“Back in those days, Asian roles were played by white guys with their eyes taped because producers said that Asians were not good enough and they were not ‘box office […] But look at us now!” These are the words of 94 year old James Hong, star of Everything Everywhere All At Once, who spoke on behalf of his co-star Michelle Yeoh after she won best actress at the 29th Annual SAG Awards last night.
Michelle Yeoh herself continued; “this is not just for me, but for all of the little girls like me. … Thank you for giving me a seat at the table, because so many of us need this — we want to be seen, we want to be heard. And tonight, you have shown us that it is possible.”
The picture took home a plethora of awards including best cast, best actress, best supporting actor and best supporting actress. Ke Huy Quan tearfully confessed it was an emotional moment as he learned that night that, should he win, he would be the first Asian actor to be a victor in the category. “When I heard this, I quickly realised that this moment no longer belongs to just me. It also belongs to everyone who has asked for change,” said Quan, who called out his fellow Asian acting nominees in Hong Chau, Stephanie Hsu and Harry Shum Jr. He also addressed star and fellow nominee Michelle Yeoh: “I’m so glad that when we both started our careers in 1984, that one day, we [met] on a big screen.”
Another touching moment from the night saw Andrew Garfield present Sally Field with the SAG Award for lifetime achievement. The SAG Award winner recalled when she first received her guild card after making her big break in the title role of Gidget. “I remember, so clearly, putting that little paper card in my wallet, quietly thrilled to call myself an actor,” said Field. “I wasn’t looking for applause or attention, even though that’s nice — sometimes, anyway, It has never been about a need to hide myself behind the characters of other people. Acting, to me, has always been about finding those few precious moments when I feel totally, utterly, sometimes dangerously alive.”
Unsurprisingly, HBO’s The White Lotus won best drama ensemble for its Sicily-set second season. F. Murray Abraham accepted the award on behalf of the large cast. “This was the best job I’ve ever had, and not only because of this really remarkable, wonderful family of actors,” said Abraham. “We all lived together in the same place: We all ate together and we all work together, so this is not only for the actors, this is for the entire company.” He also expressed his support for the earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey, as well as wishing for peace in Ukraine.
While the SAG Awards were a beautiful showcase of diversity and acknowledgements, the BAFTA Awards have rightfully come under fire after all 49 victors across all categories were white dispute people of colour making up 40% of acting shortlist slots.
Marcus Ryder, director of consultancy at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, said Sunday’s results were “quite depressing”, and showed there had been “no substantial change” over the past decade.
“Ten years ago, in 2013, Lenny Henry made headlines at the TV BAFTAS when he labelled it as ‘All white on the night’,” he said.
“And depressingly, despite a massive overhaul, on which I and many other industry people were consulted and which resulted in 120 changes to the BAFTA award processes, 1,000 new members from under-represented groups etc, the end result is there is no substantial change.”
Comedian London Hughes wrote on Twitter: “Any British person who is not white, and has dreams of having a successful career in the arts and entertainment, please, I’m begging you, get your visa and leave the U.K…”
If there is anything this shows us, it’s that Britain’s unnecessary ties to traditions could easily be its downfall.