Your SAG Awards Voting Guide: The TV Comedy, Drama + Limited Series Nominees

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Photo Source: "Squid Game": Noh Juhan/Netflix

Voting is almost underway for the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards, with the ceremony  scheduled for Feb. 27. Between now and then, we’re preparing the voting body—which includes all SAG-AFTRA members in good standing—with what they need to assess the season’s best screen performances. Read on for our official breakdown of the SAG Award nominees in individual television categories, and stay tuned for more voting guides here

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Elle Fanning, “The Great”
Long live Catherine the Great—Fanning’s portrayal of the Russian empress, that is. Funny, complex, surprising, and entertaining, the star’s arc from submissive betrothed to authoritative mother-to-be is what makes this Hulu dramedy work. We’ll readily overlook historical inaccuracy to watch Catherine become an indomitable presence at court, memorably sparring with enemies and resplendently conspiring with friends. Huzzah!

Sandra Oh, “The Chair”
How brilliant to let Oh loose in academia. She’s an inherently brainy performer who excels at quick-witted line deliveries, and whether she’s in a comedy or drama, her canniness is always on full display. She pulls off both, again, on Amanda Peet and Annie Julia Wyman’s Netflix series as Ji-Yoon Kim, the newly instated English department chair of a fictional Ivy League college. Acting students should look to Oh for clues on harnessing empathy in their performances.

Jean Smart, “Hacks”
Playing two diametrically opposed roles on “Hacks” and “Mare of Easttown,” Smart ruled our TV screens this spring. She won an Emmy for the former as Deborah Vance, a boundary-pushing comedian spending the twilight of her career as a washed-up but über-rich Vegas performer. Her delivery of such scathingly hilarious lines as “I was just wondering why you were dressed as Rachel Maddow’s mechanic” should be taught in comedy acting classes forever.

Juno Temple, “Ted Lasso”
Temple is always a reliable presence onscreen. She plays football team marketing manager Keeley Jones with larger-than-life brassiness and sex appeal, but also with a candor that develops her as a woman who wants more from her life. The chemistry between her and Brett Goldstein’s hardheaded team captain, Roy, makes for the kind of coupling we can’t help but root for instinctively.

Hannah Waddingham, “Ted Lasso”
What’s remarkable about Rebecca Welton, steely head of the fictional AFC Richmond football club, is that we should despise her. Yet thanks to Waddingham’s portrayal, we simply can’t. Initially seeking vengeance against her ex-husband (who’s also the team’s former owner), Rebecca eventually finds her moral compass. Rather than giving us a villain, Waddingham delivers a complicated, powerful woman breaking down her inner walls to reveal her heart.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
Hollywood acting coach Sandy Kominsky has seen better days. Douglas, however, is giving one of his best performances to date. He manages to demonstrate funny or touching chemistry with every one of his scene partners, including Sarah Baker, Nancy Travis, and the many other actors playing Sandy’s students. This season, opposite Kathleen Turner, in particular, Douglas creates a kind of onscreen magic.

Brett Goldstein, “Ted Lasso”
“Ted Lasso” centers and celebrates all things sincere, daring to find humor in hope. Its earnest tone makes Roy Kent—the perpetually furious, repressed, aging footballer brought to life by the Emmy-winning Goldstein—all the more hilarious. Under all that foul-mouthed rage, there’s a sensitive man in crisis, which Goldstein reveals over the course of a subtle and effective character arc.

Steve Martin, “Only Murders in the Building”
Martin's charming return to the spotlight as co-creator and star of “Only Murders in the Building" proves that the comedy legend has not missed a step. His washed-up actor Charles is the glue that holds this series’ main trio together. His performance is so wholesome and energetic that it begs the question: Is a Steve Martin renaissance upon us?

Martin Short, “Only Murders in the Building”
Short’s silly charisma as a down-on-his-luck Broadway director obsessed with true crime in “Only Murders in the Building” demonstrates how dark comedy should be done, layering lightness on top of the show’s heavier subject matter. Throughout the first season, Short expands his character beyond goofy comic relief with well-acted heartache that keeps the audience rooting for him to succeed.

Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Sudeikis showcases the kind of charisma you can’t fake. His everyman vibe and whip-smart comedy chops have never found a better home than in the role of Ted Lasso, an upbeat American football coach hired to lead an English football team. The sophomore season of the Emmy winner’s Apple TV+ series went beyond fish-out-of-water comedy, allowing its leading man to reveal layer after poignant layer.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show”
Aniston’s leading turn on Jay Carson and Kerry Ehrin’s “The Morning Show” is a fantastic return to form—and to TV. The executive producer and star of the Apple TV+ series humanizes otherwise power-hungry TV host Alex Levy (seriously, her ruthlessness is pushed to the limit in Season 2) without sacrificing her infectious charm and comedic timing.

Jung Ho-yeon, “Squid Game”
On Netflix’s megahit thriller from Hwang Dong-hyuk (the first-ever non-English-language SAG drama ensemble nominee), Jung makes a memorable stateside debut as the fearless Kang Sae-byeok. Her every move and facial expression convey the character’s single-minded intent: winning the money that the titular games promise in order to salvage what’s left of her family. Desperation, fury, fear—it’s all there, just under Jung’s rivetingly cool veneer.

Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Peering out from between the bone-white wings of her handmaid’s bonnet, Moss takes on the role of a lifetime, navigating the despair of an oppressive dystopian world with dignity and a wickedly dark sense of humor. The Emmy-winning producer-actor is at her most subtle when the stakes are highest, and watching her handle the pitfalls served up by the distressingly tangible Gilead remains revelatory.

Sarah Snook, “Succession”
A modern-day “King Lear” with a deliciously dark sense of humor, this satire about a family running a global media empire needs characters that feel like real people. Amid all the greedy scheming, performers like Snook are responsible for reminding us that even billionaires can be vulnerable. As Shiv Roy, she walks the line between soulless and secretly thin-skinned.

Reese Witherspoon, “The Morning Show”
Most actors would kill for just one of Bradley Jackson’s “Morning Show” monologues, full of righteous fury and sarcasm so sharp it could cut you; Witherspoon gets several per episode. The producer-actor plays Bradley with just enough naiveté to get us on the rising news anchor’s side amid the show’s shifting power dynamics. Her chemistry with Aniston positively crackles.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Brian Cox, “Succession”
Veering from paranoid fury to, well, justified fury on Jesse Armstrong’s tale of the one percent, Cox is clearly having the time of his life—in the role of his career. He has a field day delivering the loathsome manipulations (and utterances of “Fuck off!”) of Logan Roy, old-media mogul and sadistic family patriarch, portraying a man accustomed to bending the world to his will from inside the prison of his own god complex.

Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”
Rising network executive Cory Ellison has access to everything a man could possibly want—money, drugs, women—yet none of it interests him. He is the embodiment of a privileged, powerful man: always consuming, always wanting more. “Chaos is the new cocaine!” he exclaims with wild-eyed glee. Crudup’s performance remains so weirdly riveting, alternating between exhilarated hedonism and sharklike remorselessness, that it demands a rewatch.

Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
Roman, the so-called “fuck-knuckle” of the Roy siblings, is a limitless fountain of colorful insults. Culkin delights in slinging cutdowns so profane and seemingly off the cuff that they never feel scripted. (In many cases, he is indeed improvising.) While Culkin still feasts on the scenery on Season 3, he also peels back the wisecracking veneer to reveal the neediness and doubt that come with being the runt of the litter.

Lee Jung-jae, “Squid Game”
American audiences may not yet know him by name, but Jung-jae is one of the most recognizable breakout actors of the year. As the protagonist of “Squid Game,” the South Korean series that’s become Netflix’s most-watched hit, he portrays the desperation of a man willing to do anything to save himself and his mother—while finding moments of offbeat humor amid the bloodshed.

Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
“Succession” is a story of extremes, of people flying too close to the sun and plummeting to unimaginable depths—often multiple times in a single episode. Its most psychologically broken player, the driven, hardheaded Kendall Roy, may also be the most relatable character. That’s because the Emmy-winning Strong imbues this drug-addicted man-child with a raw impotence underneath all his braggadocio.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
Jennifer Coolidge, “The White Lotus”
Stop calling this Mike White series Coolidge’s big breakout; she’s harnessed her comedic gifts in countless projects! Still, it’s gratifying to see an actor embody a role crafted precisely for her. Tanya is a vapid, spoiled snob—someone whom Coolidge invites us to ridicule. Yet she’s also—“at the core of the onion,” as she proclaims in the show’s best speech—a woman adrift, grieving the loss of her mother and daring us to not empathize.

Cynthia Erivo, “Genius: Aretha”
First a scientist, then a painter, and now a singer-songwriter: National Geographic’s “Genius” series shines its most illuminating spotlight yet on Aretha Franklin, a woman worthy of the titular label. Exhibiting genius-level on-camera instincts herself is Erivo, inhabiting Franklin’s regal presence, fabulous outfits, and soulful vocals with aplomb. As is obvious by this point in her meteoric career, Erivo can always be counted on to deliver.

Margaret Qualley, “Maid”
“Maid” very well could be Qualley’s star-is-born moment. She already has an impressive résumé of leading performances and scene-stealing supporting turns, but Qualley’s likeability and open-wound emotionality are more reserved here. Strong-willed, steely, and desperate to find stable ground for her infant daughter after fleeing an abusive marriage, her Alex demands our attention and tears.

Jean Smart, “Mare of Easttown”
“I’m sorry I’m not more maimed for you,” Smart’s Helen Fahey says to her daughter as she’s wheeled into an ambulance. A moment later, when asked if she’d like to be accompanied to the hospital, the sincerity in Helen’s assent exemplifies the magic of this “Mare of Easttown” performance: a one-two punch of hilarious, heart-rending messiness that ultimately defines a family.

Kate Winslet, “Mare of Easttown”
There is plenty of evidence that Winslet’s turn as the titular detective on “Mare of Easttown” is one of the greatest TV performances ever. But let’s boil it down to a single noise: As we learn who really murdered Erin McMenamin, Mare’s pain escapes her body as an involuntary yelp. That sound may be the most real acting moment on a limited series full of them.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
Murray Bartlett, “The White Lotus”
Amid a starry cast filled with incredible names, Bartlett takes center stage on HBO Max’s hit satire “The White Lotus” as Armond, the people-pleasing manager of a swanky Hawaiian resort. As viewers watch his vices get the best of him, Bartlett’s delivery of growing unease and snickering grins (paired with an unmatched mustache) creates a character that audiences hate to see but love to watch.

Oscar Isaac, “Scenes From a Marriage”
“Scenes From a Marriage” isn’t just a performer-centric project—it’s an acting gauntlet. Those who undertake such a story need to prepare for an emotional marathon. At this point in his meteoric career, Isaac can be counted on to pull off such a feat. His loving, furious, heartbroken Jonathan is thoroughly believable; he’s real enough to be the subject of what feels like the most intimate documentary ever.

Michael Keaton, “Dopesick”
Danny Strong’s Hulu miniseries rips the opioid crisis straight from the headlines and renders it distressingly real. “Dopesick” features an ensemble of real and composite figures mired in the still-urgent epidemic. As Samuel Finnix, a doctor hooked on the very drugs Big Pharma has pushed on his ailing patients, the always-brilliant Keaton is the actor who humanizes this saga—and breaks your heart—the most.

Ewan McGregor, “Halston”
Oozing fabulousness and charisma, McGregor’s iconic fashion pioneer Halston is another convincing and compelling turn in a career full of them. Watching him onscreen, you get the sense that this is an actor who understands artistry at its core: here a touch of sexy suaveness, there a glimpse of creative fire in his eyes. The Emmy winner makes this titan of industry somehow both familiar and unknowable.

Evan Peters, “Mare of Easttown”
After a decade of reliably stellar work on the small screen—especially in the Ryan Murphy TV-verse—Peters’ turn as smitten detective Colin Zabel finally notched him his first Emmy nomination and win. His half-smiling, prodding delivery of the line, “How do you know what I want?” offers sweetness matched with despair—especially knowing the character’s fate that soon followed.

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