Just over 24 hours after being nominated for next month’s Tony Awards, some of Broadway’s best and brightest gathered in New York City for this year’s “Meet the Nominees” press day.
EW spoke to a number of the nominees — actors from plays and musicals, originals and revivals alike — on topics from how they heard the nomination news to what TV shows they’ve been binging lately.
Read on for stories of dinosaur pajamas, doing splits on stage, Hamilton cast members’ reactions to the show’s historic 16 nominations, and how Broadway (and the roster of Tony nominees) is more diverse than other forms of entertainment.
Getting the big news
“I was in my house, sitting in my dinosaur pajamas, by myself with a purple wrap over my head. I was talking to my dad but he was starting to make me nervous because he’s really into the Tonys, so I just watched my cast mates sing The Color Purple [on the Today show] and my phone was sitting face up, and all of a sudden I just see all these notifications and I was like, [gasps] ‘Oh my God, oh my God.’” — Danielle Brooks, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, for The Color Purple
“I had just dropped my daughter at school, and I was just by myself and I got some phone calls.” — Michelle Williams, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, for Blackbird.
“I woke up and watched on NY1. I wake up and watch the Tony nominations every year because I’m a theater nerd, and so this year was especially exciting.” — Jonathan Groff, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, for Hamilton.
On doing splits every night
“When we were choreographing that number Gavin [Creel] looked down at me and said, ‘Are you sure you want to do splits eight times a week?!’ [Laughs] I was like, “Yeah. I got it, we’re good. Let’s do this!’” — Jane Krakowski, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, for She Loves Me.
On Hamilton’s record-setting 16 nominations…
“It’s a number I’ve only thought of this much when I was trying to get my driver’s license” — Thomas Kail, nominated for Best Direction of a Musical for Hamilton.
…And being the 16th of those 16
“Really?! I was the last one to be called? That’s horrible! [laughs] I’m just kidding. It’s wonderful. I was watching the television broadcast and they stopped calling it out so I wasn’t watching the live feed. I would have been so nervous to wait to the end! But the beauty of that is I was so excited for my other cast mates and the other people — our lighting designer and our set designer and our costume designer and our choreographer — I’m very excited for all of them and I’m really grateful to be part of the celebration with them.” — Renee Elise Goldsberry, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, for Hamilton.
On the hardest role a six-time Tony nominee has ever played
“[Tevye] is the hardest role I’ve ever done. I’m on stage for three hours, except for 13 minutes, and it is three hours of singing, screaming, and crying — the whole gamut. It’s a huge effort, it really is, every single night. And also exhilarating, it really is. That’s the greatest part of it.” — Danny Burstein, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, for Fiddler on the Roof.
Having strong pajama game (and your costars do, too)
“A bunch of people in Hamilton have these holiday onesies [he was wearing in the video of him being surprised with news of his nomination], we had a party once.” — Daveed Diggs, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, for Hamilton.
On still learning your role after opening night and a Tony nomination
“I think the play is still growing and I think we’re still learning things … the last scene that Jamie does in the play is incredibly complicated. He says so many different things in that scene and I’m constantly trying to figure out what he really wants to say. It’s interesting because all these characters talk so much but I think most of the time they’re not saying what they really want to say. So I’m on the hunt for, like, if Jamie could only say one thing to [his brother] Edmund, what would it be?” — Michael Shannon, nominated for Best Performance by an actor in a Featured Role in a Play, for Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
On the diversity in this year’s Tony nominees, and the Broadway community
“It’s lovely. And I just want to remind the world that diversity really does go past just race. I am so honored to be a part of it and a part of the black community of people that are represented, but for me, I’m also a plus-sized girl. That’s a part of my story. And all the struggle that you went through is worth it at the end of the day when you’re at the stage door and there’s a young, black, thick girl like you standing there crying, saying thank you for showing me I too can be on a stage and don’t have to change any part of myself.” — Brooks
Being nominated in the same category as your costars
“We’re now mortal enemies. I saw them today, we’re not speaking to each other, it’s a full competition from here on out.” — Groff (jokingly), on Diggs and Christopher Jackson.
Getting to sing about romance (and dessert)
“As a soprano, so rarely do you get to be truly funny, and that’s always been a bummer for me because I approach the world through a lens of humor, absolutely. So to get to sing soprano songs that are not only moving, like “Dear Friend,” but to have “Ice Cream” which is so funny and almost patter-y, it feels really special.” — Laura Benanti, nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, for She Loves Me.
What Tony nominees are binge-watching right now
“Game of Thrones. I’m almost caught up to get to season 6. … I started watching it last year, so I’ve definitely spent a couple of days over the past year just trying to catch up.” — Phillipa Soo, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, for Hamilton.
“I am addicted, and this is a wind-down after Blackbird, to Impractical Jokers. I think it is the funniest — and this is coming from a guy who was in Dumb and Dumber — I think it’s hysterical what those four guys are doing.” — Jeff Daniels, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, for Blackbird.
“The Knick! I am binge-watching The Knick right now and I am loving it. I am always so grateful that I am born right now, when I watch those birth delivery scenes on [that show]… and it’s also a show that’s shot in New York so I get to see a lot of wonderful actors that I know doing wonderful work.” — Goldsberry