Lily Tomlin has been named the 53rd recipient of SAG-AFTRA’s highest tribute: the SAG Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment.
Tomlin will be presented the performers union’s most prestigious distinction at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards®, which will be simulcast live nationwide on TNT and TBS on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017 at 8 p.m. (ET), 7 p.m. (CT), 6 p.m. (MT) and 5 p.m. (PT).
The SAG Life Achievement Award will join Tomlin’s extraordinary collection of preeminent industry and public honors, which includes a 2014 Kennedy Center Award, the 2003 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, two Peabody Awards, multiple Emmys® (including this year’s Lead Comedy Actress nomination), numerous American Comedy Awards, two Tony® Awards, a Grammy®, a Writers Guild of America Award and both the Crystal Award and the Lucy Award from Women in Film.
In making the announcement, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said, “Lily Tomlin is an extraordinary actress, as equally adept at narrative drama as in comedy roles. But it is through her many original characters that Lily’s creative genius fully shines. She has an ability to create diverse and distinct characters that are at once familiar, eccentric and oh so honest – in a way that illuminates life’s hidden corners. From Edith Ann to Frankie, her characters are wholly unique, and by exposing every nuance of human behavior they widen our scope of understanding. On behalf of nearly 160,000 SAG-AFTRA members, we are honored to bestow our SAG Life Achievement Award on the truly amazing Lily Tomlin.”
Tomlin has been a cherished star in the entertainment firmament since she joined the groundbreaking television series Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In in 1969, when it was rated the No. 1 show and watched by over 25 percent of all American television viewers. She and the colony of characters she created have continued to evolve, grow, deepen and adapt to this day, as Tomlin expresses her talents in nearly all forms of media.
In Tomlin’s very first movie, Robert Altman’s Nashville, she earned Oscar®, Golden Globe®, BAFTA and other award nominations for her performance as Linnea, a gospel singer with a strained marriage and two deaf children. She went on to dozens of leading roles in a catalog that includes The Incredible Shrinking Woman, written by Wagner; Altman’s The Late Show; 9 to 5, with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton; All of Me, with Steve Martin; Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog; Jim Abraham’s Big Business, with Bette Midler; David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees, with Dustin Hoffman; Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini, with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench; and two additional Altman movies, Short Cuts and the director’s final film, A Prairie Home Companion, written by and co-starring Garrison Keillor. Most recently she played the title character in the dramedy Grandma, a psychologically deep role director/writer Paul Weitz said he developed with Tomlin in mind and which earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
Tomlin is well-known for supporting philanthropic organizations, particularly those focused on animal welfare, civil rights, health care, overcoming homelessness and supporting the LGBTQ community in all aspects of life. She has given countless fund-raising performances for organizations across the country, including The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Rosie’s Place in Boston, Project Home in Philadelphia and many, many other community action groups. Tomlin has contributed in other ways to improve conditions for all living things, such as co-founding the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center. Tomlin and Wagner together also founded the Goosebump Garden at the internationally known LGBT Fenway Health Center in Boston and have been involved in its growth for over 25 years.
As part of her concern for animals, Tomlin earned an Emmy for her narration of the documentary An Apology to Elephants. She has worked with elephant activists all over the country to take elephants out of zoos, is on the boards of Actors and Others for Animals and the Shambala Sanctuary. She also works with Paws Elephant Sanctuary in California. She has received the Petco Foundation’s Hope Award for being a leader in animal welfare, and she established the Voice for the Animals Foundation’s Lily Award, to highlight just a few of her interests.
Tomlin’s humanitarian efforts earned her the Honickman Foundation’s Golden Heart Award for her impact in breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty. To name just two of many organizations she supports, Tomlin devotes her time to Smile Train, the international charity that provides cleft palate/lip surgery to children, and PAWS/LA, which assists low-income elderly and people living with catastrophic illness keep and care for their pets.