SAG Awards Statue Visits Hollywood Sign

Jonathan Handel
Jason George and Julie Lake flank the Actor.

The handsome Actor stood impassively on a patch of dirt hillside as stars and media jostled for position

Two esteemed trademarks met for the first time Tuesday as the SAG Awards statue paid a visit to the Hollywood sign. Standing on the hillside at a vantage point perhaps a quarter-mile away from the iconic logotype, the 10-foot-tall Actor — the effigy’s official name — seemed unfazed by the human actors and gaggle of media in attendance. As photographers and camera operators called out to his co-stars, his expression never wavered.

That, of course, might be because he has no expression. “He’s universal,” said SAG Awards executive producer and co-founder Kathy Connell. “You can’t tell whether he’s doing a comedy or a drama.”

Truth be told, the Actor has essentially no lower face at all, which for most people would clearly signal a medical drama or a police procedural. But the statue holds in his hands two masks, one comic, one tragic, staring at them as if to decide which best befits the latest script he’s been offered.

Perhaps both, if you’ve been offered a dramedy like Orange Is the New Black. Conveniently enough, one of the stars of that Netflix hybrid, Julie Lake, was on hand for the festivities.

“The SAG Actor is on a tour of Hollywood,” she said, before confiding, “We barely got him here today. He’s super hungover.”

That may be due to his lack of experience with alcohol. The statue — and the SAG Awards themselves — just turned 21.

Or perhaps it was due to the normally locked gates that bar access to the vantage point, a concession to aggrieved neighbors whose Beachwood Canyon neighborhood can be flooded by tourists seeking a touch of glamour. An attempted rendezvous a year ago between the statue and the sign ended in failure.

The statue, being fiberglass, had no comment.

But in any case, Lake’s levity shouldn’t be taken for disrespect. “It’s my first time being nominated,” said the Yale graduate earnestly, admitting to jitters. “It’s great that there’s an ensemble award,” she added, referencing the Orange cast’s nomination.

Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy, Lifetime’s upcoming With This Ring), a SAG-AFTRA board member, agreed. “We focus on the collaboration,” he said, as the statue cast a long shadow on the hillside. “It’s humbling when your peers give you love.”

Connell, for her part, was hoping for love from the abdominally correct statue. “He’s pretty handsome,” she said. “What could be better than having the Actor in Hollywood at the Hollywood sign?” she asked.

Perhaps having one of his 12-inch, 16-pound bronze progeny on one’s mantle, a reporter was tempted to reply.

He is curiously fetching though, and it’s not just the washboard abs and the vacant physiognomy. As another observer noted, the sculptor gave the Actor an admirable and unadorned posterior — someone clearly was doing their squats regularly — while in the front a posing strap of sorts passes for modesty.

Asked whether the statue had signed a SAG-AFTRA nudity waiver, a union spokesperson laughed, then ventured that none was required, because “he isn’t a person.”

That may be so, and Art. 1.A of the union’s Codified Basic Agreement does indeed provide that “the term ‘performer’ means those persons covered by the terms of this Agreement” (emphasis added). However, entertainment union contracts are notoriously difficult to interpret. And if companies can be people, why can’t statues?

But even if the Actor isn’t a person — and thus, presumably not a union member — he’s certainly a union supporter. He, and the awards show, owe their existence to a desire to build support for then-SAG among big stars, said Awards committee co-chair Daryl Anderson, a co-founder of the Awards.

“The further along a person gets, the less the union can do for them,” he explained. The awards, created by “five unemployed actors sitting in a room,” were an effort to change that — and to start a conversation.

“The Awards tell people in the audience that all the actors are union members and are damned happy about it,” he said. “The audience gets a little glimpse at unions.”

“Our [other] goal,” he added, “was to remind people at the top, of the union.”

And as the 200-pound Actor was loaded ignominiously on his back onto a pickup truck for the journey down the hill, it became apparent that his goal was similar: to remind people that the 21st annual SAG Awards will be simulcast live Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on TNT and TBS. The Actor — and many other actors — are expected to attend.

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Twitter: @jhandel