What's the hardest job in showbiz? It may just be seating the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
"I describe it as seating on speed! It is seating for a wedding, but the wedding is on camera," SAG Awards producer Kathy Connell tells TVGuide.com. "Nobody realizes that the SAG Awards has more actors than any other award show because we're the only one that honors casts and ensembles. Our room is small, but we have the largest number of actors of any awards event, so it's a huge challenge every year to figure out where to put everyone."
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This year's show proved to be the biggest challenge yet thanks to the large nominated casts in the running — Glee, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Office and The Help, to name a few. Connell admits that she and her team were nervous about doing the seating, which took them six and a half hours and still isn't complete, pending last-minute confirmations and pull-outs."It was scary this year, but I have the best team. There are four of us who have done it for years," she says. "We try and figure out how many people there are in a cast, what specific issues we have — if they're bringing another actor who wasn't an official cast member but was important, if they want to sit with the director, how many are coming, if there are two nominees from a film, like The Help [Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer] because they'll need to be at separate tables so the cameras can shoot them, and who we can sit elsewhere. Some of the large casts are at large tables and then split over multiple tables ... and then we mix in the individually nominated actors and presenters."Another factor Team SAG Seating considers is where returning nominees were seated the year before. If they were in the back, then they will be in the front the following year and vice versa. Unlike the Golden Globe Awards, where film stars are front and center and TV folk are in the back and outer edge, the SAGs are equal opportunity seaters. The Good Wife cast, for example, will have prime seats right in front of the stage this year, as seen below in our first look at the arrangement."We are very democratic," Connell says. "Actors don't care. Actors love actors. When we started many years ago, there was a little more separation between TV and film, but look at how many film stars are TV stars as well. The industry may have been a little segregated, but actors have never been. They cross the medians and they know how hard it is to do film work and TV work. They are so respectful of each other."
In that sense, stars rarely request where or with whom to be seated, Connell says, except in special circumstances. Ellie Kemper is a double nominee as part of The Office and Bridesmaids ensembles, and asked to be seated with the latter since this will be the only time Bridesmaids will ever be nominated. But her Office mates won't be too far away — they're at the next table. "If we can do things like that, then we do it," Connell says. "We don't really think about who are friends because you know what? It's a room of friends. They're all friends and if they're not all friends, they're admirers of each other. I saw a wonderful moment one year where a film actor ran up to a television actor going, 'I just watched an entire marathon day of you!' They love each other. They all got a ballot to vote for each other."Not all tables require Connell to put on her thinking cap however. Table 26 is always reserved for the Life Achievement Award recipient, who is Mary Tyler Moore this year. The table is near the front, but not too close to the stage. "It gives them enough of a walk that you get to see the audience stand up," Connell says. "We don't seat the Life Achievement person in the back of the room, but you don't put them at [Table] 8 because that's right in front of the stage and you won't have them enjoying the ovation, which is always a great moment." Speaking of great moments, Uggie the dog from The Artist stole the show at the Golden Globes last week, but don't count on a redux at the SAGs. "We're tight on seating as is, so I don't anticipate him coming," Connell says. "Things come up last minute, but I think we'd know if they're bringing a dog!"The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on TNT and TBS.Check out where some of the stars are sitting below.Key:Cast of Glee: Tables 40 and 41Cast of Bridesmaids: Table 18Cast of The Good Wife: Table 13Cast of Modern Family: Tables 15 and 16Cast of 30 Rock: Tables 10 and 11Cast of The Big Bang Theory: Tables 12 and 17Cast of The Office: Table 25George Clooney: Table 21Brad Pitt: Table 8Life Achievement Award recipient (Mary Tyler Moore): Table 26