From ‘CODA’ to ‘Succession,’ Last Looks on SAG Awards Contenders

Voting is still open for the 28th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations through 5 p.m. PT Jan. 9. And that’s a good thing because there are so many worthy contenders to whittle down, voters need all the time they can get to make these tough decisions.

With that in mind, The Hamden Journal is breaking down where contenders stand in key categories right now.

Film Ensemble
Family tends to be a big factor when it comes to landing a nomination in the film cast performance category, and this year sees no shortage of those — from the tight-knit group of “CODA,” to the close Irish clan of “Belfast” to the Williams siblings at the center of “King Richard” and the core family in “Dune.” Dysfunctional relations are just as popular, so keep an eye on “Being the Ricardos,” “House of Gucci” dynasty and the toxic dynamics in “The Power of the Dog.” Big and starry cast lists also fare well so look to “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” “The Harder They Fall” and “The French Dispatch,” but also “Don’t Look Up,” which comes from director Adam McKay, whose two previous films were nominated in this category, and “Nightmare Alley.” Smaller collectives can do well, too. “Mass” features four performances that are all garnering major acclaim, so the category seems tailor-made for such a film, while Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” introduces some exciting newcomers among the bigger names. And the SAG Awards tend to love musicals — voters even nominated “Nine” back in the day — so don’t discount “West Side Story” or “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

Actors in a Leading Role
On the male actor side, it looks like a lot of previous SAG Award winners and nominees could return to the ballot for new roles. When it comes to the former, Javier Bardem is a strong contender for “Being the Ricardos,” as are Peter Dinklage for “Cyrano,” Denzel Washington for “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Joaquin Phoenix for “C’mon C’mon,” Leonardo DiCaprio in “Don’t Look Up,” Clifton Collins Jr. in “Jockey,” ensemble winner Bradley Cooper for “Nightmare Alley,” Nicolas Cage for “Pig” and Mahershala Ali for “Swan Song.” Previous nominees that may land on the ballot again include Benedict Cumberbatch with “The Power of the Dog,” Will Smith with “King Richard” and Andrew Garfield in “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

On the female actor side, previous winners who could see nominations are Olivia Colman for “The Lost Daughter,” Frances McDormand for “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Jennifer Hudson for “Respect,” Jennifer Lawrence with “Don’t Look Up,” Nicole Kidman with “Being the Ricardos,” Halle Berry for “Bruised” and Jessica Chastain with “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Kidman and Chastain could also make the TV side of the ballot for “Nine Perfect Strangers” and “Scenes From a Marriage,” respectively. Meanwhile, past nominees who stand a chance picking up another are Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”); Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) and previous ensemble nominee Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”). Potential newcomers include Tessa Thompson (“Passing”), Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”), Emilia Jones (“CODA”) and Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”).

Stunt Ensemble (Film)
The SAG Awards is one of the few kudos ceremonies that not only celebrates film and TV casts, but also those who perform stunts. When it comes to the latter, you can generally count on superhero films to deliver. The past four years, this prize has been won by the stunt casts of “Wonder Woman,” “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Endgame” and “Wonder Woman 1984.” There could actually be three Marvel films recognized this year: “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” — though it feels as if “Shang-Chi” has the edge with its unique blend of martial-arts styles. Period pieces, war films and Westerns also tend to fare well, so don’t be surprised to see “The Power of the Dog” or “The Harder They Fall” find a place, as well. And it helps if your film is already a big contender in the acting ensemble category, so keep an eye on “Belfast,” particularly for the dramatic riot scenes. Other films that could be major players with great stunt work that aren’t in the superhero realm include “Don’t Look Up,” “Nightmare Alley” and “West Side Story.”

Drama Series Ensemble
With not one of the 2021 nominees in this category eligible again, this is surely the most interesting race to watch on the television side of the ballot. In 2021, SAG-AFTRA members made history by nominating HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” which was the first cast predominantly of color to be celebrated in this category. Now they have the chance to not only continue those strides toward diversity and inclusion but also make history again by nominating the first non-English language series in this race, Netflix’s “Squid Game,” which hails from South Korea. Other expected nominees include HBO’s “Succession,” which is in its third season but would be a worthy addition to any SAG Awards ballot, as the first two seasons were snubbed by this voting populace; the final season of FX’s “Pose”; the fourth season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” from Hulu, which has been nominated three times before and is probably going to be the only veteran to make the ballot this year; and Apple TV Plus’ “The Morning Show,” now in its second season and featuring an even bigger-named ensemble thanks to cast additions including Julianna Margulies.

Comedy Series Ensemble
Two freshman comedy series made this ballot in 2021 — Hulu’s “The Great” and Apple TV Plus’ awards magnet “Ted Lasso” — and since the SAG Awards were early adopters, the ballot spots are these shows’ to lose. Another strong contender that could make the cut is the final season of Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method,” which was nominated twice before and is a proven entity with this voting group. However, that is not necessarily a lock because of the strength of newcomers (both new series and returning series that would be first-time nominees). First-time Emmy nominees “Hacks” (from HBO Max) and “Cobra Kai” (from Netflix) still have traction from that ceremony, while the third season of FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” and final season of HBO’s “Insecure” have picked up more buzz than in previous years. And then there’s Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” starring the powerhouses of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez; it’s eligible for awards this winter season and would be the biggest snub of the season if it wasn’t celebrated here.

Stunt Ensemble (TV)
This is another exciting category to watch, in great part because of Marvel Studios’ entrance into the television landscape. This year, that entity has “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Loki” and “Hawkeye” (all on Disney Plus) eligible and likely to score nominations. Another two easy noms would be Netflix’s “Cobra Kai,” which picked up a nom in 2021, and AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” an eight-time nominee from 2013 to 2020. Showtime’s “Dexter” was a three-time nominee only a few years after the SAG Awards introduced the category, and now that the franchise is back with “Dexter: New Blood,” so a sense of nostalgia could have it return to the ballot. Other series to give consideration to include The CW’s “Kung Fu,” CBS’s “SWAT” and Starz’s wrestling drama “Heels.”