 for “Grey’s Anatomy”), while Tony Shalhoub was nominated for his work in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” along with Penélope Cruz and Darren Criss in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” and Antonio Banderas for “Genius: Picasso.”

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