LOS ANGELES Actors of color were the big early winners at Saturday's Screen Actors Guild awards, as Idris Elba, Queen Latifah and the cast of Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" were honored amid a furor over on screen diversity that has cast a shadow over Hollywood.
Elba, a black British actor, won for his portrayal of a mercenary commander in Netflix's gritty West African war drama "Beasts of No Nation."
"We made a film about real people and real lives, and to be awarded for that is very special because a lot of people were damaged from that," Elba said on stage. The actor was snubbed in the best supporting actor Oscars category this year.
Elba also took home the award for best actor in a limited series for playing a conflicted police detective in BBC's dark crime drama "Luther."
Netflix's "Orange Is The New Black," about a group of incarcerated women, won the best comedy series ensemble award for the second consecutive year.
"Look at this stage," cast member Laura Prepon said on stage. "This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity. Different race, color, creed, sexual orientation."
Queen Latifah won best actress in a TV miniseries for playing blues singer Bessie Smith in HBO's "Bessie."
"I hope that anyone out there who does not come in the package that people say you should, keep fighting for it," the actress said.
The awards were in stark contrast to the Oscars, where no actors of color are nominated this year for the industry's highest honors.
Television, enjoying a golden age with bold dramas and streaming platforms that bypass traditional advertisers, more closely reflects the country's ethnic and religious diversity.
"Orange" star Uzo Aduba won best comedy series actress for playing kooky inmate Crazy Eyes, beating out contenders such as "Veep" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and "Parks & Recreation" actress Amy Poehler.
Aduba thanked "Orange" creator Jenji Kohan "for making a show that represents so many people."
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander bested Kate Winslet in the best supporting actress category for her role as the wife of transgender artist Lili Elbe in "The Danish Girl" and thanked her fellow actors and the transgender community.
Jeffrey Tambor won best comedy series actor for playing an elderly transgender woman in Amazon's "Transparent."
"I play Maura Pfefferman, she's very entitled and has a lot of money, and I'd like to dedicate this award to the non-Maura Pfeffermans who don't have a lot of cash for their operations," Tambor said.
The Screen Actors Guild, which comprises the largest voting body at the Oscars, does not pick a best picture winner, but instead rewards acting prowess by choosing a best ensemble cast.
Award pundits say "The Big Short," a movie about Wall Street malfeasance, or "Spotlight," about a newspaper's probe of sex abuse in the Catholic Church, are likely ensemble winners, with hip-hop film "Straight Outta Compton," "Beasts of No Nation," and Hollywood blacklist tale "Trumbo" rounding out the competition.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant, G Crosse and Lisa Von Ahn)
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