While the fate of the Oscars remains uncertain, the SAG Awards will go on. Zac Efron, Vanessa Williams, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are just a few of the actors expected to walk the red carpet on Jan. 27 as the Screen Actors Guild celebrates its 75th anniversary. The ceremony will reflect on the history of the union and honor the stars of today. "You have to acknowledge that Hollywood has been a major force in helping shape and reflect the country," says the show's producer, Kathy Connell. "We're going to give everyone a feel for where we started, what's gone on and where we're going." Connell also expects the unexpected. "This is live television. The actors are going to do what the actors want to do and that's what makes it exciting." Here's more from Connell on what could very well be Hollywood's biggest night this awards season.
TV Guide: Are you guys getting excited?
Connell: We are getting excited. It's that time of year when it's all starting to come together and it just feels wonderful.
TV Guide: In your opinion, how are the SAG Awards different from other awards?
Connell: First of all, the initial balloting is done by 2,100 people who vote for nominations in television and 2,100 who vote for nominations in film. That's done by a random sample ballot of all our eligible members. And then approximately 100,000 SAG members from across the country vote.
TV Guide: That's huge, considering the Globes is 80 people. How else is the show different from the rest?
Connell: It's a little bit in the philosophy, the fact that this is the Screen Actors Guild, which is the union of the actors, giving or holding an evening in their honor. It's the actors who make the night. It's all about them and their wonderful work.
TV Guide: How have the SAG Awards changed in 14 years?
Connell: Well, the very first year we did the SAG Awards, we didn't know if anybody would come. And they all did. And they've been coming ever since. We give unique awards — we initiated the ensemble award. We seat the casts together. And we're democratic in that we seat film next to television next to film next to television, so you may [be sitting next to] somebody who you either worked with a long time ago who you haven't had a chance to say hi to in a while, or there's an actor you have always wanted to say something to about their work and you haven't had the opportunity. I cannot tell you how many times I've walked into a conversation when one actor is saying [to another], "I loved you in that."
TV Guide: Anything you remember specifically?
Connell: Nothing I would say out loud. I will tell you that I saw one film actor who [had been] nominated talking to a television actor and he said, "I just watched a marathon of you." It's fun.
TV Guide: How will the show celebrate the 75th anniversary of SAG?
Connell: We're going to get a little taste of what has gone on in those 75 years. We don't have a lot of time to reflect on it, but we're going to do our best to give everyone a feel for where we started, what's gone on and where we're going.
TV Guide: How is the current situation with the WGA strike reflected in the SAG Awards?
Connell: We're very grateful to the writers' guild that they're allowing us to go on with the show with our union writer, especially in our 75th year. But because we've been working on this show for over a year, our plans have been in place. So we're just doing our show.
TV Guide: Was there a point, though, when you were freaking out?
Connell: We hoped that we would be able to have our union writer who's been working with us for the past 10 years, and we're very fortunate to have him.
TV Guide: This may be the only awards show that will air intact. Did that affect your process at all?
Connell: No. As I said, this was a special show for us anyway because of the 75th, and it just continues to be. We're just focused on doing the best show we know how.
TV Guide: Do you expect the turnout to be the same as it would be any other year, regardless of the strike?
Connell: We've always had an amazing turnout of actors — I think our percentage has always been 90 to 95 percent — and when you think about it, the fact that we have the entire ensemble and the cast of these motion pictures, we have a lot of actors there. It's going to be their night and I know they're happy to be there to salute their guild and its founders.
TV Guide: A lot of those actors are people who are on the picket lines with the writers and very much support the writers' union. Will the writing of the SAG Awards show reflect that?
Connell: You know what — this is live television. The actors are going to do what the actors want to do and that's what makes it exciting and that's what I always talk about. It's always going to be a surprise.
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