With this year’s SAG Awards coming up quickly, we wanted to celebrate some of the actors who received nominations for the first time in their careers. Such a benchmark moment may be made even more special due to the nature of an awards show that has SAG-AFTRA actors vote on which of their peers receive nominations, as well as which ones win. Keep reading for our roundup of some of this year’s first-time nominees, along with the reasons we find their recognition to be especially notable.

Michaela Coel – Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series

Coel received the nod for her starring work in the BBC/HBO drama I May Destroy You, for which she was also showrunner, director and writer. The limited series focuses on a young woman named Arabella (Coel) who deals with the trauma of being a victim of sexual assault after having her drink spiked at a bar. Coel shared in an interview with NPR that she was assaulted in a similar way, which initially catalyzed her to create a series about the subject. But, the reach of the project extended as she heard from other people with related stories. “I realized that many people had some sort of experience that was connected to mine,” Coel shared. “There were so many different ways to explore consent and how it affects us today. What better place for a story than one that I felt many people could find an identification in?” We’re excited to see Coel recognized for her deeply personal and critically praised performance in I May Destroy You, especially after this year’s Golden Globes omitted her from its list of nominees.

Steven Yeun – Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Yeun is nominated for his well-received performance as Jacob in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, which centers on a Korean-American family that relocates to a farm in Arkansas in pursuit of their own American dream. The actor shared with IndieWire that he connected with playing the role of the father in Minari because his own dad left a career as an architect in Seoul to move Yeun’s family to the U.S. “He made a decision to uproot his family to get land,” noted Yeun. “As the son of my father, I also resonated with that feeling, of wanting to make my own life, and wanting to find who I am and what my purpose is, and what I’m here to do, that existential, isolated loneliness that comes with that feeling, I love it.” Yeun is also nominated alongside his Minari co-stars for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Bill Camp Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series

Camp is being recognized for his work as Mr. Shaibel in the smash Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit. The limited series centers on a fictional chess prodigy named Beth Harmon, a role played by Anya Taylor-Joy and one that’s already garnered her a Golden Globes win and her own SAG Awards nomination. Taylor-Joy has been at the forefront of award conversations, but Camp’s performance as the janitor who introduces Beth to the game of chess hasn’t received comparable buzz until now. The actor is competing in his category with Daveed Diggs, Hugh Grant, Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo, and while Camp may not have the same name recognition as his competitors, we think it’s high time the thespian receives a nod from the SAG Awards. He’s built a storied career that includes credits like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Todd Phillip’s Joker. Plus, the Juilliard alumnus has already garnered Emmy and Tony nominations for his respective work in the HBO mini-series The Night Of and in Ivo van Hove’s revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. As for the role that finally landed him his first SAG Awards nomination, Camp shared during a SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview why he was drawn to playing the character. “I was eager to see what I could make of such an understated individual as Mr. Shaibel and [of] the relationship that was developed between him and young Beth,” the actor noted. “And so I was up for that challenge.” 


Time will tell if Coel, Yeun, or Camp will win in their respective categories for this year’s SAG Awards. Regardless of if they’re a first-timer or not, though, every nominee will experience new changes to this year’s awards show. For example, due to COVID-19 considerations, all segments of the ceremony will be filmed and edited before airing. That includes the announcements of who wins each category, which will be revealed days before the show’s telecast to nominees via private Zoom rooms where the winners can deliver their acceptance speeches. It may be a SAG Awards like none before it, but the show must go on, and you can check out a full list of all this year’s nominees here in preparation for April 4 when the ceremony airs. 


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