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'CODA' wins top honor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards

The big television prizes went to the HBO drama "Succession" and the Apple TV+ comedy "Ted Lasso."
Image: photo collage of stills from nominated films
This year's top nominees included "Belfast," "King Richard," "Don't Look Up," "CODA" and "House of Gucci."Tara Anand / NBC News

"CODA," a coming-of-age drama centered on the only hearing member of a deaf family, took the top honor at Sunday's 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Hollywood's first marquee awards show of the year.

The film triumphed in a best film ensemble field, which also included the 1960s-set tale "Belfast," the doomsday satire "Don't Look Up," the true-crime melodrama "House of Gucci" and the sports biopic "King Richard."

Marlee Matlin, accepting the ensemble prize on behalf of the "CODA" cast, dedicated the award to children of deaf adults around the world.

"We — deaf actors — have come a long way," Matlin said through an American Sign Language interpreter. "This validates the fact that we, deaf actors, can work just like anybody else. We look forward to more opportunities for deaf actors, deaf culture."

Jane Campion's "The Power of the Dog," this year's leading Oscar contender, failed to land a best ensemble nomination. But three of the film's actors — Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee — were up for individual prizes.

Will Smith nabbed a trophy for his role as Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena, in "King Richard." Jessica Chastain was recognized for her portrayal of Tammy Faye Messner, the ex-wife of televangelist Jim Bakker, in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye."

Smith, tears streaming down his cheeks, said hearing his name called while sitting next to Venus Williams was "one of the greatest moments of my career."

The supporting performance statuettes went to Troy Kotsur ("CODA") and Ariana DeBose ("West Side Story"), two first-time nominees.

Kotsur, who is deaf and delivered his acceptance speech through an American Sign Language interpreter, thanked Apple TV+ for providing "support and access." The company acquired the film at the Sundance Film Festival for $25 million.

The ceremony was held at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. TBS and TNT aired the telecast, and the show will be available to stream Monday on HBO Max.

The results at the SAG Awards do not always match up with those of the Academy Awards. The cast of Aaron Sorkin's "The Trial of the Chicago 7" nabbed the film ensemble award at last year's SAG ceremony, while best picture at the Oscars went to "Nomadland."

Two years ago, however, SAG Awards victory for Bong Joon Ho's "Parasite" foreshadowed the movie's history-making night at the 92nd Academy Awards, where it became the first non-English-language film to win best picture.

Small-screen victories

In the television races, the ensembles of the HBO drama "Succession" and the Apple TV+ comedy "Ted Lasso" added to their collections of industry plaudits.

TV acting winners included Lee Jung-jae ("Squid Game"), Jung Ho-yeon ("Squid Game"), Jason Sudeikis ("Ted Lasso"), Jean Smart ("Hacks"), Michael Keaton ("Dopesick") and Kate Winslet ("Mare of Easttown").

Image: 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards
Jung Ho-yeon accepts the Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Keaton, recognized for his role on a miniseries about the opioid addiction crisis, dedicated his award to his nephew and sister. Fighting back tears and pausing to collect his thoughts, he explained that he lost his nephew to drug addiction.

The screen veteran Helen Mirren received the Life Achievement Award. Winslet introduced the segment in a video message, and Cate Blanchett presented the honor.

"I suppose I'm still alive, so by that measure, I'm eligible," Mirren joked in her acceptance speech. She paid tribute to the craft of acting, alternating between earnest tributes to her peers and salty one-liners.

Covid jokes, Ukraine tributes

The evening kicked off with a brief "Hamilton" reunion. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs took the stage to introduce the evening's theme: "Together again."

"Finally, we return to a world where all we have to do to hang out like this is get dressed up, show up, get swabbed, sanitized, masked, vaccinated, boosted, rapid-tested and PCR-cleared within 48 hours," Odom joked. "Who's ready to party?"

Diggs, for his part, quipped that Covid protocols would be closely monitored by the guards from "Squid Game," a dystopian survival series.

Odom struck a more serious note minutes later, however, addressing the camera to say the attendees were "holding a place in our hearts for the people of Ukraine" as Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces invade the country.

“Succession” star Brian Cox, accepting the drama series ensemble prize, recognized the conflict in Ukraine, too.

Cox, surrounded by his "Succession" cast mates, acknowledged that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a comedian and performer before taking office in 2019. He then blasted the Russian government for placing limits on what artists can say about the conflict.

"They are told, under pain of high treason, that they cannot say a word about Ukraine, and I think that is pretty awful," Cox said. He called on the audience to celebrate Russians who take a stand against Putin's offensive in a democratic nation.

The SAG Awards usually follow the Golden Globe Awards in the Hollywood calendar. But this year, the Globes ceremony was not broadcast on network television or livestreamed online. (The show typically airs on NBC.)

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, reeling from a public relations storm over ethical lapses and a lack of internal diversity, announced its awards winners on social media.