HomeAAPI ActorsAsians and Asian Americans making waves at SAG Awards

Asians and Asian Americans making waves at SAG Awards

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By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer

The announcement of the Screen Actors Guild nominations brought some first for Asians and Asian Americans with the potential for more firsts at the April ceremony. Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari received three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, one of four films to do so this year.  The other three are Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom  and The Trial of the Chicago 7

A24’s “Minari” garnered a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture  along with Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Trial of Chicago 7 and Amazon Studio’s One Night in Miami.

Parasite won this category in 2020. Foreign language films have been nominated in this category before. The Italian-language film Life is Beautiful was nominated in 1998. Films with foreign language dialogue have also previously been nominated. Crazy Rich Asians earned a nomination in 2018, but lost to Black Panther. BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born were also nominated that year. Inglourious Basterds, a US film that had large portions of dialogue in German and French, won in this category in 2009.

This year, British Pakistani Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) and Korean American Steven Yuen (“Minari”) both won nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role along with Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Gary Oldman (Mank). Egyptian American Rami Malek won this category for 2019, beating Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) and John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman). Yuen is the first Korean American and the first East Asian American nominated in this category.

This first Asian ethnic to be nominated in this category was Ben Kingsley who was nominated for the 2003 House of Sand and Fog (Johnny Depp won that year for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl). 

Kingsley also accepted a nomination for the 2001 Sexy Beast in the category of Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role. In this category, Ken Watanabe received a nomination for The Last Samurai for 2003 and Dev Patel did the same in 2008 for Slumdog Millionaire and again in 2016 for Lion.  No ethnic South Asian or East Asian actor has won as an outstanding lead or supporting actor SAG Award. 

This year, Korean actress Youn Yuh-Jung was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role  along with Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father) and Helena Zengel (News of the World). In the past, Australian-New Zealand actress Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated in 2003 for Whale Rider but along with Maria Bello (The Cooler), Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April) and Holly Hunter (Thirteen),  losing to Renée Zellweger for Cold Mountain. Japanese national Rinko Kikuchi was nominated for 2006 (Babel); Jennifer Hudson won for Dreamgirls that year. No Asian, Pacific Islander or Asian American has won in this category. 

No Asian or Asian American actress has won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor n a Motion Picture. Ziyi Zhang was nominated for  Memoirs of a Geisha

Disney live-action Mulan won recognition this year in the nominations for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture along with Da 5 Bloods, News of the World, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Wonder Woman 1984.

Asian Americans have previously won SAG Awards for television work. Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim and British Indian actor Naveen Andrews  won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for the 2005 season of Lost. Asian Canadian American Sandra Oh has the most with four SAG awards: one for film ensemble (Sideways), two for TV drama ensemble (Grey’s Anatomy) and one for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series (Killing Eve). Kimiko Glenn had three Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series for the 2014,  2015 and 2016 seasons of Orange Is the New Black. Other Asian Americans who have SAG awards in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series are Lucy Liu for the 1998 season of Ally McBeal and Harry Shum, Jr. and Jenna Ushkowitz for the 2009 season of Glee

The 27th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be presented on 4 April 2021 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The live broadcast will be on TNT and TBS from 6 p.m. PST. 

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