Sandra Dewey on this year’s progressive SAG Awards

This year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards – airing January 21 on TNT and TBS – will be historic in many ways. Every single award will be presented by women, the nominations were announced by women, and there will be a host for the first time – you guessed it, a woman. This incredible salute to women is something that Turner is very proud of.

We sat down with Sandra Dewey, President, Studio T and TNT/TBS Business Operations, to discuss her role in this monumental awards show, and what it means not only for Turner but for the entire industry.

This will be a historic SAG Awards. All the awards will be presented by women, the nominations were announced by women, and the host will be Kristen Bell. How did this amazing idea come about?
The idea occurred to SAG producer Kathy Connell, in light of all of the change that's happening in the world right now and the focus on women's issues. It prompted in her the notion that this was the right time to turn a spotlight on women and to have that show of support in connection with the show.

She called up our network through Michael Bloom, who is the executive responsible for the show here. We had a discussion about what we thought about it. It was very quickly and resoundingly embraced. Sarah's effort at TNT to build a network which has a strong female outreach presented a real consistency with the theme of this SAG show.

What we are attempting to do here at Turner is to do our part in the industry to really reconcile some of the imbalance that exists, in terms of the disparity in pay equality and how there are so many fewer women represented than should be. We really embraced this opportunity to have a very public display of support for women.

Also, by the way, which was serendipity in the best way, the show airs on the anniversary of the Women's March.

What impact do you see this year’s SAG Awards having on the industry?
I think that by having that focus on women, it hopefully will give people a moment to stop and reflect on some of these very serious issues. I think there's advancement of thinking, a raised consciousness about some of these things. That's where progress comes from.

Was there any trepidation about this unique idea for an awards show? If so, what gave you the confidence to do it anyway?
I don't think we had any trepidation. We're a pretty courageous group. This is a place that has a lot of courage, even on social issues, to be on the right side of issues where there's choices to be made. We don't always succeed, but I've watched this company invest in trying to understand some of these issues, to try to push the ball up the hill.

Kristen Bell must be pretty excited about all this, right?
She is very excited. This is the show that's never had a host. And the fact that she's the first host really sets the stage in such a great way, because, so often in our industry there's this long history of men doing things, and at some point in time, along comes the first woman.

That will never happen with the SAG awards. She's the first host. There is no gender discussion to be had. That's an exciting shift.

How do you see this year’s show changing the trajectory of the SAG Awards in the years to come?
I think that sexism is oftentimes subtle and that there's frequently, in ways small and large, a line and men are in the front and women are in the back. I think it's really just about equalizing things so that we can be side by side. It’s not that we want to be in the front, it's to make a point. If that helps so that perhaps next year we stand more side by side, then that is the progress we hope to make.

You’ve been a strong advocate for women. What can we all do to ensure that women are treated equally?
I think it’s about raising awareness. Gender discrimination exists because we've all been socialized in certain ways that we're not aware of. We must make it okay to discuss these issues and challenge problematic behavior in order to make progress.

Imagine a young girl watching this year’s SAG Awards. What do you hope she’s thinking when the show is over?
I want her to think, look at these strong, smart and capable women – that could be me. I could do anything if I work hard. Opportunities are available to me, just like they are for any young male watching the show.


For more information on the SAG Awards, visit https://www.sagawards.org/.