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Photo by David Fisher/Shutterstock. Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture – ‘Parasite’ 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

What Actors Can Learn From the SAG Awards Speeches

The SAG Awards took place on January 19, and out of all the award shows, it is the one specifically designated for thespians. The trophy that winners take home is literally called an “Actor.” SAG-AFTRA members and their votes are the determining factors on which nominees make it to the stage to accept a statuette. Regardless of whether you’re a member of the union or not, all actors can glean important lessons from SAG Awards winners and their speeches. Keep reading for some big takeaways from this year’s accoladed actors in the major lead categories.


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Winner: Renée Zellweger for Judy
Takeaway: Acknowledge the importance of what actors do.

Toward the end of her speech, Zellweger touched on the impact of good storytelling with, “I feel so lucky to be a member of this family of storytellers who get to do work that reflects the experience of being human and fosters understanding and empathy and unity. And with some luck, maybe [that work] pushes history a little bit closer to the light.” Zellweger wrapped the speech by dedicating her award to the real-life actor she played to win it. “Judy Garland, 50 years later, your community is thinking of you tonight. This is for you,” Zellweger said as she held up her trophy, reinforcing the value of storytelling and how it lives on. 


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Winner: Joaquin Phoenix for Joker
Takeaway: Learn from your peers.

The bulk of Phoenix’s address was reserved for appreciating the other nominated actors in his category and what he’d gleaned from their work. He started with, “Leonardo [DiCaprio], you’ve been an inspiration for over 25 years to me and [to] so many people.” Phoenix continued with, “Christian [Bale], you commit to your roles in ways that I can only dream of. You never turn in a bad performance … Adam [Driver], I’ve been watching you the last few years, and you’ve just been turning in these beautiful, nuanced, incredible, profound performances. And I’m just so moved by you … [Taron Egerton,] you’re so beautiful in this movie [Rocketman]. And I’m so happy for you, and I can’t wait to see what else you do.” Phoenix ended his speech by acknowledging Heath Ledger, whom he recognized as his favorite actor. 


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Winner: Jennifer Aniston for The Morning Show
Takeaway: Recognize how far you’ve come.

Aniston started her address with an anecdote from her childhood, saying, “I was thinking back to when I was a little girl and I didn’t have a VCR, but I had a tape recorder. And I would tape Laverne & Shirley [and] Happy Days on my little tape deck, and I would listen to these episodes in my head. And I would just think, ‘I’m going to one day do that’… And then I got a Bob’s Big Boy commercial, and I got into SAG. And that was a humble beginning, but you have to start somewhere.” Later on, she stated that “dreams do come true.” Aniston’s words remind actors of any experience level the importance of appreciating their journey. 


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Winner: Peter Dinklage for Game of Thrones
Takeaway: Make a home, no matter where you find yourself.

Dinklage kept his speech short and sweet. He thanked the people of Northern Ireland, where the series was filmed, as well as his cast mates. And then he ended his speech by recognizing his spouse with, “Most importantly, I’d like to thank my wife, who put up with me for more than nine years but lived in a place far away from home. But [she] made it home because we were together. Thank you.” Since shooting locations vary and actors often find themselves away from their home base, Dinklage’s succinct speech offers a very important lesson. That is, create a safe, comfortable space for yourself wherever the job may take you.


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Winner: Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag
Takeaway: Appreciate your fans.

Waller-Bridge thanked a number of people in her speech, but she made a special point to recognize Fleabag’s audience with, “I have to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being so supportive of our show on these shores. With all the chaos of the outfits and the interviews and the six-pack that my makeup artist drew on me this evening… and all the amazing Hollywood things that happen here, it’s quite easy to be distracted from the thing that has actually happened to us.” Waller-Bridge joked that at some point, the show’s success would finally register, leaving her crying in a corner. Regardless of the size of your audience, though, Waller-Bridge’s message to appreciate your fans is universal.   


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Winner: Tony Shalhoub for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Takeaway: Value your castmates.

Shalhoub joined Dinklage in the short speech club. He began his address by recognizing SAG-AFTRA and then praised his fellow cast members. “I share this Actor with my fellow Maisel castmates. It is a joy to know you. It is a privilege to work alongside you. And so, with your blessings, I will dedicate this to one of our family [members] who we lost this year and who we miss terribly. The most marvelous Brian Tarantina, our brother — here’s to you.” Tarantina, who played Jackie in the series, passed away last year. But Shalhoub’s tribute reminds us that he and his work are not forgotten. 


Gratitude was a common theme amongst the speeches at this year’s SAG Awards. Winners thanked other industry members, such as their agents, as well as various people in their lives. Zellweger even acknowledged a friend who had let the actress sleep on her couch. You may be couch-surfing yourself, or perhaps an especially lucrative booking paid for the down payment on your own home. But regardless of how close you are to achieving your career goals, the big takeaway from this year’s speeches is a reminder to have gratitude. In her address, Waller-Bridge summed it up with, “This whole thing really has been a dream, and if I wake up tomorrow and discover it was just that, then thank you. It’s been the most beautiful dream.” 

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