‘How I Got My SAG-AFTRA Card’

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Mr. Robot - Season 1
David Giesbrecht/ USA Network

Rami Malek

Nominated (2016): Outstanding Actor in a Drama, Mr. Robot

“I officially got my SAG card on Over There, a Steven Bochco war series for FX. But I was Taft-Hartley-ed [a federal labor law precursor to becoming a SAG-AFTRA member] for Gilmore Girls. I think I had two lines.”
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Ellie Kemper
Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

Ellie Kemper

Nominated (2016): Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

“I earned my SAG card doing a commercial for Kmart for a one-week sale on tents. I was camping with my on-screen husband, and there was a tarantula crawling across my face. Weirdly, I felt overwhelmingly calm while filming this. I guess you could say I had tarantula Zen. Maybe it was the knowledge that I was earning my SAG card. For whatever reason, it was an excellent experience.”

Veep - Reid Scott
Patrick Harbron/HBO

Reid Scott

Nominated (2016): Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy, Veep

“I got my SAG card in 2002 for a pilot called With You in Spirit. I remember thinking that the money from the pilot was a fortune. It wasn’t. After renting a car to get around L.A., paying off some debt and maybe buying a new pair of shoes, I was broke. I had to borrow money from my father just to join SAG.”

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles - Christina Ricci
Marvin Moore/Lifetime

Christina Ricci

Nomianted (2016): Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles

“I got my AFTRA card when I was 7 years old. I did a couple of those fake commercials for Saturday Night Live. At the time, there was a whole thing about medical waste being dumped in one of the rivers on the East Coast. My vignette was kids at a birthday party breaking open a piñata that was actually a cast and then playing in the used medical waste that fell out. Apparently I was really good at it, because I got featured!”

Jay Duplass, Judith Light, Amy Landecker, and Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent
Beth Dubber/Amazon Studios

Amy Landecker

Nominated (2016): Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy, Transparent

“I got my SAG card doing a voice-over for a Tampax commercial where I echoed the voice of an on-camera actress with just one word: ballet. I made $10,000 in residuals. I never saw money like that in my life and it didn’t even matter what I looked like! I was hooked on [voice-over] from then on!”

Game of Thrones - Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Nominated (2015): 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!"
Viola Davis – How to Get Away With Murder - The Night Lila Died
Mitchell Haaseth/ABC

Viola Davis

Winner (2015): 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.”

William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher in Shameless - season 4, episode 12
Chuck Hodes/Showtime

William H. Macy

Winner (2015): 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.”

Uzo Aduba in Orange Is the New Black
JoJo Whilden/Netflix

Uzo Aduba

Winner (2015): 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.’

Orange Is the New Black - Jason Biggs
Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Jason Biggs

Winner (2015): 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.”

Oliver Kitteridge - Richard Jenkins
Jojo Whilden

Richard Jenkins

Nominated (2015): 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.”

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Even Hollywood’s most celebrated stars have to pay their dues. Nominees for the 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (plus some past noms and winners) reveal the gigs that granted them union membership in the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), two union organizations that merged in 2012.

Screen Actors Guild Awards, Sunday, Jan. 30, 8/7c, TNT and TBS