Everything You Need to Know About the SAG Awards

Article Image
Photo Source: Caitlin Watkins

Actors are the face of Hollywood’s celebrations around awards season; they are the most visible representations of screen work being honored. But the Screen Actors Guild Awards—or SAG Awards—are their night and their night only.

Though the guild only began handing out the SAG statuette to actors a few decades ago, the annual ceremony has become a crucial stop for any movie stars gunning for an Oscar or TV stars in the running for an Emmy. And while it’s plenty glitzy, there’s also often a charming camaraderie on display; the show opens with testimonials from attendees about their early acting experiences. (SAG credits Angela Lansbury, who opened the inaugural evening, with the “I am an actor” storytelling invention.)

Given that both film and television work is considered for the SAG Awards, certain stars have historically cleaned up. Some trivia: at the 24th ceremony, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “Veep” earned her eighth and ninth statues, beating Alec Baldwin and Julianna Margulies’ records of eight. Edie Falco holds the distinction of most nominations ever, with 22. In 2021, the late Chadwick Boseman earned a record-breaking four film nods in a single year. This year, “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” tied for the most nominations, with 5 nods each.

To celebrate Hollywood’s ongoing awards season, we rounded up everything you’ve ever wondered about the sensational SAG Awards.


When did the SAG Awards start?

SAG Awards logoCredit: 2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards, LLC

The first SAG Awards took place in 1995, with trophies going to titans of the industry including Tom Hanks for “Forrest Gump,” Jodie Foster for “Nell,” and the cast of “Seinfeld.” It was the debut appearance for the now-iconic award statuette The Actor.

Who hosts the SAG Awards?

Kristen Bell Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

Kristen Bell was the first ever host for the SAG Awards at the 24th Awards ceremony in 2018. Kathy Connell, who has produced the SAG Awards since its first ceremony in 1995, said of the change: “This has been a year in which assumptions have been challenged, stereotypes have been shattered, and precedents have been broken. We decided to capture the cultural mood by casting aside one of our own traditions, and we’re thrilled to have such a talented performer like Bell help us do so.” The following year, Megan Mullally hosted the Awards; since then, the ceremony has gone hostless due to pandemic concerns. A host has not yet been announced for the 2023 ceremony.

Who votes for SAG Awards?

SAG-AFTRANoah Sauve/Shutterstock

Active SAG-AFTRA members who have paid their dues are eligible to cast their ballots for the SAG Awards.

How are SAG Awards nominees chosen?

Mad Men cast SAG AwardsEverett Collection/Shutterstock

The voting process takes place in two stages: nominations and final balloting. 

  • Nominations balloting: Select paid-up and active SAG-AFTRA members who have not participated in nominations balloting in the past eight years are added to either the motion pictures nominating committee or the television nomination committee.
  • Final balloting: After nominations are announced, all paid-up and active SAG-AFTRA members are eligible to vote during final balloting.

Who are the 2023 SAG Awards nominees?

The Woman King, Babylon, Everything Everywhere All at OnceIlze Kitshoff/Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures/A24

SAG awards nominations for the 29th ceremony were announced on January 11, 2023; films and television shows produced during the 2022 calendar year were eligible for consideration. You can find the full list of nominees with descriptions of their performances here. This year's ensemble cast nominees includes: 




When are the 2023 SAG Awards?

Downton Abbey SAG AwardsFeatureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

The 29th Annual SAG Awards will be held on February 26, 2023 at the Fairmont Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles. For the first time in SAG Awards history, the ceremony will be streamed live on Netflix’s YouTube channel rather than being shown on traditional TV. The event also marks the first time that Netflix will air an awards show live. Starting in 2024, the event will be aired live directly on Netflix.

Who are the SAG Awards for?

Sag Awards Spotlight castFeatureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

The SAG awards recognize actors across film and TV, but the ceremony can be enjoyed by anyone. The SAG Awards event is also a fundraiser for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, which provides union members with resources, education, and community support.

SAG Awards categories

Sterling K Brown SAG AwardsKathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

SAG Film Awards

  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

SAG TV Awards

  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series
  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
  • Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

SAG Stunt Ensemble Awards

  • Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
  • Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

SAG Awards for film, television, stunt performers, and life achievement: further information

SAG AwardsKathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Film: For film, the guild presents the standard honors for women and men in leading and supporting roles and also for ensemble casts as a whole. That’s where eligibility can get a little tricky. To get on stage as part of the prestigious Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award, the rules state that a performer must have been credited on a separate title card. So performers in memorable but smaller roles that share billing are left out, while those who are in the cast crawl receive certificates.

TV: Actors who appear in a primetime TV show or a streaming program exhibited in the last year in an eligible comedy, drama, or limited series or a television movie may receive a SAG Award. To be considered part of the ensemble of a TV series, a contender must appear in a certain number of episodes within the nominating time frame and be either a series regular or guest star. Certificates are doled out to those who have appeared in at least three episodes within eligibility.

Stunt performers: The SAG Awards is one of the few awards bodies that recognize stunt performers. It includes an Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture Award and an Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series.

Life achievement: SAG also names a recipient of the Life Achievement Award each year. Past winners include Alan Alda, Morgan Freeman, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Debbie Reynolds, Rita Moreno, and Robert De Niro. Dame Helen Mirren was the recipient of the 2022 Life Achievement Award. 

How to vote on the SAG Awards

Viola DavisFeatureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

  • Get your SAG card: Getting your SAG card is a right of passage for any actor, so knowing how to join the union is crucial. First, you must land a union gig, then supply your paycheck stubs or paid activity document to SAG-AFTRA. You can also apply for membership in SAG-AFTRA if you create your own content that falls under a union budgetary category, or if you’ve been a member for a year in another affiliated organization such as Actor’s Equity and the Canadian ACTRA.
  • Ensure your dues are paid and that you’re an active member: Pay your dues to maintain your membership and be eligible to vote.
  • Cross your fingers for nomination balloting: Members in good standing who have not voted for the SAG Awards for the last eight years are chosen at random to be on either the motion picture or the television nominating committee. 
  • Vote for final balloting: All SAG-AFTRA members in good standing may vote for the final Awards. Voting takes place through SAG-AFTRA’s secure voter portal.

How SAG relates to other awards

SAG AwardsJaguar PS/Shutterstock

People looking to dominate their Oscar pools tend to watch the SAG Awards pretty closely, as their film nominees and winners often align. Since actors make up the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, people voting for SAG also have a strong say in Oscars winners. In the past 28 years, 83 of the 112 names and films to win Oscars for best picture, lead actor and actress, and supporting actor and actress first took home a SAG Award. In 2022, the four major acting category winners matched up perfectly in both ceremonies. 

The Emmys and other TV awards also boast a large voting bloc of actors, so depending on eligibility windows, small-screen contenders often overlap with SAG-AFTRA voters.

How to win a SAG award

SAG AwardsKathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Follow those steps and do your best, and you may just find yourself thanking your peers with an Actor statue in hand. You may even go so far as to join the exclusive club of performers who have earned the title of EGOT.

Looking to get cast? Apply to casting calls on Backstage.