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The cast of 'Modern Family' says cheese after winning the SAG Award for best ensemble in a comedy series. / Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY

The 19th edition of the Screen Actors Guild Awards - ironically nicknamed the SAGs, given how Botox stock goes up every time there's a parade of stars in designer duds - is where the cinematic in crowd gets to rub well-moisturized elbows with the TV elite. It's peer-on-peer action; no producers, writers, editors, cinematographers or directors to spoil the fun. Here are highlights of the big night from TV, backstage and the carpet.

Never forget the spouse. Director/star Ben Affleck was well on his way with his thank-yous after he and the rest of the cast of Iranian hostage crisis thriller Argo took the film-ensemble prize, when it dawned on him to quickly acknowledge his wife, actress Jennifer Garner. He also gave due credit to co-stars such as Alan Arkin and John Goodman. "This has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the wonderful actors."

Argo and a best-picture Oscar? That was the buzz backstage, now that Argo took top awards from the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild and the SAGs. It can't all be sympathy votes after Oscar failed to nominate Affleck in the directing category. His modest take backstage? "There was absolutely no way I thought we would win this award. I looked at the other films. You've got these ensembles - Silver Linings Playbook, or in Lincoln or Les Mis - those three movies. You could make 30 movies out of those casts. Thirty great ones."

Doing right by Abe. Daniel Day-Lewis got the vote and took best film actor for playing the 16th president in Lincoln. He said that when he first took on the daunting role, he thought of the guiding principle of the Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no harm." Then he added, "It occurred to me that it was an actor who murdered Abe Lincoln" - the audience filled with actors naturally broke out in nervous laughter - "and therefore, somehow it is fitting that every now and then, an actor tries to bring him back to life again."

Backstage, Day-Lewis told USA TODAY that he didn't think his speech stood anywhere close to Lincolnian standards. "I always come off with the impression that I've not said anything I should have said." And he's still surprised to hear his name called. "I think on every single occasion, without exception, I'm fully prepared to hear the name of one of my fellow nominees, and believe me, I would be so happy to applaud them. I think it's been a year of really strong, interesting films and wonderful performances. I'm just delighted to be here at the party."

One more silver lining. Good thing Jennifer Lawrence showed up despite recovering from pneumonia. The best-actress winner for her comedy Silver Linings Playbook grew teary-eyed as she held her "naked statue." "I'd like to thank MTV," she said, before explaining that she earned her SAG card for My Super Sweet Sixteen. Mentioning that director/writer David O. Russell made the film, which features Bradley Cooper as a bipolar patient, for his son, who has the condition, she added: "You have helped more than your son. You've helped so many sons and daughters."

Her speech was less sassy than usual; at the Globes, Lawrence referred to a line from First Wives Club and declared, "I beat Meryl!" - as in Streep, one of her fellow nominees. Still, she told the press later, when asked if she has gotten any advice, "I think you can tell from my public speaking and how I am on the red carpet that I didn't get much advice. I am still waiting for a couple of tips for when to shut up."

Her dream is a step closer. Anne Hathaway continued her march to expected Oscar glory with another supporting-actress win for her role as tragic prostitute Fantine in the musical Les Misérables. "Thank you - I'm just so thrilled I've got dental," she told her fellow union members while flashing a very well-maintained set of pearly whites. "I got my SAG card when I was 14. It felt like the beginning of the world." While she couldn't remember the names of her agents, she did manage to pay tribute to her actress mom, Kate, who understudied as Fantine in a touring production. "I want to thank my mother for voting for me. At least, she had better."

Of course she had butterflies. USA TODAY asked Hathaway backstage about her unique manicure design. "It's a couple of butterflies keeping me company," she explained. She also revealed her secret for getting through all the awards shows: "Adrenaline and the slightest bit of vodka."

Is he impressed now? Tommy Lee Jones was a no-show to pick up his supporting trophy for his hard-nosed abolitionist in Lincoln. Perhaps he is still recovering from his outbreak of the grumps: A photo of his scowling mug while seated among laughing audience members at the Golden Globes two weeks ago went viral on the Web.

Downton grilling. The representatives of the ample cast of Downton Abbey, the PBS sensation that took best drama ensemble, faced some pointed questions about the future of the series backstage. Who better to handle most of them than ever-steady housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, Phyllis Logan. How did they manage to take the prize over such shows as Homeland and Mad Men? "There are 10 times as many of us (actors). It's quantity, not quality." Dan Stevens (who plays cousin Matthew, the heir to the estate) will not come back for Season 4. Will the rest of them come back, and will they head to Hollywood to star in movies? Logan: "Yes to all those questions. He is not coming back. That's right. But we all are."

