The 25th annual SAG Awards are right around the corner, so it’s time to brush up your knowledge on this prestigious award show – and to find out why this year, Harry Shum Jr will be there as more than just a nominee.


For people working in the film or television industry the past few weeks have been fairly busy. Awards season has arrived in all its glittery glory and there hasn’t been a weekend where people from all corners of Hollywood didn’t put on their fanciest clothes and shiniest shoes to attend an award gala somewhere in Los Angeles. Of course, the Golden Globes and Oscars tend to hog most of the glory each year, but in between these two prestigious events, there are plenty of other galas happening which are just as important.

One of them is happening this weekend at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles: The Screen Actors Guild Awards, more commonly known as the SAG Awards.


The ceremony, hosted by actress and singer Megan Mullaly this year, is one of the most prestigious awards shows out there. Alongside the Golden Globes, it serves each year as one of the most reliable predictions for who is going to take home the big wins at the Oscars.

Having started in 1993, the SAG Awards are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year – and picked a very special someone to be one of the gala’s official representatives: Harry Shum Jr revealed in December 2018 that he would be one of the official SAG Ambassadors this year.

But what exactly does a SAG ambassador do? And what does Screen Actors Guild even mean? Read this article to find out.




What does SAG stand for?

SAG stands for Screen Actors Guild, which is the American actor’s union. It was founded in 1933 and has since become one of the most important advocates and representatives of actors’ interests, with over 120,000 active members in 2012. In March 2012, the SAG was merged with the American Foundation for Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and is since then called SAG-AFTRA. Besides representing the interests of its members in issues like contracts, casting or providing tools and support for their careers, the SAG-AFTRA is best known for awarding the SAG Awards every year at the end of January.


Who can win a SAG award?

Like most other award shows the SAGs honors outstanding performances in television and film in the previous year (which means that at the 2019 ceremony only movies and shows that were released in 2018 will be considered). One of the main differences to other ceremonies is that the SAG honors only actors, there are no categories for other aspects of movie and TV production such as directing, screenplay or cinematography. The ceremony honors both single and ensemble performances.  Apart from that, the SAGs are a so-called peer award – it’s not a jury or some sort of committee that decides who wins. Instead, the SAG members themselves get to decide. There are 13 categories in total and every SAG member who has been registered as such by December 1st, 2018 is allowed to vote.


Who chooses the nominees?

The nomination process starts long before the ceremony (for the 2019 ceremony for example, the period for people to nominate outstanding performances started at the end of July 2018 and concluded in October). Actors are allowed to nominate their projects themselves, but it’s more common for studios, producers, publicists or managers to take over that task.

After that phase, the so-called nominating panels come in. There are two panels, one for TV and one for movies, and they are each made up of 2,500 SAG-AFTRA members. Those 5,000 people critically review the submitted performances and eventually choose the nominees.

Once the nominees are chosen and revealed, it is time for the remaining SAG-AFTRA members to choose their favorites. This year there were over 120,000 people eligible to vote via either online voting or paper ballots. Voting for this year’s ceremony started in early December and closed on January 25th, so only the Friday before the ceremony. The votes are then counted by an independent third party and winners are revealed as part of the ceremony on January 27th.



So what’s Harry’s role in all of this?

Harry is one of this year’s SAG Ambassadors, which means he gets to represent the SAG-AFTRA and the SAG-AFTRA foundation in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. That includes attending PR events, such as going to see how the award statuettes are made earlier this month (check out our moment from the event here). In addition to that, he went to the “Cocktails with the SAG stars” media day (all pictures and updates from that day can be found here) on January 24th. He also teased in the most recent episode of the TVLine Podcast that there would be “a lot of fun things happening on the red carpet” – one of those things being him presenting the “Best Stunt Ensemble” category together with Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale).

Besides keeping the audience updated via social media, Harry is also attending the gala as a nominee. This summer’s hit comedy Crazy Rich Asians (Harry plays Charlie Wu) is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture”. Members of the CRA cast will be attending the event, some of them are presenting categories as well. Between that, Harry’s role as ambassador and his love for social media in general and Instagram stories in particular, we are definitely up for plenty of new content.


Who do the awards benefit?

The SAG Awards benefit the SAG-AFTRA foundation, which is a non-profit organization providing support for the SAG’s members. It focuses especially on supporting actors in their careers, both financially and by providing tools and knowledge. For example, the SAG provides assistance via relief funds for members in emergency situations and also awards scholarships to its members each year. They also offer programs which are supposed to help actors hone their skills (e.g. through free workshops or classes) and others that focus on the business aspect of an actor’s career. In addition to that, the foundation also funds actors’ centers in Los Angeles and New York which offer SAG members the facilities and infrastructure to improve their skills. Another key component of the SAG-AFTRA’s charity work is a children’s literacy program, which encourages children worldwide to read more.

The foundation operates entirely on donations, grants and support from its members, with the SAG Awards being one of the best-known ways to make sure the foundation’s work can continue.


Where can I watch the awards?

The  25th annual SAG Awards will be broadcast on TNT and TBS starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Prior to the ceremony, People, Entertainment Weekly and TNT are hosting the official red carpet pre-show starting at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT, which will be livestreamed on PeopleTV and the SAG Awards website.


If you don’t have time to watch the awards on Sunday or your TV just doesn’t receive TNT or TBS, don’t worry – SDN will be covering the event. Join us on Sunday night as we will keep you guys entertained with lots of pictures, videos and updates throughout the night. Or, you know, just do the sensible thing: sleep through the ceremony and check out our updates on Monday morning. We (and the gallons of coffee we will undoubtedly need on Sunday) can’t wait!