How I Got My SAG-AFTRA Card

Actors Guild Awards
Actors Guild Awards

Before they hit the red carpet for the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (January 25, 8/7c, TNT and TBS), some of the nominees reflect on the projects that gained them membership into the union.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (pictured above, Nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama, Game of Thrones): “Finally getting my SAG card in 2007 was huge for me. I did a pilot in New York for the Fox show New Amsterdam. I got so excited I went straight to the SAG online shop and bought four mugs with the SAG logo. Still have those mugs!”

Actors Guild Awards
Jennifer Graylock

Jason Biggs (Winner for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy, Orange Is the New Black): “I received my SAG card in 1988, when I was 10, for a Pathmark supermarket commercial. I remember I had to eat a doughnut in one of the shots. Over and over again. Awesome.”

William H. Macy (Winner for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy, Shameless): “I got my AFTRA [American Federation of Televi­sion and Radio Artists] card first. I was in Chicago, I was in my twenties, and I did a commercial. They told me I had to join and I said OK, secretly going, ‘Wee, wee, wee’ all the way home. [Within the year, I got] the SAG card. You’re in the tribe, man.”

Viola Davis (Winner for Outstanding Actress in a Drama, How to Get Away With Murder): “I got my SAG card doing one day of work on a [1996] movie called The Substance of Fire. My character’s name was Nurse. I had to pass [Timothy Hutton a vial of] blood, and I got paid $518. I did my first take and thought, ‘Oh, my God, that was so easy!’ I started taking my wardrobe off and they said, ‘You’re not done.’ I said, ‘This is going to be hard work for $518—you got more money?’ But it was fabulous. I thought I had made it.”

Actors Guild Awards
Kyle Rover/

Richard Jenkins (Nominated for Outstanding Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries, Olive Kitteridge): “It was Theater in America, which was a PBS series under Great Performances, in 1974. I was with Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, and we did a play about Oscar Wilde called Feasting With Panthers. I had a small part. We filmed it and were told we could join SAG—or not. I knew that it wasn’t easy to join, so immediately I said yes.”

Uzo Aduba (Winner for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, and for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy, Orange Is the New Black): “Orange Is the New Black is when I got my SAG card. I was just like, ‘Wow, this means I’m a full actor now.’ It was such a big deal, and I remember being so thankful and feeling so proud.’