When “This Is Us” star Sterling K. Brown received the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Award for Best TV Drama Actor, Best TV Comedy Actor became the only competitive SAG category that has yet to be conquered by a Black performer. Following the unsuccessful bids of Bernie Mac (“The Bernie Mac Show,” 2003), Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish,” 2017-2018) and Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” 2017), Tyler James Williams could soon close the loop by being honored for his work on ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” This potential victory would make him only the 10th Black artist and third Black man to ever win an individual TV SAG Award.
According to Gold Derby’s SAG Awards predictions, Williams is one of the likeliest candidates for a 2023 Best TV Comedy Actor nomination. His portrayal of straight-laced first grade teacher Gregory Eddie has earned him the fifth place spot on our list, behind Bill Hader (“Barry”), “Only Murders in the Building” pair Steve Martin and Martin Short, and Jeremy Allen White (“The Bear”). If he does prevail, the 30-year-old will also become the category’s all-time youngest victor, surpassing Sean Hayes (31, “Will & Grace,” 2002).
The first Black male television performer to pull off a solo SAG Award win was Idris Elba, who took the 2016 Best TV Movie/Mini Actor prize for “Luther.” At the time, the corresponding female award had already gone to four Black actresses: Alfre Woodard (“The Piano Lesson,” 1995 and “Miss Evers’ Boys,” 1997), Halle Berry (“Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,” 2000), S. Epatha Merkerson (“Lackawanna Blues,” 2006) and Queen Latifah (“Life Support,” 2008 and “Bessie,” 2016). The only Black women who have won SAG Awards for continuing series are Chandra Wilson (“Grey’s Anatomy,” 2007), Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black,” 2015-2016) and Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder,” 2015-2016).
Aside from Brown, the only other Black man who has ever contended for the Best TV Drama Actor SAG Award is Regé-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”) in 2021. A total of 16 Black men have been recognized by their guild peers for performances in TV movies or miniseries, including Elba, Brown (“The People v. O.J. Simpson,” 2017) and recent nominees Mahershala Ali (“True Detective,” 2020), Jharrel Jerome (“When They See Us,” 2020) and Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton,” 2021).
On the film side, the first Black winners in their respective individual categories were Cuba Gooding Jr. (Best Supporting Actor, “Jerry Maguire,” 1997), Berry (Best Actress, “Monster’s Ball,” 2002), Jamie Foxx (Best Actor, “Ray,” 2005) and Jennifer Hudson (Best Supporting Actress, “Dreamgirls,” 2007). Paul Barber (“The Full Monty,” 1998) was the first Black actor to win in the Best Film Ensemble category.
James McDaniel (“NYPD Blue,” 1995) and Lisa Nicole Carson (“Ally McBeal,” 1999) were the first Black recipients of the Best TV Drama Ensemble and Best TV Comedy Ensemble SAG Awards, respectively. “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2008) was the first film for which Black stunt performers were honored by the guild, while the first such TV series was “Heroes” (2009).
Nominations for the 29th SAG Awards will be announced on Wednesday, January 11 with the ceremony following on Sunday, February 26. The event is expected to be televised, although the organization has yet to partner with a new network after reaching the end of their decades-long deal with TNT and TBS.
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