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Saturday Night Live cast member Melissa Villaseñor has been tapped to host the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
The Spirit Awards — which are the nonprofit art organization’s primary fundraiser for its programs, which support the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity and inclusion across the film industry — are set to air on IFC and AMC+ at 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 22. (It was announced last month that the show, which is typically held during the daytime in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica the day before the Oscars, will now “break tradition” and air in a primetime ceremony three days before the Academy Awards.)
“As someone who considers herself a pretty dependent person, I’m truly honored to host the Film Independent Spirit Awards,” said Villaseñor, who made history in 2016 by becoming SNL’s first-ever Latina castmember.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Melissa Villaseñor into the club of smart, funny film lovers to host the Spirit Awards. The time to laugh has definitely arrived, and not a moment too soon,” Film Independent president Josh Welsh said.
Spirit Awards hosts have included, most recently, Aubrey Plaza in 2019 and 2020 and Nick Kroll and John Mulaney in 2017 and 2018, as well as Kate McKinnon and Kumail Nanjiani, Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell, Patton Oswalt, Andy Samberg, Joel McHale, Sarah Silverman, Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah and John Waters.
Villaseñor is known for her ability to do impressions of stars ranging from Owen Wilson to Dolly Parton.
“Melissa and the unique circumstances of now will make this year’s ceremony like no other,” said Blake Callaway, executive director of IFC and SundanceTV. “It will certainly be a departure from the past, but with Melissa, the chances of Dolly, Ariana Grande, Bjork, Gwen Stefani, Julie Andrews and Lady Gaga showing up have skyrocketed.”
Villaseñor got her start as a semifinalist on America’s Got Talent. She has gone on to voice characters in animated shows and films including Toy Story 4 and Ralph Breaks the Internet. She is currently working on her first book, a creative self-help journal forthcoming from Chronicle Books.
The 2021 Spirit Award nominations were revealed Jan. 26 (including, for the first time, nominees in several TV categories). Never Rarely Sometimes Always scored a leading seven nominations, followed by Minari landing six noms and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Nomadland with five each. All four films are nominated for best feature alongside First Cow. Winners are selected by members of Film Independent.
Film Independent also said Monday that one of its programs — the Directors Close-Up, an annual series featuring in-depth panel discussions with the year’s most celebrated filmmakers — will be comprised of 100 percent Spirit Award nominee panelists for the first time ever. The series, which will be streamed, will include nine sessions taking place from March 3-April 21 featuring the directors from the worlds of indie film, documentary and television.
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