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Each year, the SAG Awards ceremony starts with a number of actors explaining how they entered their field, ending with the line: “I am an actor.”
He began his speech by sharing that he grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, which he dubbed “the Pittsburgh of the north.” Levy said the most popular actor from his hometown was “the guy who did all those toilet paper commercials years ago. The guy who played Mr. Whipple.”
“Mr. Whipple worked at a supermarket and every time he saw a customer squeeze the toilet paper to see how soft it was, it would infuriate him and he would glare at people and say, ‘Don’t squeeze the Charmin,'” he recalled. “I dreamt that maybe one day I could be the next Mr. Whipple. My name is Eugene Levy … another thought just occurred to me.”
Eugene’s son and Schitt’s Creek co-star Dan Levy, sitting next to him, eventually cut off his father to tell him that he was rambling on for too long. “You’ve taken three times as long as everybody else and you’re still not finished,” said Dan. Eugene deadpanned, “My story’s complex.”
The younger Levy then informed his dad that he took so long that Tom Hanks lost his opportunity to share his own story. While Eugene said that Hanks is “a good guy” and that “he’ll take it well,” a shot of Hanks showed the actor looking annoyed. Eugene said, “That’s the Mr. Whipple look.”
After Eugene introduced himself, he and Dan took the stage to present the first award. “Let’s start the show,” said Eugene before he clarified that they were not hosting the show and were not getting paid to present.
Christina Applegate initially opened the show by sharing that she got her SAG card in 1976. “It was for an indie film. I don’t remember what it was, but it was the ’70s and everyone was really, really high,” she said. “I am Christina Applegate, and I am an actor.”
Cynthia Erivo followed to share how she fell in love with her profession. The actress shared that she played the “coveted role of the shepherd” in a Nativity play. “Everyone lauded my performance. I was hooked. I was 5 years old,” she said. “My name is Cynthia Erivo, and I’m an actor.”
The tradition began during the very first SAG Awards in 1995. Angela Lansbury was tasked with explaining the significance of the “Actor” statuette. During her speech, she recounted some of her most memorable roles.
Michael Keaton took on the role during the 1996 ceremony. He was the first person to conclude the story with “I’m an actor.” The tradition continued as Dennis Hopper, John Lithgow, Kathy Bates, Whoopi Goldberg, James Woods and Ian McKellen carried the mantle of sharing their career stories in the following years.
The 2003 ceremony marked the first time five stars were recruited to share their stories during the show’s opening. “I loved the inspiration of the show,” supervising producer Gloria Fujita O’Brien previously told The Hollywood Reporter about the expanding tradition. “I thought that five people telling short stories would inspire all of the new people coming up.”
The 2020 SAG Awards aired on TBS and TNT from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
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