There is a rare phenomenon at this year’s SAG Awards: four actors could prevail for reprising their Tony-winning Broadway roles. On the film side Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are nominated for their performances in the big-screen adaptation of “Fences.” And on the television side both Bryan Cranston (“All the Way”) and Audra McDonald (“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”) also hope to convert Tony triumph into SAG success.
Before this year only one actor, Frank Langella for “Frost/Nixon” (2008), has attempted to turn his Tony win into a victory at the SAG Awards for film (he lost out to Sean Penn in “Milk”). Both Washington and Davis won Tony Awards for playing Troy and Rose Maxson in “Fences” in 2010 and are up for reprising those roles in the film version: Washington is in the running for Best Film Actor, while Davis contends for Best Film Supporting Actress, and both are nominated as members of the ensemble cast.
Brian Dennehy achieved the feat of winning at both ceremonies, but for a TV adaptation instead of film. He won a Tony for the classic play “Death of a Salesman” in 1999 and then prevailed at the SAG Awards for the 2000 Showtime version. That could be good news for both Cranston and McDonald: they won Tony Awards for Best Actor and Actress in a Play in 2014 for their respective roles as President Lyndon B. Johnson and singer Billie Holiday and reprised those roles in HBO telefilms in 2016. They were also nominated for those performances at the Emmys this past year, but lost to the leads from “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” Courtney B. Vance and Sarah Paulson, whom they face again at SAG.
Davis is one of her fellow actors’ favorite stars. She lost her first two SAG noms in 2008 — Film Supporting Actress and Ensemble for “Doubt” — but she’s now a four-time champ, winning Film Actress and Ensemble for “The Help” in 2011 and TV Drama Actress for “How to Get Away with Murder” in 2014 and 2015.
Washington has never actually won a SAG Award for any role, and after winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes last year (2015) and two Oscars (“Glory” in 1989, “Training Day” in 2001), his fellow actors may feel a sense of urgency to finally award him after four previous SAG losses: three for Best Film Actor (“The Hurricane” in 1999, “Training Day” in 2001, “Flight” in 2012) and one in 2007 as part of the ensemble of “American Gangster.”
Cranston is aiming for a victory as Best TV Movie/Mini Actor. He is already a four-time winner: Best Drama Actor (2012-2013) and Best TV Drama Ensemble for “Breaking Bad” and on the film side as part of the ensemble for “Argo” (2012), and he has an additional seven career nominations.
McDonald, however, has never been nominated by her fellow actors at the SAG Awards before now, but she is a well-respected theater actress and has won six Tony Awards, the most for any actor or actress. She also won an Emmy for hosting “Live from Lincoln Center” in 2015.
But besides Dennehy, Tony winning theater performances rarely translate to television. Elizabeth Franz (“Death of a Salesman,” 2000), Jeffrey Wright (“Angels in America,” 2003), Phylicia Rashad (“A Raisin in the Sun,” 2008), Patrick Stewart (“Macbeth,” 2010) and Cicely Tyson (“The Trip to Bountiful,” 2014) could not repeat their Tony success at the SAG Awards.
Will Cranston and McDonald change that? And might Washington and Davis join them?
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