Tucking in. Claire Danes managed to trump a lady and a dowager countess (Michelle Dockery and Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey) with the best-actress win in a TV drama for her terrorism fighter in Homeland. Danes, who gave birth to a son last month, also coined a rather nifty phrase in her speech, calling herself "a Spanx-ing new mom."

Breaking good? Bryan Cranston won best actor in a TV drama as the chem teacher turned meth-lab operator in Breaking Bad. He summed up the feeling: "It is so good to be bad." And after thanking his peers for the trophy, he added, "Tonight, at least, I am well-endowed." Later, he also joined the cast of Argo for his second statuette. "I love what I do," he said backstage. "I'm the luckiest guy I know. Being involved with Argo and a great series like Breaking Bad is the pinnacle of my career. It's all downhill from here. It's the first time I won this guy, and I get two in one night."

Rock steady. Too bad 30 Rock is concluding this season. How will Alec Baldwin, who won his eighth SAG as TV exec Jack Donaghy, fill his trophy shelf now? Saying that his rep told him to say he's the greatest agent in the business, Baldwin did as he was told, explaining, "Now that I'm out of a job." In case that doesn't work, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, accepting the award for TV comedy ensemble for Modern Family, encouraged the casts of 30 Rock and The Office, also closing its doors this season, to apply for jobs for his sitcom.

Rock steady, Part 2. Castmate Tina Fey, not to be outdone, won her fifth "Actor," as they say, for TV writer Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Alas, she bested a good pal, former Saturday Night Live colleague and fellow nominee Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation. Fey managed to be gracious, sort of. "I share this with my sweet friend Amy Poehler. I've stolen so many of your moves. I've know you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham," referring to the twentysomething rising star of HBO's Girls.

Backstage, Fey explained she won't be out of work for long. Besides a deal to develop shows for NBC, "I'm going to London in March to film the next Muppets movie. Hopefully, shooting a movie called Mail Order Groom this summer with Steve Carrell," with whom she previously paired for Date Night.

Baby makes a bigger ensemble. Ferguson's co-star Sofia Vergara, whose character Gloria on Modern Family just had a baby, says they are getting used to having an infant on the show. "He's great, it's great. It takes more time for the scenes he's in, but he's doing really good. I've been very surprised by it."

Mad no more. It was a bittersweet night for Jared Harris, nominated along with the rest of the cast of Mad Men for best drama-series ensemble. His character, Lane Pryce, who went to the big ad agency in the sky last season, won't be back when the show returns for a sixth on April 7. "Part of me obviously wishes I was still on the show, but I'm just glad to be here," he told USA TODAY. "His death had such an impact, and it's one of the reasons we were nominated. Now I'm like you, waiting to find out what's going on. I tried to ask some of the other actors, but they're very tight-lipped."

Chim-chim-hurray. A hearty standing ovation greeted lifetime-achievement honoree Dick Van Dyke, 87, who managed to leave his mark on stage (Bye Bye Birdie), TV (The Dick Van Dyke Show, Diagnosis Murder) and film (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). "That does an old man a lot of good." Alas, neither Carl Reiner, creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show (or, as Van Dyke called him, "my lord and savior") or co-star Mary Tyler Moore could be present; both were victims of the flu. Van Dyke was overheard backstage offering to let Extra's Maria Menounos hold his SAG Award. "They weigh about 30 pounds," he exclaimed. "Can you believe that? That's why they don't hand it to you. You could break your foot."

Playing hardball. E!'s Ross Mathews broke a red-carpet rule by actually going beyond the usual softball questions, asking Glee star Mark Salling (Puck) about being sued for sexual battery by an ex-girlfriend. After grimacing, the actor managed to compose himself enough to answer: "You have to stay positive and count on people you know and love you. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and I count on that. And my parents are awesome, too."

No Idol-ing for Nicole. Nicole Kidman might have sung for her Oscar nomination in 2001's Moulin Rouge!, but she would never have the guts to audition for a show like American Idol, despite the fact that her husband, country singer Keith Urban, is a judge this season. "It is hard for me to sing for anybody," she confessed. "I like listening." One presumes she prefers to make beautiful music at home.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Even SAG-winning stars don't stand alone

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