“Lovecraft Country,” HBO’s bold, genre-bending drama series based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff entranced audiences when it premiered on August 16. The horror/sci-fi thrill ride led by stars Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance and Michael Kenneth Williams earned rave reviews from critics and proved that powerhouse acting performances weren’t reserved for traditional dramas. Now it could make SAG Awards history by becoming the first series led by a predominantly Black cast to be nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
The series begins with Korean War veteran Atticus Freeman (Majors) as he goes on a road trip through the segregated United States in the 1950s with his friend Letitia (Smollett) and uncle George (Vance) to find his missing father (Williams). Throughout their journey they learn the dark secrets of a town in which famous horror writer H.P. Lovecraft supposedly based many of his fictional tales, and they also unravel a mystery dating back to the era of slavery. Melanie McFarland (Salon) calls Smollett an “extraordinary force” with “smoldering presence.” Dan Feinberg (The Hollywood Reporter) says Majors is a “steady, slow-burning leading man” and Vance and Williams bring “decency and fiery torment” to the screen.
Since the inception of the SAG Awards in 1994, only five sci-fi or horror series have been able to break into the SAG ensemble acting category: “The X-Files,” “Lost,” “True Blood,” “Stranger Things,” and “Westworld.” Of those, just “Lost” and “Stranger Things” prevailed in 2005 and 2016, respectively. If “Lovecraft Country” were to win, it would not only become the first predominantly Black cast to take this top category at SAG, but just the third drama series from the sci-fi or horror genre.
An ensemble nomination would be the first SAG accolades for Majors and the too-often-overlooked Smollett, but the cast of supporting players has a history of support from the guild of actors. Williams has received the most recognition, taking home a trophy in 2012 as part of the cast of “Boardwalk Empire.” In 2014 he was nominated on both the TV and film side for his work in “Boardwalk Empire” and “12 Years a Slave,” respectively. Vance was nominated in 2017 for his Emmy-winning portrayal of Johnny Cochran in “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Aunjanue Ellis, who plays Atticus’s aunt in “Lovecraft,” earned a SAG nomination in 2005 as a cast member in the film “Ray.”
As of this writing, “Lovecraft Country” is on the bubble in Gold Derby’s overall racetrack odds in the TV drama ensemble category. But it has the support of 10 of our All-Star Top 24 and 12 of the top prognosticators from last year’s SAG TV nominations predictions. So what do YOU think? Can “Lovecraft Country” make history at the SAG Awards?
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