Over the decades, many have groused about the length of the Oscar ceremony, which often runs longer than its planned three hours. The 2002 telecast ran a whopping four hours and 23 minutes, while the 2020 ceremony — even without a host — ran three hours and 32 minutes. The upcoming 27th SAG Awards is the ultimate antidote to awards ceremony inflation. It will last only one hour, instead of its usual two.
After months of pondering different ideas (and pushing the show’s date to April after the Grammys landed on its original March 14 date), SAG Awards executive producers Kathy Connell, Todd Milliner and Sean Hayes decided not to follow in the steps of other ceremonies that have taken place during the pandemic that have adopted a hybrid approach of live and virtual.
The entire event is being pretaped, meaning that the SAG-AFTRA winners will be informed a few days before the April 4 telecast on TNT and TBS. Acceptance speeches will be rounded out with taped messages from myriad other actors who will serve as presenters, and per usual, there is no host. Connell and Milliner, who revealed to THR exclusively that some of those A-list presenters include nominee Riz Ahmed along with Common, Mindy Kaling, Josh Gad and Rita Moreno, chatted about their unusual plans for the COVID-era show.
Why the decision to pretape and trim to one hour?
KATHY CONNELL We’re usually the shortest awards show on TV. And this year, we’re really going to be the shortest. We didn’t know what the year would bring in terms of where we would be in COVID, and to pretend that it was a normal year was just wrong. And we are the union, so we wanted our members to be protected. In some instances, our members are in production bubbles, [so] we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to do anything that would prevent them from [working].
TODD MILLINER We’re building a very different awards show for a very different year.
How can you ensure secrecy if you have to tell the winners early?
MILLINER The actors have a tremendous amount of respect for the other folks in their union. So we’re hoping that it’s a mix of honor and respect and then trying not to let a secret burn a hole in your pocket for a couple of days. We feel pretty confident that everybody’s going to play along.
Who else will be participating, aside from the winners?
CONNELL Fortunately, the union has quite a few talented people in our ranks. (Laughter.) We’re taping in safe locations. It can be the actor’s home, in a couple of cases it’s within the actors’ production bubble. The whole thing is all about safety for us. Anybody who goes [to the taping], if it’s our crew, they have been tested within the couple of days before, and they’re wearing masks.
MILLINER Doing all the pretaping allows us to shape the narrative and really get to the best stuff that the actors say, and the most interesting interviews. And it’s packed full. We were just talking last night about how we wished we had 75 more minutes.
CONNELL There’s going to be a lot on the cutting-room floor, I’m afraid. We’re leaning into the humor. We want to entertain.
What will be the standard time for an acceptance speech?
CONNELL It’s going to be tight.
Can you say how tight?
CONNELL I’d rather not. We will be talking to the actors, and hopefully everybody’s going to respect the fact that we’re an hour long, which really means 46 minutes with commercials.
Did TNT and TBS insist you keep it to one hour, or was it your decision?
CONNELL It was a joint decision. The network certainly suggested we take a good sharp look at that, and we agreed. It made a lot of sense for us.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.