For two decades, the SAG Awards all but ignored science fiction on TV. There were exceptions, of course — the ensembles of “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “The X-Files” and “Lost” were all nominated, and John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson earned individual recognition (and in Lithgow and Anderson’s cases, multiple wins). It wasn’t until the 2016 SAG Awards — when the first seasons of “Westworld” and “Stranger Things” both earned nominations for their ensembles and their respective stars Thandie Newton, Millie Bobby Brown and Winona Ryder — that the guild began to regularly consider sci-fi performances as worthy of recognition alongside other series.
Even then, however, nominated shows “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Lovecraft Country” and “Squid Game” sit on the fringes of what most people even consider to be science fiction. This year, the SAG Awards have the opportunity to nominate ensembles and performances on multiple shows that sit enthusiastically at sci-fi’s center.
Most obviously, there’s multiple-Emmy nominee “Severance,” Apple TV+’s razor sharp thriller about office culture that posits a classic sci-fi query: What if you could split your personality and memories between your work life and your home life? For many of the actors on the show — Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, Britt Lower and John Turturro — the premise directly informs their dual performances, as each of them deftly shift their voices and physicality to delineate between their characters’ workplace “innies” and their civilian “outies.”
Then there’s “Andor.” The last time a “Star Wars” actor was recognized by a top awards body was when Alec Guinness earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope.” But the latest Disney+ series, a sprawling, grounded, deeply engrossing story of how the Rebel Alliance scraped itself together in the years before the 2016 film “Rogue One,” could easily break that streak.
The show’s main star, Diego Luna, gives a simmering, often wordless performance as small-time thief Cassian Andor and often generously cedes the spotlight to his stellar supporting cast. Stellan Skarsgård, as rebel mastermind Luthen Rael, delivers a barnstorming monologue about the extreme personal cost he’s faced in his dedication to bringing down the Empire; Fiona Shaw, as Cassian’s passionate mother, Maarva Andor, gives an equally rousing speech about the fight against fascism.
Genevieve O’Reilly painstakingly parses out the danger facing her character, the flinty Galactic senator Mon Mothma, as she secretly marshals funding for the rebellion. Denise Gough is at turns winning and terrifying as ambitious Imperial intelligence officer Dedra Meero, while Kyle Soller’s Syril Karn transforms from a hidebound investigator into something more pathetic and dangerous as he falls from grace.
And Andy Serkis once again scorches the screen as Kino Loy, an imperious prison floor manager who turns to revolution with Cassian’s urgent encouragement. Each of these actors could easily earn individual recognition, but at the very least, there’s rarely been an ensemble this equally enthralling.
“Andor” isn’t the only series to breathe thrilling new life into a legacy sci-fi franchise, either.
“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” on Paramount+ managed to be at once a deeply nostalgic homage to the 56-year-old institution and an exhilarating reimagining of what a “Trek” show can be. Led by Anson Mount’s warmly smoldering Capt. Christopher Pike, the entire cast — including Ethan Peck’s sexy Spock, Rebecca Romijn’s commanding First Officer Una Chin-Riley and Celia Rose Gooding’s searching Cadet Nyota Uhura — took total control of their characters from the first episode and delivered a show that hardcore and casual “Trek” fans alike could love. “Trek” has never been nominated at the SAG Awards; perhaps this year, it will reach that final frontier.