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SAG Snubs and Surprises: Viola Davis, Transparent Out; Lots of New Faces In

This is so unlike SAG

Joyce Eng

Wednesday's Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations were a mixed bag. There were the usual lazy repeat nominees (The Big Bang Theory, Uzo Aduba, yawn), but also a welcome amount of fresh faces. Here are the biggest snubs and surprises.

Maggie Smith: The SAG Awards are notorious creatures of habit (#neverforget Alec Baldwin's seven-peat) and they worship acting icons, so the absence of Smith -- a four-time nominee and one-time winner in drama actress for Downton Abbey -- is a huge surprise, but a good one. Listen, Smith is always fabulous, but we all know she's been phoning it in for years. She can still take home a statue: Downton is up for drama ensemble, where it will vie for its record-tying fourth award.

Viola Davis: Just like at the Golden Globes, the How to Get Away with Murder star was dropped from the drama actress race, though it's more noteworthy here since she's the two-time defending champ at the SAGs but has never won a Globe. Don't feel too bad for Davis, though, because she has the supporting actress award locked up on the film side for Fences. You get the sense that Fences gave voters a "get out of jail" card to snub her on the TV side.

Stranger Things, People v. O.J. Simpson lead SAG nominations

Better Call Saul: The SAGs usually take a year to come around to new shows (remember: they snubbed Homeland and Transparent completely their respective first years), but Bob Odenkirk's drama actor nod last year for Better Call Saul's first season teased good things this year. But nope. Odenkirk, who just won the Critics' Choice Award and was nominated for a Globe, is gone, and the stellar cast has still yet to be nominated for drama ensemble. Maybe it'll follow the same trajectory as Breaking Bad, whichdidn't break into drama ensemble until Season 4.

Julianna Margulies: The SAG favorite missed the cut for the final year of The Good Wife, which means she'll have to wait a bit longer to become the guild's most awarded performer. Margulies is currently tied with Alec Baldwin at eight trophies each.

Non-Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones actors: This is a classic example of a name-check nominee. The Dink has long been the face of Thrones, but he's also long been eclipsed as the best performer on the show, and doesn't even have the best material. Even a nod for Kit Harington would've been a decent change of pace.
Transparent: There's a weird disconnect in the industry when it comes to Transparent. The Emmys love it (so do the Globes, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association isn't the industry), but the SAGs are so hot and cold with it. It was blanked completely its first year, got in last year for comedy ensemble and actor for Jeffrey Tambor, who won, and was dumped from the ensemble lineup this year. Tambor's nod feels almost obligatory.

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder

Mitch Haaseth, ABC


Newbies: "Refreshing" and "SAG Awards" don't usually go together, but this set of nominees is exactly that. The SAGs actually shook things up for once, injecting a bunch of new blood with nods for The Crown, Stranger Things, This Is Us and Westworld. All of these shows premiered after July, which suggests voters are actually watching things, or at least paying attention. Last year, the only freshmen shows that received nominations (Mr. Robot, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Better Call Saul) premiered in June or earlier.

Millie Bobby Brown: The SAGs don't have supporting categories in TV, so breaking into an individual acting race is hard enough, let doing it as a supporting player in a first-year show against your co-star. But Brown, 12, managed to do exactly that in drama actress, where she's up against co-star Winona Ryder. (Reminder: She beat out Maggie Smith and Viola Davis for this nomination.) In hindsight, it's not a total shocker, since the SAGs have always been the most youth-friendly: Dakota Fanning, Abigail Breslin, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Evan Rachel Wood, Hayley Joel Osment, Freddie Highmore, Dev Patel and Jacob Tremblay have all been nominated on the film side as minors or teens, but Brown is the first to do so on the TV side.

Sterling K. Brown: People named Brown are having a great morning. Brown picked up two individual nominations, in TV movie/miniseries actor for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and drama actor for This Is Us. The former was expected; the latter, not so much, for the same reasons as MBB's above. Could he pull an Idris Elba and win two in one night? Possibly. Or voters could spread the wealth and pick his O.J. co-star and fellow nominee Courtney B. Vance, while awarding Brown for This Is Us.

Tituss Burgess: Peeno Noir for everyone! We knew Kimmy Schmidt was on voters' radars since Ellie Kemper got in last year, but it's extra sweet to see Burgess make the comedy actor shortlist because, again, he's a supporting player. Don't be surprised if he wins though. While a supporting actor has never won on the drama side, the comedy side is very kind to them: Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) and Ty Burell (Modern Family) have all won comedy actor (and Burrell is up again this year).

The 23rd Screen Actors Guild Awards airs Sunday, Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on TNT/TBS.