Viola Davis makes history with SAG Awards win for role as Ma Rainey
Viola Davis has taken home the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at the SAG Awards for her moving performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. She is now the first Black actor to ever win this category twice.
Unlike other television and film award shows, the Screen Actors Guild Awards’ nominees and winners are voted on entirely by their peers. Approximately 160,000 members of the SAG-AFTRA union take part in the voting process each year. This group is made of numerous individuals within the entertainment industry including actors, announcers, dancers and recording artists among others.
This year, SAG-AFTRA has recognized Davis for her role as Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. During her speech, Davis paid special thanks to the cast and crew of the film including her co-star Chadwick Boseman. As well, she expressed her gratitude for August Wilson who wrote the play the film is based on.
"Thank you to August [Wilson] for leaving a legacy to actors of color that we can relish for the rest of our lives," Davis says in her speech.
This marks Davis' second win in the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role category. Previously, she won in 2012 for The Help, making this latest award the first time ever a Black actor has won the category twice. In fact, Davis and Halle Berry are the only Black actors to ever win this category at the SAG Awards. Berry first took home the award in 2002 for Monster's Ball.
In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Davis plays the real-life blues singer and recording artist Gertrude "Ma" Rainey. The film, which is based on a play by August Wilson, follows a tense day with Rainey’s band as they gather at a Chicago recording studio in 1927. In particular, young musician Levee Green (Chadwick Boseman) and Rainey don’t see eye-to-eye, leading to a chain of events most viewers won’t expect.
Along with Davis, Boseman is also nominated for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is up for a posthumous award in the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role category. As well, the film’s actors have been recognized in Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture category.
Davis is already very familiar with the SAG Awards. She’s earned a staggering 10 nominations for her film and television work over the years. Back in 2012, she won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for The Help. The film’s cast also took home the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award.
In 2015 and 2016, Davis won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series back-to-back for her role as Annalise Keating in How To Get Away With Murder. Then, in 2017, she won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for Fences, another film based on an August Wilson play and produced by Denzel Washington.
As it turns out, Davis is one of only five female actors to win two SAG Awards for their film work. Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett and McDormand are the only others to accomplish this feat.
Davis’ acceptance speech at the 2017 SAG Awards is available to watch below.
This year, her portrayal of Ma Rainey has been recognized at numerous award shows. She was nominated for the Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Golden Globe award but lost to Andra Day. Similarly, she was recognized in the Best Actress category at the Critics Choice Awards but lost to Mulligan. Last month, however, Davis made Oscars history with her Actress in a Leading Role nomination for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. This marks Davis’ fourth nomination, making her the most-nominated Black actress in Academy Awards history.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is streaming on Netflix, and the trailer can be viewed below.
More on the 2021 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role nominees
In the Margot Robbie-produced Promising Young Woman, Mulligan plays Cassandra, a woman who dropped out of medical school after her close friend Nina was raped by a classmate and committed suicide. When the university dropped the investigation, Cassandra decided to take matters into her own hands.
By day, she works as a barista, but at night she lives a double life. She goes out to bars and pretends to be incoherently drunk until a man offers to take her home. When they end up back at his place and he tries to take advantage of her, Cassandra’s sober self appears. She then warns the man of the consequences his non-consensual actions will lead to, hoping the encounter will change his behavior of preying on vulnerable women.
For Mulligan, this marks her second nomination in this category and fourth overall at the SAG Awards. In 2010, she was recognized for this award for her performance in An Education. However, Sandra Bullock went on to win for The Blind Side.
Along with this category, Mulligan has been nominated twice for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The cast for An Education was up for the award in 2010, but lost to the Quentin Tarantino-directed Inglourious Basterds. As well, she was recognized alongside the cast of Mudbound in 2018, but the award was given to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
This year, Mulligan has earned a slew of nominations for her role as Cassandra in Promising Young Woman. She was up for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama at the Golden Globes but lost to Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday. However, Mulligan ended up taking home the Best Actress award at the Critics Choice Awards last month. Along with all of this, Mulligan is also nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Oscars.
Pieces Of A Woman tells the riveting story of Martha (Kirby), a woman grappling with a profound loss after her baby dies during a home birth. Throughout the film, Martha tries to come to terms with what happened while everything around her shifts. Feeling isolated from the event, Martha’s marriage begins to fall apart as she searches for answers regarding her baby’s death.
For Kirby, this marks her first solo acting nomination at the SAG Awards. Previously, she was recognized for her portrayal of Princess Margaret alongside the cast of The Crown. The Netflix series earned nominations in the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series category in both 2017 and 2018. However, the show lost the award to the cast of Stranger Things in 2017 and to the cast of This Is Us in 2018.
Along with the SAG Awards, Kirby was nominated for her role as Martha at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards. However, Day took home the Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Golden Globe while Mulligan was the Critics’ pick for Best Actress. Back in March, Kirby earned her first-ever nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Pieces Of A Woman.
Pieces Of A Woman is available to watch on Netflix, and the trailer is below.
Hillbilly Elegy is based on the telling memoir of the same name by J.D. Vance. The film follows Vance (Gabriel Basso) as he returns home from law school to find his mom Bev (Adams) worse off than ever before. With Bev on the brink of homelessness and addicted to drugs, Vance reflects back on his turbulent childhood in the suburbs of Ohio.
Her Hillbilly Elegy co-star Glenn Close is also nominated at the SAG Awards this year. Close's portrayal of Mamaw has earned her an Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role nomination.
Last year, Adams revealed to NME why she decided to take on the role of Bev in Hillbilly Elegy. For her, the real-life story of the Vance family is relatable to anyone who watches the film.
“I think the themes of this movie are very universal,” Adams tells NME. “Whether it be generational trauma [or] it be just examining where we come from to understand where we’re going and who we are. I think the universality of the themes of the movie far transcends politics.”
Hillbilly Elegy is streaming on Netflix and the trailer is available to watch below.
In Nomadland, Fern (McDormand) is longing for a life that has been taken from her. After her husband dies and the gypsum plant that employed her closes, Fern finds herself hitting the open road. While living in a van, she explores the American West and searches for new meaning in life. The serene film tackles the misconceptions of homelessness and nomadic life while showcasing the beauty the road less traveled has to offer.
This marks McDormand’s eighth nomination at the SAG Awards. Previously, she won this category for Fargo in 1997 and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in 2018. The actors in the latter film also took home Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture that year. Additionally, in 2015, she won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for Olive Kitteridge.
McDormand’s 2018 acceptance speech at the SAG Awards is available to watch below.
So far, Nomadland is having a pretty great awards season. Although McDormand lost Best Actress to Mulligan at the Critics Choice Awards, director Chloé Zhao won Best Director. Nomadland also took home the awards for Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay and the coveted Best Picture.
Nomadland had a big night at the Golden Globes, too. McDormand may have lost Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama to Day, but the film won Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director – Motion Picture. This feat makes Zhao only the second woman in history, and first Asian woman, to win Best Director at the Golden Globes.
McDormand’s performance as Fern has led to her seventh nomination at the Oscars. This year, she is up for Best Actress while Nomadland is also up for Best Picture. Additionally, the film is included in the Best Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing categories.
Nomadland is streaming now on Hulu and the trailer is available below.
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