Kristen Bell Kicks Off Female-Led SAG Awards

The Screen Actors Guild Awards will make their mark on this year’s Oscars race on Sunday, but it will be the treatment of women in Hollywood and beyond that will remain at the forefront.

The show features a roster of almost all female presenters, Kristen Bell as its inaugural host. It opened with actresses Allison Janney, Tracee Ellis Ross and Millie Bobby Brown speaking about their craft.

Bell kicked off the show riffing on the “I am an actor” stories that the SAG Awards always begin with, saying, “I am Kristen Bell and I am a narcissist. I’m sorry, and I’m an actor.”

Her monologue stayed light, with one slight dig against the Tea Party.

“The cast from ‘Get Out’ is here serving as a walking reminder that if you say yes to the Tea Party you’re immediately on your way to the sunken place”, Bell said.

Host Kristen Bell speaks onstage during the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. 27522_013

“We are living in a watershed moment”, she added. “Let’s make sure that we’re leading the charge with empathy and diligence. Because fear and anger never win the race.”

Early wins included Julia Louis-Dreyfus for actress in a comedy series for “Veep”, which also won outstanding ensemble in a comedy, and William H. Macy for actor in a comedy series for “Shameless.” Macy beat out Aziz Ansari in the category and the show avoided a potentially fraught moment in his loss.

Ansari was accused anonymously by a woman of aggressive sexual behavior in an account that has prompted some to question whether the encounter as described constitutes misconduct or a bad date. He accepted a Golden Globe two weeks ago while wearing a Time’s Up pin.

Producers say the female-forward approach was inspired by last year’s Women’s March, but the show arrives at a time when some of the industry’s biggest names are leading the Time’s Up and Me Too movements to address gender inequality, sexual misconduct, pay disparities and other issues.

The brisk show comes two weeks after a black-dress protest at the Golden Globe Awards, and several stars including Meryl Streep, Emma Stone and Michelle Williams bringing activists to the show. The SAG red carpet saw the return of colorful frocks and far fewer Time’s Up pins – although some actors, like Kumail Nanjiani and Gina Rodriguez, were still sporting theirs.

With many prominent men in Hollywood facing accusations of sexual misconduct, virtually every aspect of awards season has been impacted by the scandal. The SAG Awards are no different, with best film actor nominee James Franco having been accused of sexual misconduct in the days after winning best comedy actor at the Globes.

As the red carpet kicked off Sunday, E! host Giuliana Rancic wasted no time getting to the heart of some of the elephants in the room, asking “Glow” actress Alison Brie about recent allegations of misconduct against her brother-in-law James Franco (Brie is married to actor Dave Franco.)

“I think that above all what we’ve always said is it remains vital that anyone who remains victimized should have the right to speak out and come forward”, Brie said, adding that in the case of Franco, “Not everything that has come forward is fully accurate.”

Brie said that she supports her family and that they are waiting to get all the information.

“Now is the time for listening and that’s what we’re trying to do”, Brie said.

Franco has also called some of the accusations inaccurate, but after two days of facing questions about the claims on late-night television, “The Disaster Artist” star has kept a lower profile. He did not attend last week’s Critics’ Choice Awards, where he also won an acting honor.

The Globes were the first major awards show forced to confront the sexual misconduct scandal since it exploded in October with dozens of women accusing Harvey Weinstein of harassment and in some instances, rape. (Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.) Globes host Seth Meyers made several jokes about the scandal in his opening monologue, but the night was carried by Oprah Winfrey, who declared, “I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.”

Allison Janney, nominated for her role in “I, Tonya” managed expectations of her own potential speech if she wins for her supporting performance as Tonya Harding’s mother.

“I don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth if I get up there, but it’s not going to be Oprah”, Janney told The Associated Press on the red carpet.

The SAG Awards are a reliable predictor of the winner for the best actor and actress Academy Awards; this year’s show comes two days before Oscar nominations are announced.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” leads all nominees with four bids: ensemble, actress for star Frances McDormand, and supporting actor nominations for Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

The SAG Awards have no best picture category, but rather ensemble awards that recognize a film or TV show’s entire cast. Besides “Three Billboards”, the nominees for outstanding cast in a motion picture are “The Big Sick”, ”Get Out”, ”Lady Bird” and “Mudbound.”

For television, the drama series ensemble nominees are “The Crown”, ”Game of Thrones”, ”The Handmaid’s Tale”, ”Stranger Things” and “This Is Us.” The day’s first awards went to “Game of Thrones” and “Wonder Woman”, which were honored for best stunt ensemble honors handed out on the red carpet.

The leading television nominee is HBO’s “Big Little Lies”, with actresses Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon all competing in the best actress in a miniseries or movie category.

One of the evening’s highlights will be the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to Morgan Freeman.

The show will air on TBS and TNT beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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