Tonys: What the Winners Are Saying Backstage

6:40 PM 6/12/2016

by Ashley Lee and Suzy Evans

James Corden emceed Broadway's biggest night at the Beacon Theater in New York City.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

  • Book and Score: Lin-Manuel Miranda

    'Hamilton'

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

    When Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Tony for book of a musical, he recited a poem which ended in him chanting through tears, "Love is love," in a gentle nod to the victims of the Orlando tragedy in a gay club. And he wrote that sonnet in honor of them. "I hadn't written anything going into today," Miranda said. "I hadn’t heard about the events until after our Tony rehearsal.…It sort of informed all of it, obviously. We live in this world where beautiful and horrible things exist at the same time and sometimes on the same day, so you can’t let that go by, particularly when theater is the cornerstone. Theater doesn’t exist without the LGBT community --- it's the cornerstone of our community."

    It's been reported that Miranda, who plays the title character in Hamilton, will leave the show on July 9, and he confirmed that he will leave the show some time this summer. But that won't be the last time he takes the stage in the part. "I have written a role that I cannot age out of!" he said. "I intend to drop in on this thing. I feel very lucky that I have built something that I can drop in on over and over again...Flash forward to 20 years from now, you’re going to be like, 'Lin when will you stop playing Hamilton?'"

  • Leading Actor in a Musical: Leslie Odom Jr.

    'Hamilton'

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

    Leslie Odom Jr. never thought he would make it to the Tony winners circle. “I remember when Phylicia Rashad said she’s wondered for years what would it it take, so I wondered the same thing,” said Odom. “I didn’t realize what a team of people it would take. It’s a lot of people.”

    "The best thing to do is put your head down and follow your instincts and try not to lose hope because somewhere along the way, I lost this vision,” he said. “I really didn’t have this vision. Meeting this material awakened this again in me. This show has helped me find some direction, helped me find some purpose again. This is what I always felt like I was meant to be doing, but I was waiting for Lin to write it.”

    And he also shared some thoughts on the tragedy in Orlando. “Something like that happens and immediately all of this seems silly,” he said. “We were in rehearsal when we found out, and it just feels so futile, it’s like maybe we should pack it up…And then we had a show today and there are people in that room that spent every dime they had to be there…That was refocusing because I said, ‘We can’t let ‘em take that from those people. He can’t have that.”

  • Leading Actress in a Play: Jessica Lange

    ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

    Jessica Lange won her first Tony as Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a role she first played 16 years ago in London. And the show is on Broadway again thanks in part to her American Horror Story collaborator Ryan Murphy. “One night we were at dinner and I happened to mention to him that Mary Tyrone, which I did 16 years ago in London, remained the greatest part I ever had and my favorite role, and I said how much I would like to revisit it,” Lange said. “Because I always find coming back to something after a lapse of time, you bring something back to it. … The next thing I knew he had secured the rights.”

    “This time I came to it, and I felt explosive,” she added. “And I think in a way it has to do with what you bring — your life history, your life experience, and somehow this one had that feeling to it.” Lange said there isn’t another role from her career that she wants to do again. “I’ve played Blanche [in A Streetcar Named Desire] three different times,” she said. “Of course I’ve out aged Blanche by several decades so that’s out of the question.”

    Lange celebrated the night with her daughter and her granddaughter. “We’ve got three generations of Lange women out here tonight. It was wonderful to be here with them.”

  • Leading Actor in a Play: Frank Langella

    'The Father'

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

    Langella delivered a moving acceptance speech dedicated to the Orlando victims: “When something bad happens, we have three choices: We let it define us, we let it destroy us or we let it strengthen us. Today in Orlando we had a hideous dose of reality. I urge you Orlando to be strong because I'm standing in a room of the most generous human beings on earth, and we will be with you every step of the way.” He told the media that he tore up his original speech after the day’s matinee performance. “I hope it wasn’t over the top. … I’m a 78 year old man and I react to things far more profoundly than when I was sixty, fifty or forty. This constant sense of madness that’s pervading this country is terrifying to me.”

    In The Father, he plays a character struggling with dementia. “I’ve never played a role in which so many people come back stage and sit on the floor of my dressing room and weep, not necessarily because of my performance, but because so many of us are dealing with this,” he explained. “The caregiver is often in so much more pain because they’re so used to the person knowing who they are, and suddenly they don’t remember them. … They’re just a stranger.”

