Sam Cooke, Ma Rainey Portrayals Are Nominated for 2021 SAG Awards

Leslie Odom Jr. in 'One Night In Miami.'
Patti Perret/Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Leslie Odom Jr. in 'One Night In Miami.'

The late Chadwick Boseman received four nods, tying a SAG record.

Portrayals of two music greats, Sam Cooke and Ma Rainey, received nominations from the Screen Actors Guild on Thursday (Feb. 4).

Viola Davis’ performance as Rainey in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) is nominated for female actor in a leading role. Leslie Odom Jr.’s portrayal of Cooke in One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios) received a nod for male actor in a supporting role.

But a third highly touted performance of a music legend, Andra Day’s performance as Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Hulu), was passed over for a nod for female actor in a leading role.

The late Chadwick Boseman received a nod for male actor in a leading role for his role as Levee, a trumpet and cornet player in Rainey’s band, but that character is fictional.

Boseman received four SAG nominations, tying Jamie Foxx (2005) and Maggie Smith (2013) for the most nods in one year in the 27 year history of the SAG Awards. Boseman is nominated for individual honors and as part of nominated ensembles for both Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Da 5 Bloods.

In each of the last two years, actors won SAG Awards in lead categories for their portrayals of music legends. Last year, Renée Zellweger won female actor in a leading role for playing Judy Garland in Judy. Two years ago, Rami Malek won male actor in a leading role for portraying Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Zellweger and Malek both went on to win Academy Awards for those portrayals. Other portrayals of music icons that won SAG Awards en route to winning Oscars include Foxx’s performance as Ray Charles in Ray and Reese Witherspoon’s performance as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line.

Davis and Odom were also SAG-nominated for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for those films. These are Davis’ ninth and 10th SAG Awards nods; she has won five times for her work in film and TV. Davis is currently tied with Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black) as the Black actor with the most SAG Awards.

These are Odom's first two SAG nominations.

Davis and Odom both received Golden Globe nominations Feb. 3 for these performances -- as did Day. In addition, Day and Odom received Golden Globe nominations for best song motion picture for co-writing songs that appeared in those films -- “Tigress and Tweed” and “Speak Now,” respectively. The SAG Awards don’t have music categories.

Theresa Merritt received a Tony nomination in 1985 for playing Rainey in August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. While Davis is slotted in the lead role in the SAG Awards, Merritt was Tony-nominated for featured actress in a play.

Cooke and Rainey have long been recognized as musical giants.

In 1986, Cooke became one of the 10 original artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Four years later, Rainey became the second female artist -- following fellow blues legend Bessie Smith -- to be inducted as an early influence.

Cooke was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in 1999. He has four entries in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rainey has one.

Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is one of the most celebrated songs in music history. It was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000, admitted into the National Recording Registry in 2006 and received the Towering Song Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013.

Cooke was just 33 in 1964 when he was shot and killed by the manager of a motel in Los Angeles.  Rainey died of a heart attack at age 53 in 1939.

Daveed Diggs, who won a Tony Award five years ago for his featured role in Hamilton, was nominated here for outstanding performance by a male actor in a television movie or limited series for his role in the Disney+ production. Diggs, who co-hosted the SAG nominations reveal on Instagram Live with Lily Collins, exclaimed, "This Hamilton gift, it keeps on giving."

The 27th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be simulcast on TNT and TBS on April 4 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. An encore will air on TNT at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.