At the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, almost every winner seemed to have something to say about politics.
Few pulled a Meryl Streep and dedicated an entire speech to the state of the world today, but nearly everyone who spoke was soberly aware that they were celebrating on the same weekend in which President Donald Trump signed an executive order on immigration that will exacerbate an already debilitating global refugee crisis.
Before the ceremony even began in earnest, Kerry Washington spoke straight into the camera and reminded the audience that she and her fellow actors have every right to be political: “A lot of people are saying right now that actors should keep our mouths shut when it comes to politics. But the truth is, no matter what, actors are activists because we embody the humanity and worth of all people.”
And Host Ashton Kutcher, who spoke against the immigration ban on Twitter earlier this weekend, welcomed “everyone in airports that belong in my America” at the top of the show, adding, “You are a part of the fabric of who we are, and we love you and we welcome you.”
But the most pointed commentary came during the winners’ acceptance speeches.
Sarah Paulson, accepting an award for playing Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, urged those watching to donate to the ACLU — which successfully sued for an emergency stay on the immigration ban — as much as they are able.
Mahershala Ali, winning Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Moonlight, spoke about the importance of recognizing the commonalities in our differences. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, accepting her trophy for Veep, briefly channeled Trump (“I am the winner. The winner is me. Landslide.”), before reminding the audience that “I'm the daughter of an immigrant” and concluding, “Because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes. This immigrant ban is a blemish, and it's un-American.”
Orange Is the New Black, which won the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, reminded the audience of the diversity of their cast, “representing generations of families who have sought a better life here from places like Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ireland.” Taylor Schilling, who accepted the award, added that “we know it's going to be up to us and all of you to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger.”
Bryan Cranston, accepting an award for his leading role in All the Way, offered some advice from the president he portrayed, Lyndon B. Johnson, to Trump. “I feel that 36 would put his arm around 45 and earnestly wish him success,” Cranston said. “He would also whisper in his ear something he said — often as a form of encouragement, and a cautionary tale: ‘Just don't piss in the soup that all of us have got to eat.’”
Lily Tomlin, accepting her lifetime achievement award, mused, “What signs should I make for the next march? So much to do. Global warming, Standing Rock, LGBT issues, Chinese missiles, immigration.”
Emma Stone, who won for La La Land, said, “We are in a tricky time in the world and our country, and things are inexcusable and scary and need action. And I'm so grateful to be part of a group of people that cares and that wants to reflect things back to society.”
But most fiery of all was the cast of Stranger Things, which won the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. David Harbour, who plays Chief of Police Jim Hopper on the Netflix hit, took on the role of impassioned spokesperson, calling for “our fellow craftsmen and women to go deeper and through our art to battle against fear, self-centeredness, and exclusivity of our predominantly narcissistic culture, and through our craft to cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society by revealing intimate truths that serve as a forceful reminder to folks that when they feel broken, and afraid, and tired, they are not alone.”
Referring to Stranger Things’ setting — the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s — he promised, “We 1983 Midwesterners will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no hope. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters, and when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek and the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy.”