Women up front as SAG Awards react to Hollywood’s gender controversies

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“GLOW” actress Alison Brie arrives at the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she was asked about sexual misconduct allegations about her brother-in-law, James Franco. | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — The Screen Actors Guild Awards will make their mark on this year’s Oscars race on Sunday, but it will be the treatment of women in Hollywood and beyond that will remain at the forefront.

The show will feature a roster of almost all female presenters, Kristen Bell as its inaugural host, and an opening that will feature only actresses speaking about their craft.

Producers say the approach was inspired by last year’s Women’s March, but the show arrives at a time when some of the industry’s biggest names are leading the Time’s Up and Me Too movements to address gender inequality, sexual misconduct, pay disparities and other issues.

The brisk show comes two weeks after a black-dress protest at the Golden Globe Awards, and several stars including Meryl Streep, Emma Stone and Michelle Williams bringing activists to the show.

With many prominent men in Hollywood facing accusations of sexual misconduct, virtually every aspect of awards season has been impacted by the scandal. The SAG Awards are no different, with best film actor nominee James Franco having been accused of sexual misconduct in the days after winning best comedy film actor at the Globes.

As the red carpet kicked off Sunday, E! host Giuliana Rancic wasted no time getting to the heart of some of the elephants in the room, asking “Glow” actress Alison Brie about recent allegations of misconduct against her brother-in-law James Franco (Brie is married to actor Dave Franco.)

“I think that above all what we’ve always said is it remains vital that anyone who remains victimized should have the right to speak out and come forward,” Brie said, adding that in the case of Franco, “Not everything that has come forward is fully accurate.”

Brie said that she supports her family and that they are waiting to get all the information.

“Now is the time for listening, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Brie said.

Franco has also called some of the accusations inaccurate, but after two days of facing questions about the claims on late-night television, “The Disaster Artist” star has kept a lower profile. He did not attend last week’s Critics’ Choice Awards, where he also won an acting honor.

Comedian Aziz Ansari was accused anonymously by a woman of aggressive sexual behavior in an account that has prompted some to question whether the encounter as described constitutes misconduct or a bad date. Ansari is nominated for a SAG Award for best actor in a television comedy for his Netflix series “Master of None.”

Ansari, who like Franco accepted a Globe award two weeks ago while wearing a Time’s Up pin, has said he apologized immediately after the woman told him about her discomfort during a sexual encounter he believed to be consensual.

The Globes were the first major awards show forced to confront the sexual misconduct scandal since it exploded in October with dozens of women accusing Harvey Weinstein of harassment and, in some instances, rape. (Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.) Globes host Seth Meyers made several jokes about the scandal in his opening monologue, but the night was carried by Oprah Winfrey, who declared, “I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.”

At previous SAG Awards, any commentary about current events would have fallen to presenters or winners. The show has never had a host in its previous 23 years. But it remains to be seen how Bell will handle the fast-moving scandal.

Then, of course, there are the awards.

The SAG Awards are a reliable predictor of the winner for the best actor and actress Academy Awards; this year’s show comes two days before Oscar nominations are announced.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” leads all nominees with four bids: ensemble, actress for star Frances McDormand, and supporting actor nominations for Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

The SAG Awards have no best picture category, but rather ensemble awards that recognize a film or TV show’s entire cast. Besides “Three Billboards,” the nominees for outstanding cast in a motion picture are “The Big Sick,” ”Get Out,” ”Lady Bird” and “Mudbound.”

For television, the drama series ensemble nominees are “The Crown,” ”Game of Thrones,” ”The Handmaid’s Tale,” ”Stranger Things” and “This Is Us.” Comedy series contenders are “black-ish,” ”Curb Your Enthusiasm,” ”GLOW,” ”Orange is the New Black” and “Veep.”

The day’s first awards went to “Game of Thrones” and “Wonder Woman,” which were honored for best stunt ensemble honors handed out on the red carpet.

The leading television nominee is HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” with actresses Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon all competing in the best actress in a miniseries or movie category.

One of the evening’s highlights will be the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to Morgan Freeman.

The show will air on TBS and TNT beginning at 7 p.m. Chicago time.

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

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