How the SAG Awards Plans to "Create the Cultural Shift We're Looking For"

Gabrielle Carteris - SAG-AFTRA Foundation Patron of the Artists Awards 2017 -Getty-H 2018

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris on how the female host and an all-women presenter lineup — more than a year in the making — came to be: "We're celebrating all of our actors but are really looking to highlight and celebrate the women and the great work they're doing."

It wasn't until December that SAG-AFTRA announced that the 24th annual SAG Awards, taking place Jan. 21 at the Shrine Auditorium and airing live on TNT and TBS, will feature a lineup of all-women presenters — including Halle Berry, Dakota Fanning, Lupita Nyong'o, Emma Stone and Star Wars: The Last Jedi breakout Kelly Marie Tran. On the heels of weeks of sexual misconduct scandals that have rocked Hollywood, it seemed a timely choice, but in fact it's a plan that had been in the works for more than a year, says SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. "We work so hard on creating economic and creative equity," she explains. "We're celebrating all of our actors but are really looking to highlight and celebrate the women and the great work they're doing."

Indeed, the show will also celebrate female talent with another first: a host. The Good Place star Kristen Bell will emcee the event, which presents 15 honors that include the coveted outstanding cast award, which frequently presages Oscar's best picture (though it did not in 2017, when Hidden Figures took the top SAG Award).

And while actresses aren't expected to be wearing black as they did at the Golden Globes in a show of support for the Time's Up movement — an industry-wide response to concerns about workplace safety, pay parity and other issues affecting women's progress and power in entertainment, which was announced Jan. 1 — Carteris notes that SAG-AFTRA has been actively collaborating with various human rights organizations and initiatives, in addition to Time's Up. "These are our members, and they're looking to create a meaningful future for all of us," she says. "I'm interested in true systemic change, and if we're really going to make a shift, we have to deal with it on not just an industry level but an international and global level."

Although solidarity may be the theme, controversy could be lurking in the awards envelopes. Golden Globe wins for The Disaster Artist's James Franco and Darkest Hour's Gary Oldman, both nominated for SAG Awards, led to heated discussion on social media about their past conduct. After stories about Franco's alleged sexual misconduct surfaced, he chose not to attend the Jan. 11 Critics' Choice Awards, where he won best comedy actor.

Carteris had no comment on these potentially problematic nominees, pushing instead for a focus on the bigger picture, beyond the little gold statues: "Let's talk about the real thing, because it's not the awards. We are in a certain time in our history, and it is clear that the time is now for all of us to come together and really move forward and create this cultural shift we're looking for. That's the real truth, and the awards can be a platform [for that] or not. The time is now — you feel the energy behind it and people are ready. I would like to see us create from that energy."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.