In an upset, the deaf family drama CODA took top honors at an unpredictable and history-making 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards that also saw wins for the leads of Squid Game, the cast of Ted Lasso, and Will Smith. The ceremony, held Sunday at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, and broadcast on both TNT and TBS, was notably border-breaking, with historic wins for deaf actors, Korean stars and some of Hollywood's biggest names, the AP reports. It culminated with CODA, Sian Heder's heartwarming Apple TV+ coming-of-age film featuring a trio of deaf actors in Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, and Daniel Durant, along with newcomer Emilia Jones, winning best ensemble. The film has been seen as a watershed moment for the deaf community in Hollywood.
"This validates the fact that we, deaf actors, can work just like anybody else. We look forward to more opportunities for deaf actors," said Matlin on stage before teaching the crowd sign language for “I love you.” Matlin is the only deaf actor to win an Oscar, but her CODA co-star, Kotsur, may be in line to join her. Kotsur won best supporting actor Sunday, becoming the first deaf actor win an individual SAG award. When his name was read, the 53-year-old veteran actor plunged his head into his hands. On stage, he thanked his wife for “reminding me to check my fly before walking the red carpet.”
Netflix's Squid Game, the first non-English language series nominated by the actors guild, came on strong with three awards, including Lee Jung-jae for best male actor in a drama series and Jung Ho-yeon for best female actor in a drama series, but HBO's Succession ultimately reigned in the best drama series category. The SAG Awards are considered one of the most reliable predictors of the Academy Awards. Actors make up the largest percentage of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and their picks often align. SAG's track record may also mean Will Smith, star of the Williams family tennis drama King Richard, is heading for his first Oscar. Smith took best actor, scoring his first SAG award. (More on the ceremony here; complete list of winners here.)