When you envision the highest possible pinnacle of your acting career, what do you imagine? Is it accepting the biggest honors of stage and screen, the indicators that your critics and fellow artists respect and admire your work? Don’t lie—you’ve practiced your ideal awards acceptance speech in the mirror.
For years now, the term “EGOT”—a title bestowed on individuals who have claimed Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards—has been hailed as the most coveted honor in show business, the grand slam of any entertainer. After all, it’s not enough to conquer one aspect of the biz; to be considered a true legend, one has to be accepted and championed by those working in television, music, film, and theater.
The term was coined by, of all people, “Miami Vice” actor Philip Michael Thomas, who so desired the four trophies that he went as far as engraving “EGOT” on a gold pendant worn around his neck. (Thomas has yet to be nominated for an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, or Tony.) This was then parodied, in a piece of brilliant Hollywood satire, by Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan on “30 Rock.”
But with all due respect to the Grammy Awards, they have very little to do with the career of an actor. Many stage and screen stars in contention for the EGOT hold Grammys for a theater cast recording, comedy album, or audiobook narration—acting feats, to an extent, but not true markers of talent as determined by peers. In our mission to champion actors and acting, Backstage is proposing adding a different ingredient to the pinnacle of a performer’s career: the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Instead of an EGOT, the honor that actors should aspire to achieve is the ESOT.
Another term tossed around by awards pundits and fans is the “triple crown of acting,” colloquially known as the group of people who have an Emmy, Oscar, and Tony all for acting in particular. (EGOT winner Whoopi Goldberg, for example, earned only her Oscar by acting, making her ineligible for the triple crown as of yet.) What we’re proposing is a sort of “quadruple crown.” In addition to those three esteemed trophies, the SAG Award’s mask should be added to the mantel.
Decided upon entirely by members of SAG-AFTRA, the SAG Award is one of the industry’s only accolades to honor both film and TV, and both ensemble as well as individual performances. Amid the frenzy of film celebrations at the beginning of the calendar year, it is the biggest night of the awards season for just actors, and a solid predictor of Oscar results to come. Compared to the many categories at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, Oscars, Daytime Emmys, Primetime Emmys, and more, the SAG Awards present only 15 trophies total per year, making them difficult to win. More than just turning in a terrific performance, SAG winners are beloved by their fellow actors, prized for their talent and perseverance. What performer wouldn’t want that distinct honor?
Note: We briefly considered coining, instead of ESOT, the term “TOES.” Use whichever title you wish in your quest for the industry’s top prizes.
Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, Jessica Lange, Frances McDormand, Helen Mirren, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Vanessa Redgrave, Geoffrey Rush, and Maggie Smith have been the 10 exclusive members of the ESOT club as of 2017, when Davis won her Oscar.
Technically, the club has 12 members; Rita Moreno and Audrey Hepburn also have all four statues in their name, although for both stars, their SAG honor is a Life Achievement Award rather than a competitive one. In the spirit of making this group as elite as possible, we shall consider the legendary Moreno and Hepburn honorary members of the below class of acting greats.
