All the Passionate Political SAG Awards Speeches You Can Stand

Images via Getty
Images via Getty

Sunday night’s SAG Awards ceremony operated at a strange, peak level of wokeness, with everyone from Aston Kutcher to Mahershala Ali to the dude from Stranger Things commenting on the dismal state of the world.


Most of the actors’ acceptance speeches addressed what’s been at the top of many people’s minds: President Trump’s immigration ban, which restricted people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., thus leaving airports across the country in disarray over the weekend.

The clear SAG standouts last night: Mahershala Ali’s anecdote about his mom and seeing difference and David Harbour’s super-hyped speech supporting the punching of Nazis. Other SAG winners spoke in narrower strokes, perhaps out of a sense of duty. There is something weird about entertainers feeling an automatic obligation to speak out partly for the protection of public image—no one wants to be labeled an asshole for saying nothing, so it seems that any entertainer now has to at least consider how to be socially aware in their speeches. Hollywood is feeling sexy and political and it’s too late to stop them. Here’s who said what at the SAGs.

Kerry Washington

Washington, who wore a safety pin on her gown as a “symbol of solidarity,” opened the show by addressing the very criticism that actors tend to be the worst at discussing politics.

What She Said: “A lot of people are saying right now that actors shouldn’t express their opinions when it comes to politics. But the truth is actors are activists no matter what, ’cause we embody the work and humanity of all people.” That’s putting a nice ribbon on it, yes.

Ashton Kutcher

In his opening monologue, Ashton made an apropos transition from shouting out detained refugees to welcoming everyone to a show where actors ingratiate each other :).


What He Said: “Good evening fellow SAG-AFSTRA members and everyone at home and everyone in airports that belong in my America. You are a part of the fabric of who you are and we love you and we welcome you. We also welcome you to the 23rd Annual Screen Actor’s Guild Awards.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

After joking about Russian hacking, Dreyfus visibly trembled while delivering her speech, a sign that she was really feeling it up there.


What She Said: “I want you all to know that I’m the daughter of an immigrant. My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France. And I’m an American patriot and I love this country. And because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes. And this immigrant ban is its blemish and it’s un-American... Our guilds are unions of storytellers who have always welcomed those from other nations, and of varying beliefs, who wish to share their creativity with America. We are grateful to them. We stand with them. We will fight for them.”

William H. Macy

Macy didn’t want to get fiery and just took a brief crack at Trump in reference to the character he plays on Shameless.


What He Said: “I would like to thank President Trump, for making Frank Gallagher seem so normal.”


Taylor Schilling

The best part of Orange Is the New Black’s win was the hyped actors in the background, though true to her annoying character Schilling at one point hushed them and, of course, focused her speech on celebrating diversity.


What She Said: “We stand up here representing generations of people, representing generations of families who have sought a better life here, from places like Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ireland, Brooklyn... And we know that it’s gonna be up to us and all of you probably, too, to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that seek to divide us.”


Viola Davis

The ever-classy queen of acceptance speeches centered hers around industry politics and the people who make the movies that matter, stating that it’d be great if there were more normal stories about people of color, not just ones about slavery or historical figures.


What She Said: “What August did so beautifully is he honored the average man, who just so happened to be a man of color. And sometimes we don’t have to shake the world and move the world and create anything that is gonna be in the history book.”


Mahershala Ali

The most gorgeous man and speech of the night, Ali was honest and poetic in explaining how Moonlight told a story about difference.


What He Said: “I think what I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves.” He added that while his mom is an ordained minister and he’s a Muslim, they get along because they have to. “We kinda get caught up in the minutiae of details that make us all different. I think there’s two ways of seeing that. There’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique and there’s an opportunity to go to war about it and say that that person is different from me and I don’t like you so let’s battle.” He says of his mother, “We put things to the side and I’m able to see her. She’s able to see me.”


Sarah Paulson

Paulson made a smart decision to mention the ACLU for all the unaware celebrities and viewers watching.


What She Said: “I would like to make a plea for everyone if they can, any money they have to spare, please donate to the ACLU to protect the rights and liberties of people across this country. It’s a vital, vital organization that relies entirely on our support.”


Bryan Cranston

Given that Cranston won for playing President Lyndon B. Johnson, he had to mention Trump and, in doing so, chose to be diplomatic.


What He Said: “I’m often asked how would Lyndon Johnson think about Donald Trump and I honestly feel that 36 would put his arm around 45 and earnestly wish him success. And 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 gotta eat.’”

John Lithgow

Gotta love that Lithgow prepared nothing and basically just said: What Meryl Said.


What He Said: After honoring his fellow nominees, Lithgow added to the list: “And also a great and underrated actress who somehow managed to speak my exact thoughts three weeks ago in another awards ceremony and that’s Meryl Streep.”

David Harbour

This guy was fired up and ready to go and would make an excellent football coach. Best things about it: Winona Ryder’s expressions. The kid actors jumping around. Punching Nazis.


What He Said: “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! 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!”

Winona had no idea what was happening but loved and was confused about every second of it


Emma Stone

Kinda felt like she kinda felt like she kinda had to say something? Little bit of a cringe moment here as Stone tried to get across the point that it’s great to be among people who care about big things and can articulately express meaningful social views.


What She Said: “To get to be a part, even a tiny, tiny part of a group of people that cares about reflecting society and bringing people joy and making them laugh and giving people hope maybe... Just, we’re in a really tricky time in the world and in our country and things are very inexcusable and scary and need action and I’m so grateful to be part of a group of people that cares and wants to reflect things back to society.”

Taraji P. Henson

Hidden Figures won for best cast in a motion picture and Henson was her usual chillingly passionate self on stage, describing the black women portrayed in the film as “American heroes.”


What She Said: “This story is of unity. This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins. Every time. Thank you so much for appreciating the work we’ve done. Thank you so much for appreciating these women. They are hidden figures no more.” What this story is not about is hidden fences.

Culture Editor, Jezebel



Best things about it: Winona Ryder’s expressions.

yeah no. i found them to be distracting, detracting, and flat-out rude.