    Read more Frank Langella Talks About Losing His Mind Eight Times a Week on Broadway

  • Featured Actress in a Musical: Renee Elise Goldsberry

    'Hamilton'

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

    “I asked for a job and I got a Tony for it!” the newly-minted winner told the press after the ceremony. “But I don’t think this makes me a better actor than anybody in the whole wide world; it’s just a huge celebration of what we all are doing in the whole wide world, and I get to be the poster of that for a moment. … But I’m probably gonna have that pressure now [onstage], and it’s a little scary!”

    Goldsberry, who stepped into established roles in The Lion King and Rent, said of the other Angelica Schuylers to be cast in new productions of Hamilton, “I think there’s an advantage to be able to go into a role after somebody and pick and choose: do I want to do what she does or do I want to find my own way in? You can do both. Any role that is well-written has room for all kinds of people, regardless of race or gender. Honestly, I want to play Alexander Hamilton next.”

    Still, she might want to reprise the Angelica Schuyler role in another production: “I would love to," she said, adding that as more audiences learn the music thoroughly, they'll sing along in future shows. "It’ll be like Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’ll be a party."

    Read more How 'Hamilton' Star Renee Elise Goldsberry Absolved Steven Spielberg's 10-Year Guilt

  • Featured Actor in a Musical: Daveed Diggs

    Hamilton'

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
    Daveed Diggs didn’t think there was a place for him in the theater community, but he is in awe of the diversity onstage this season. “It is so inclusive not just culturally — in terms of ability and in terms of age — there is so much diversity on Broadway right now. I’m very proud to be a part of it,” he said. “It makes me so happy to see so many theater kids nerding out over these shows because they can find themselves in that. It was luck that I found my way into theater; I tripped and fell in to it. It didn’t matter to me that nobody looked like me; it felt like something that was alright me for me to try on.”
     
    “I don’t have a lot to compare this Broadway experience to,” he said. “I know that growing up I felt like there was no place for me here and that was part of the reason I wasn’t here.”
     
    But now he’s met his heroes from President Barack Obama to Busta Rhymes. “After we performed on the Grammys, Busta Rhymes texted. That’s a hero of mine."
  • Direction of a Play: Ivo Van Hove

    Arthur Miller's 'A View From the Bridge'

    Jan Versweyveld

    The groundbreaking director won for his acclaimed minimalist staging of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, which starred Mark Strong on an audience-surrounded boxed stage. “I look at a play as if it was written yesterday. I don’t read it filled in my mind with preconceptions,” he explained. “I don’t make theater to make a lot of money. A big part of my life I live in the theater, and I express how I feel about the world in my productions.”

    Next, he’s working on stagings of Obsession with Jude Law and Hedda Gabler with Ruth Wilson, but UK audiences are antsy to receive a London transfer of the off-Broadway hit Lazarus starring Michael C. Hall and featuring David Bowie’s music. “It would be wonderful, and the producers said it would be inevitable. It is David Bowie’s hometown,” he said with a wink.

  • Director of a Musical: Thomas Kail

    'Hamilton'

    Getty Images

    How do you make a musical into a phenomenon, even if people haven't seen it? The hip-hop show about America’s founding fathers is so popular because of the cast recording and the behind-the-scenes book. “The book and the album exists to everybody can grab a hold of this thing for twenty bucks. And everyone saw Star Wars, so I know they have twenty bucks."

    Even more so, the show's high school student initiative will spread to the cities where Hamilton will be housed. “We will make it part of our mission in Chicago and San Francisco and the West End, because that’s actually what matters. This is about trying to plant seeds. This was made so a new generation of theatergoers and theatermakers can experience it.”

    Read more 'Hamilton' to Gift 20,000 NYC Public School Students With Show Tickets

  • Best Musical: 'Hamilton'

    Getty Images

    “I’m filled with joy at the most extraordinary year one could ever ask for in the theater. To have started the season in July and ended the year here in June is the most wonderful ride,” said producer Jeffrey Seller. Though Seller remained tight-lipped about the Broadway cast members potentially extending their contracts, he did say of the Chicago production, opening in September, “We are forming spectacular cast and hopefully we’ll be ready to talk about it in July.”

    Of the Orlando tragedy, Seller said, “It has reminded me yet again of how all of our lives are intersections of joy and tragedy and sadness. It has dampened things a little bit today. But I’ve also know what’s it like to lose my good friend Jonathan on the day we were to begin previews for Rent, and the only way we could honor him was to go on [with the show]. The only way we can honor this country is to keep doing what we do.” 

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