SAG Awards: 'Black Panther' Becomes the Conquering Superhero Movie

'This Is Us' and 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' took the top TV prizes.

As if offering a chant of “Wakanda, forever!,” the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards presented its top prize for best motion picture ensemble — its equivalent of a best picture award — to the culturally groundbreaking Black Panther during its ceremony held Sunday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Speaking on behalf of a jubilant cast, Chadwick Boseman, who plays the title superhero in the Marvel/Disney blockbuster, offered a moving acceptance speech, saying, “To be young, gifted and black … all of us know up here know what it’s like to be told there is not a place for you to be featured.” But, working on Black Panther, he continued, “we knew we had something special that we wanted to give the world, that we could be full human beings in the roles we were playing.”

Has the movie’s success changed the industry? Boseman raised that question rhetorically, only to conclude, “You can’t have a Black Panther now without a 2 on it.”

But in what remains still something of a wide-open awards season, no one film dominated the night, which was cheekily hosted by Megan Mullally. Black Panther, which also picked up the film stunt ensemble award, prevailed over the nominated ensembles of A Star Is Born, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Rich Asians. But the voters from the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union then distributed their other four top film prizes among four separate movies.

Glenn Close, following her Golden Globe and Critics' Choice wins, took home best actress honors for playing a woman who has sublimated her life to a famous husband in Sony Pictures Classics’ The Wife. Testifying to the power of film, she said, “One of the most powerful things we have as human beings are two eyes looking into two eyes, and film is the only art form that allows us a close-up,” adding that gives us empathy and understanding.

For his performance as the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek received the first SAG Award of his career for best actor in a leading film role. He dedicated the award to Mercury, saying, “I get some power from him that is about stepping up and living your best life.”

Mahershala Ali extended his current awards-season winning streak when he was crowned best supporting actor in a film for his portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in Universal’s Green Book. He won the award in the same category just two years ago for Moonlight.

Her nearly wordless performance in Paramount’s A Quiet Place earned Emily Blunt her first SAG Award as supporting female actor in a film — Mullally had joked during her opening monologue that the movie represented a step forward because Blunt “played a mom who wasn’t allowed to speak.” “Guys, that truly has completely blown my slicked-hair back,” Blunt cracked as she took the stage before going on to thank her husband John Krasinski, who directed and co-starred in the film, saying, “The entire experience of doing this with you has completely pierced my heart directly.”

For the second year in a row, NBC’s family drama This Is Us was celebrated as best ensemble in a drama series. Speaking for the cast, Justin Hartley said, “Thank you so much for embracing a show about life and its unpredictable loss and its sweet, sweet victory and inclusivity.”

After eight nominations, Jason Bateman collected his first SAG Award, as outstanding actor in a drama series, for playing a money launderer on Netflix’s Ozark. Saying, “I was lucky enough to start coming to this show a few years ago, but there were a lot of years where I wasn’t,” he said to struggling actors, offering words of encouragement. ”You’re just one job away.”

Picking up her fourth SAG Award, Sandra Oh was hailed as outstanding female actor in a drama series for playing an intelligence agent on BBC America’s Killing Eve. She made a point of thanking fellow actors who had offered her words of encouragement over the years — Alfre Woodard, Jamie Foxx and Lena Waithe.

Early in the evening, Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel swept the TV comedy awards, with the show taking home its first-ever outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series honor. 

Rachel Brosnahan scored her first SAG Award for her performance as Mrs. Maisel’s wife, mother and would-be stand-up comedian, and made a special point of thanking “our too-often unsung background actors.” Tony Shalhoub, who won two previous SAG Awards for his work on Monk, was singled out as best actor in a comedy series for the professorial dad he plays on Mrs. Maisel. “The greatest honor of my life is to be nominated in the same category with Alan Arkin [nominated for The Kominsky Method], who has long been an idol of mine,” he said as he accepted his trophy. “I think he was the reason I wanted to be an actor in the first place.”

Darren Criss, who has become a familiar face on the awards circuit, was named best actor in a television movie or limited series for playing serial killer Andrew Cunanan in FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Sory. Speaking to Cunanan’s victims, he said, “Our goal was not to make a spectacle of their tragedy, but to create a positive dialog about social issues and bring to justice things that were in the shadows.”

He was soon followed to the stage by Patricia Arquette, named best female actress in a TV movie or limited series for playing prison worker Tilly Mitchell in Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora. Arquette, who also won a SAG Award for her supporting role in the 2015 movie Boyhood, used her moment at the microphone to warn fellow actors that some production companies aren’t paying actors their overtime or meal penalties, and that has to stop because “actors depend on that money to survive.” And then she tossed in a “Thank you, Robert Mueller, and everyone who is working to make sure that we have sovereignty for the United States of America.”

Nice guy Tom Hanks presented SAG-AFTRA’s Life Achievement Award to fellow nice guy Alan Alda, who was greeted by a lengthy standing ovation. “It’s really hard to describe to you what it feels like to look out and see my fellow actors, my colleagues, my heroes. To welcome me up here like this, It’s an extraordinary feeling,” said Alda, best known for his long-running star turn on M*A*S*H. “It may never have been more urgent to see the world through another person’s eyes,” he said to his fellow actors. “When the culture is divided so sharply, actors can help, at least a little, just by doing what we do.”

Before the live TNT/TBS broadcast began, on the silver carpet, it was announced that Black Panther had claimed the award for motion picture stunt ensemble, while Netflix’s GLOW took the prize for TV stunt ensemble.