Emmy: “How to Get Away With Murder” (2015)
SAG Awards: “The Help” (2012), “The Help” (2012, ensemble win), “How to Get Away With Murder” (2015), “How to Get Away With Murder” (2016), “Fences” (2017)
Oscar: “Fences” (2017)
Tonys: “King Hedley II” (2001), “Fences” (2010)
Emmys: “The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century” (1997), “Elizabeth I” (2006), “Big Cat Week” (2014)
SAG Award: “Elizabeth I” (2007)
Oscar: “Reversal of Fortune” (1991)
Tony: “The Real Thing” (1984)
Emmys: “Grey Gardens” (2009), “American Horror Story: Murder House” (2012), “American Horror Story: Coven” (2014)
SAG Award: “American Horror Story: Murder House” (2012)
Oscars: “Tootsie” (1983), “Blue Sky” (1995)
Tony: “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (2016)
Emmy: “Olive Kitteridge” (2015)
SAG Awards: “Fargo” (1997), “Olive Kitteridge” (2015), “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2018), “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2018, ensemble win)
Oscars: “Fargo” (1997), “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2018)
Tony: “Good People” (2011)
Emmys: “Prime Suspect: The Scent of Darkness” (1996), “The Passion of Ayn Rand” (1999), “Elizabeth I” (2006), “Prime Suspect: The Final Act” (2007)
SAG Awards: “Gosford Park” (2002), “Gosford Park” (2002, ensemble win), “Elizabeth I” (2007), “The Queen” (2007), “Phil Spector” (2014)
Oscar: “The Queen” (2007)
Tony: “The Audience” (2015)
Emmys: “Angels in America” (2004), “You Don’t Know Jack” (2010)
SAG Awards: “Angels in America” (2004), “You Don’t Know Jack” (2011)
Oscar: “Scent of a Woman” (1993)
Tonys: “Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?” (1969), “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel” (1977)
Emmys: “Arthur Hailey’s the Moneychangers” (1977), “Madeline” (1994)
SAG Award: “Beginners” (2012)
Oscar: “Beginners” (2012)
Tonys: “Cyrano” (1974), “Barrymore” (1997)
Emmys: “Playing for Time” (1981), “If These Walls Could Talk 2” (2000)
SAG Award: “If These Walls Could Talk 2” (2001)
Oscar: “Julia” (1978)
Tony: “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (2003)
Emmy: “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” (2005)
SAG Awards: “Shine” (1997), “Shakespeare in Love” (1999, ensemble win), “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” (2005), “The King’s Speech” (2011, ensemble win)
Oscar: “Shine” (1997)
Tony: “Exit the King” (2009)
Emmys: “My House in Umbria” (2003), “Downton Abbey” (2011), “Downton Abbey” (2012), “Downton Abbey” (2016)
SAG Awards: “Gosford Park” (2002, ensemble win), “Downton Abbey” (2013, ensemble win), “Downton Abbey” (2014), “Downton Abbey” (2015, ensemble win), “Downton Abbey” (2016, ensemble win)
Oscars: “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” (1970), “California Suite” (1979)
Tony: “Lettice and Lovage” (1990)
Of the above list, the earner of the most acting awards—and therefore the champion of acting champions!—is Smith with 12. On the cusp of inclusion are Laura Dern, Allison Janney, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Kate Winslet, who all only need a Tony statue to complete the acronym, John Lithgow, who only needs an Oscar, and Ellen Burstyn and Glenda Jackson, who have completed the triple crown of competitive acting and only need an accompanying SAG Award.
There are plenty of other permutations of awards claimed, as well as accompanying titles to coin for them. If we take major U.K. awards into consideration, for example, the term could be EGOBOTS (Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, BAFTA film or TV, Olivier, Tony, and SAG Award), and in that case, only Mirren and Rush would qualify. If we wanted to look at only big-screen awards, and—more importantly—come up with another fun acronym, BOGGSS (BAFTA film award, Oscar, Golden Globe film award, Gotham, Spirit Award, and SAG film award) could be bestowed upon anyone who qualifies.
The combination of hard work, passion, craft and industry savvy, and luck required to win any major accolade is, of course, four times as difficult for aspiring ESOT-ers. Remember, to be inducted into the above list, you have to earn awards on both stage and screen specifically for acting. Below is a rough outline of the steps necessary to claim ESOT status; as for whether you conquer the New York theater scene before becoming a movie star, or work your way from background actor to TV lead, that’s up to you—and fate. Focus on your craft, put in the work, and let your award-winning career take you where it may!
- Study your craft; learn from the greats; practice, practice, practice
- Audition—relentlessly, constantly, endlessly
- Build a community of fellow actors and artists; network with casting directors and producers
- Earn great roles with the help of those casting directors
- Get a manager
- Get an agent
- Work—relentlessly, constantly, endlessly
Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!