Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mahershala Ali, Ashton Kutcher and More Rally Against Immigration Ban at SAG Awards
By Alex Ungerman
Awards shows are often a forum for social commentary, but it's difficult to recall one as politically charged as the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Held in Los Angeles on the same weekend a civil rights crisis took place over President Donald J. Trump's controversial immigration ban, which left many foreign travelers detained in airports across the country, celebrities again and again took to the podium to criticize the executive order, and speak out in favor of unity over division.
This was evident from the beginning of the show, when Kerry Washington -- who revealed earlier that she'd wear a safety pin in protest of Trump's ban and proposed border wall -- used the show's annual "I'm an Actor" opener to advocate for the role of performers in political activism.
"A lot of people are saying right now that actors should keep our mouths shut when it comes to politics," she said. "But the truth is, no matter what, actors are activists because we embody the humanity and worth of all people. This union helps me to do that. I am Kerry Washington, and I am an actor."
Shortly after, Ashton Kutcher addressed the ban specifically.
“Good evening, fellow SAG-AFTRA members and everyone at home. And everyone in airports that belong in my America," he exclaimed. "You are a part of the fabric of who we are, and we love you and we welcome you."
Before the show, Kutcher tweeted a moving statement in opposition to the ban, pointing out that his wife, Mila Kunis, entered the United States as a refugee.
"My wife came to this country on a refugee visa in the middle of the Cold War! My blood is boiling right now!" he wrote. "We have never been a nation built on fear. Compassion that is the root ethic of America. Our differences are fundamental 2R sustainability."
Kutcher later tweeted, "If standing for the America that doesn't discriminate makes me a left wing actor who is out of touch. F**k it."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus shared her family's own immigrant story while accepting the award for Female Actor in a Comedy Series for Veep
"I'm the daughter of an immigrant. My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France. I'm an American patriot, I love this country,” she told the audience. “Because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes and this immigrant ban is a blemish and it's un-American."
Meanwhile, while accepting the award for Male Actor in a Comedy Series, Shameless star William H. Macy lampooned the current president by comparing Trump to Frank, the often racist, misogynistic narcissist he plays on the Showtime series.
"I would like to go against the strain this evening and thank President Trump for making Frank Gallagher seem so normal," the 66-year-old actor quipped.
Mahershala Ali, who won for Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Moonlight, got choked up while delivering a moving speech against division.
"What I've learned from working on Moonlight is we see what happens when we persecute people: They fold into themselves," Ali said. "My mother is an ordained minister. I'm a Muslim. She didn't do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you know, we put things to the side, and I'm able to see her, she's able to see me. We love each other, the love has grown, and that stuff is minutiae. It's not that important."
Sarah Paulson ended her acceptance speech for Female Actor in a Drama Series by urging people to donate, if they could, to the American Civil Liberties Union, who successfully took legal action over the weekend to fight for a stay on at least part of Trump's expansive executive orders.
"Any money you have to spare, please donate to the ACLU,” Paulson implored. "It's a vital organization that relies entirely on our support.”
"It's up to us and all of you," Orange Is the New Black star Taylor Schilling said as her co-stars stood beside her to accept the award for Ensemble in a Comedy Series. "To keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than forces that seek to destroy us."
As Hidden Figures won the award for Ensemble in a Drama Film, Taraji P. Henson used the film as an example of the ability for unity to overcome challenges.
"This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside, and we come together as a human race," she concluded. "We win. Love wins every time ... They are hidden figures no more!"
Meanwhile, John Lithgow ended his Male Actor in a Drama Series acceptance speech for Netflix's The Crown by shouting out Meryl Streep's emotional Cecil B. DeMille Award address at the Golden Globe Awards earlier this month.
"And to a great, underrated actress who somehow managed to speak my exact thoughts three weeks ago in another awards ceremony, and that is Meryl Streep," he shared. "Thank you so much."
Bryan Cranston, invoked Lyndon B. Johnson, whom he portrayed in All the Way, suggesting the former president would offer Trump the advice, "Just don't piss in the soup that all of us gotta eat."
And while emotions ran high throughout the evening, perhaps no one's address was more passionate than Stranger Things star David Harbour, whose exuberant speech on behalf of winning Ensemble Cast in a Drama Series managed to startle even Harbour's co-star, Winona Ryder.
"Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 midwesterners will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home," Harbour passionately proclaimed. "We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and 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 what we have envisioned for ourselves and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility!"
Before the ceremony even began, Big Bang Theory star Simon Helberg made a statement on the red carpet, holding up a sign that read, "REFUGEES WELCOME," as his wife, Jocelyn Towne, had the words "LET THEM IN" scrawled across her chest.