Surprise: This year's SAG film nominees are really, really white

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The nominees for the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards, which honor the year's best performances in film and television, were announced on Wednesday morning. As always, the list brought some surprises: like a nod for Jacob Tremblay, the nine-year-old star of Room, but no love for Jennifer Lawrence in Joy.

It also brought—what's that word for a surprise that's not really a surprise in that you kind of saw it coming and, frankly, it's terrible? Well, here's one of those: The motion picture acting nominees are overwhelmingly white.

Only one of the 20 nominations in the four major categories went to a person of color: Idris Elba was recognized for his supporting role as the Commandant in Netflix's Beasts of No Nation. Not a single actress of color was honored for her film performance.


To put that into perspective, there are more nominations for Helen Mirren (two), an individual person, than there are for the entirety of non-white performers working in Hollywood (one).

Male Actor in a Leading Role

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Johnny Depp – Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Female Actor in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back


Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale – The Big Short
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Jacob Tremblay – Room


Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs


To be fair, this is still one nominee of color more than was represented on last year's entirely white list, when Selma star David Oyelowo was memorably snubbed by both SAG and the Academy. The N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton also received an unexpected (and welcome) nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

As we see it, today's SAG nominations are the latest evidence that television is outpacing film's disappointing landscape for actors of color. The Screen Actors Guild's TV acting nods include Elba (again) for Luther, Emmy winner Viola Davis for How to Get Away With Murder, Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek for Mr. Robot, and Queen Latifah for HBO's Bessie. Uzo Aduba has been recognized a second time for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series after taking the category last year, and the entire Orange Is the New Black cast has an opportunity to repeat their win for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.


If you're looking for diversity in Hollywood, you won't find it on the big screen: you'll find it on the small one.

Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.

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