SAG Awards nominee profile: Ethan Hawke (‘The Good Lord Bird’) seeking his 1st career win after 4 nominations

Oscar-nominated actor and writer Ethan Hawke has been making the rounds on the awards circuit this season for his critically acclaimed foray into television playing John Brown, a wild-eyed abolitionist leading a misfit brigade of soldiers in Showtime’s limited series “The Good Lord Bird.” So far a Golden Globe nomination and a Satellite Award are among his accolades, in addition to a WGA bid for his hand in co-writing the series. Next Hawke could be selected by his peers as best TV movie/limited series actor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

This is Hawke’s fourth career SAG nomination, but his first for TV. He was previously nominated for supporting roles in the films “Training Day” (2001) and “Boyhood” (2014), along with a film ensemble bid for the latter. He lost his first nod to Sir Ian McKellen in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and his second to J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash,” while the ensemble prize went to that year’s eventual Best Picture winner at the Oscars, “Birdman.”

To snag his first win, Hawke will have to overcome four other actors who have found success on the small screen. Mark Ruffalo already won the Emmy and Globe for “I Know This Much is True” and is on his sixth career SAG nom. He prevailed in this category six years ago for “The Normal Heart” and was part of the winning film ensemble in “Spotlight” (2015). Prior to that he received nominations for supporting film roles in “The Kids Are All Right” (2010) and “Foxcatcher” (2014), in addition to a film ensemble bid for “Kids.”

Like Hawke, Hugh Grant is celebrating his fourth career SAG Awards nomination and seeking his first win for “The Undoing.” His prior bids came as part of the film ensemble of “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), for his supporting film performance in “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016) and two years ago in this category for “A Very English Scandal.” Rounding out the category, Emmy nominee Bill Camp and Tony winner Daveed Diggs are first-time SAG nominees for “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Hamilton,” respectively.

“The Good Lord Bird” is told from the point of view of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a fictional character who tags along with Brown’s army after his father is killed in a violent altercation. Onion’s true name is Henry Shackleford, but when Brown mishears the name as Henrietta, Onion is mistaken for a girl and given a dress to wear. Concerned for his safety, Onion doesn’t argue and plays along, sticking by Brown’s side throughout bloody confrontations in Kansas Territory. As the story progresses, Onion and Brown encounter other historical figures such as Frederick Douglass (Diggs) and Harriet Tubman (Zainab Jah).

Many predict Ruffalo is the front-runner after winning the Emmy and Golden Globe, but that isn’t how things always break down. Last year Sam Rockwell took home the SAG Award for “Fosse/Verdon” after losing the Globe to Russell Crowe in “The Loudest Voice” and the Emmy to Jharrel Jerome (“When They See Us”). And John Boyega recently proved Ruffalo isn’t unbeatable by prevailing at the Critics Choice Awards for “Small Axe.” The fact that “I Know This Much is True” was released nearly a year ago could mean it’s no longer at the forefront of voters’ minds, making room for a respected actor like Hawke to claim his first win for his showy performance in “The Good Lord Bird.”

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders in film and TV.

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