Politics were front and center at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Many watched in horror as the ban hastily went into effect, and thousands took to the streets and airports across the country over the weekend. Several federal judges issued orders to halt parts of the ban, which the Trump administration has refused to enact, and many members of Congress—some of them Republican—have spoken out about the ban, along with much of Hollywood.
Even before the SAG Awards began, it was the topic on some of the attendees’ minds. The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg and his wife Jocelyn Towne showed their support for refugees on the Red Carpet. Helberg held a sign that read “Refugees Welcome” while Towne had “Let Them In” written on her chest.
“A lot of people are saying right now that actors should keep our mouths shut when it comes to politics,” she said. “But the truth is, no matter what, actors are activists because we embody the humanity and worth of all people.”
At the SAG Awards, Trump was the elephant in the room as he and his executive order came up from nearly every winner, although not often by name. Ashton Kutcher, whose wife, actress Mila Kunis, came to the U.S. as a refugee, opened up the show welcoming everyone watching at home “and in airports that belong in my America.”
For Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the ban was personal: Her father was an immigrant who “fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France.”
“I’m an American patriot and I love this country,” she said. “And because I love this country I am horrified by its blemishes. And this immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American.”
Mahershala Ali, who won for Moonlight (and Hidden Figures later in the night), gave a passionate speech about not persecuting those who are different from us and the importance of acceptance. He spoke of his mother and his experience after converting to Islam.
“My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim,” he said. “She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, you put things to the side and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. And that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.”
— Variety (@Variety) January 30, 2017
Bryan Cranston, who won for portraying President Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way, revealed what he believed Johnson would’ve made of Trump.
“I feel that 36 would put his arm around 45 and earnestly wish him success,” Cranston said. “He would also whisper in his ear something he said—often as a form of encouragement, and a cautionary tale: ‘Just don’t piss in the soup that all of us have got to eat.’”
Lily Tomlin, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, asked the crowd what sign she should make for the next march.
“So much to do,” she said. “Global warming, Standing Rock, LGBT issues, Chinese missiles, immigration.”
Hidden Figures won the award of the night, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and Taraji P. Henson used her speech to highlight what can happen when people work together. As she said, “Love wins every time.”
“This film is about unity,” Henson said. “We stand here as proud actors thanking every member of this incredible guild for voting for us, for recognizing our hard work. But the shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars.”