SAG Awards 2016: Actor anecdotes, Tina and Amy's Burnett salute, diverse nominees set for gala

They're not the frothy Golden Globes, nor the staid Oscars, but arriving smack dab in the middle of the film awards season, the Screen Actors Guild Awards are comfortably settled somewhere in between. Here's what you need to know about Saturday's gala.

Screen Actors Guild Awards gala airs live from L.A. on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. ET

Orange is the New Black cast members, from left, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Laverne Cox, Matt McGorry, Dascha Polanco and Selenis Leyva pose with the 2015 SAG award for outstanding ensemble in a comedy series in Los Angeles. The 2016 edition of the gala takes place Saturday. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)

They're not the frothy Golden Globes, nor the staid Oscars, but arriving smack dab in the middle of the film awards season, the Screen Actors Guild Awards are comfortably settled somewhere in between.

Tune into our coverage of the SAG Awards Saturday night with CBC arts reporter Zulekha Nathoo reporting from the event.

Staged by the Hollywood trade union representing performers, the SAG Awards are a relatively simple yet still star-studded celebration. They're a love letter to actors, penned by their peers, and notable for their specific focus on performances (in TV and film) and for their celebration of ensembles as well as individuals. 

With the 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards airing live from Los Angeles Saturday evening, here are few interesting facts to know about the event.

The trophy

SAG Award winners receive a solid bronze statuette called The Actor. The nude male figure clutches masks of comedy and tragedy.

'I am an actor'

Each SAG Awards gala kicks off with a quirky introductory segment where a handful of representatives from the celebrity-filled union share silly, insightful, poignant, self-deprecating or ridiculous anecdotes about being a performer. 

The tradition began with the first SAG Awards in 1995, when Angela Lansbury explained the concept behind the fledgling awards show by sharing a bit of her own history as an actor.

"I've been Elizabeth Taylor's sister, Spencer Tracy's mistress, Elvis's mother and a singing teapot," she recounted. "Tonight is dedicated to the art and craft of acting by the people who should know about it: actors. And remember, you're one too!" 

Since then, dozens of famous faces — from Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Keaton and Ian McKellen to Steve Carell, Sofia Vergara and Sandra Oh — have shared stories, ending with the signature phrase: "I am an actor."

Tina and Amy toast Carol

Influential actress and comedian Carol Burnett is the 2016 lifetime achievement award recipient. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/Associated Press)

Undoubtedly, one of this year's most anticipated segments will be frequent collaborators Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's tribute to comedy trailblazer Carol Burnett, this year's recipient of the SAG lifetime achievement honour.

The approachable, influential comedian is best known for her groundbreaking, award-winning TV variety program The Carol Burnett Show, but is also memorable from movies like Annie and Noises Off. She also won acclaim in stage productions such as Once Upon a Mattress and Moon Over Buffalo.

Tina Fey, left, and Amy Poehler will pay tribute to trailblazing comedian Carol Burnett at Saturday's SAG Awards ceremony. (John Shearer/Invision/Associated Press)

"We all hail Carol as the queen," Poehler said of Burnett — whom the duo previously honoured in 2013 when she won the Mark Twain Prize — on a recently released DVD of The Carol Burnett Show.

"She has all these talents," Fey added in the same interview. "She can sing, and she's so funny, and she's a great physical comedian ... [but] you feel like she could have grown up on your street."

More diversity

Actress Uzo Aduba, at centre surrounded by her fellow cast members of Orange is the New Black, accepts the SAG Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series in 2015. The show and Aduba are among the 2016 nominees. (Vince Bucci/Invision/Associated Press)

Amid the current uproar over a lack of diversity in Hollywood, the SAG Awards look somewhat more reflective of American society than the Oscars.

The SAG film nominees include the ensemble casts of the child-soldier drama Beasts of No Nation as well as the N.W.A. rap biopic Straight Outta Compton, along with Beasts actor Idris Elba (who is also a TV nominee for the crime series Luther).

The television contenders selected by the guild's nominating committees also shine a spotlight on diverse performances and stories.

TV ensemble nominees include the multicultural cast of reigning comedy winner Orange is the New Black. Meanwhile, other than Elba, individual performers in the running for SAG awards include Mr. Robot's Rami Malek, How to Get Away with Murder's Viola Davis, Orange is the New Black's Uzo Aduba and Bessie star Queen Latifah.

The 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards get underway Saturday at 8 p.m. ET at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles, airing live on TNT and TBS.