The SAG Awards opened with Kerry Washington combating the notion that actors shouldn’t share their political views. That first moment set the tone for the evening, in which recipients did just that. On another day of protests against President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting refugees and other travelers from several largely Muslim countries, the ceremony was filled with speeches decrying the president and his policies.
The most striking came from Mahershala Ali, who won the supporting actor trophy for his performance in Moonlight. Ali began by connecting the weekend’s events to his film. “What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves,” he said. But his speech turned personal as he spoke about his own faith. “My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim,” he explained. “She didn’t do backflips when I called to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, we put things to the side and I’m able to see her. She’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown, and that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the night’s first winner, started with a bit in which she mocked Trump’s speech patterns and exaggerations before getting serious. “Because I love this country I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American,” she said.
The casts of both Orange Is The New Black and Stranger Things turned their euphoria over their prizes into calls to action. David Harbour embarked on a galvanizing speech that seemed to surprise his co-star Winona Ryder, and elicited cheers from the audience. “As we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 Midwesterners will repel bullies, we will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home,” he said. “We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions we will, as per chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek and the disenfranchised and the marginalized.”
Accepting on behalf of her Hidden Figures ensemble, Taraji P. Henson highlighted how their movie is about “unity.” She said: “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins. Every time.”
Even many who didn’t focus the majority of their speeches on the political moment slipped in references to it. Sarah Paulson encouraged donations to the ACLU. Bryan Cranston, who won for playing Lyndon B. Johnson, shared how he thought that commander in chief would react to this one. (Per Cranston, he would have warned, “Just don’t piss in the soup that all of us got to eat.”) Emma Stone said she is “grateful to be part of a group of people that cares and that wants to reflect things back to society.” And presenters used their stage to reference what’s going on as well. Alia Shawkat, whose father is from Iraq, opened hers in Arabic, saying “Salaam-Alaikum.” But that only scratches the surface—protest was the status quo at this show.