Tonys: The Winners' Reactions
"All the Way" star Bryan Cranston, "Hedwig" breakout Lena Hall, Mark Rylance of "Twelfth Night" and James Monroe Iglehart of "Aladdin" expounded on their wins backstage.
After Broadway's best won Tonys at the Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, they headed to the press room to immediately reflect on their awards:
Bryan Cranston, lead actor in a play, All the Way
"Look what you're missing. I want to see that!" Cranston told the press after his win, just as the Wicked cast was performing on the Radio City Music Hall stage. Of doing theater, he said, "To me, it's the purest form. It is the one that truly influences your performance, night after night, when you can feel the performance, you can effect emotional change. It's such an empowering feeling -- it's like a drug and you have to get it. It's as strong as blue crystal meth."
When asked if the win makes him want to continue in the role as Lyndon B. Johnson, he said, "I would never say never ... but it almost feels like when you just had a baby and people say, 'You gonna have another one?' It's like, 'You see how small this is?' " However, he noted that at this point in his career, he feels "like I stole something – I didn’t have any formal education in the arts, I was a kid who was poor and trying to figure out where I belonged. From a very early age, I tapped back and remember how it felt to evoke emotion, and how that made me feel powerful. I think that's the thing that's universal about this – every adult is seeking something, whatever, that empowers them … I found it. I stumbled on it, actually, and I'm the luckiest guy in the world."
Neil Patrick Harris, lead actor in a musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Harris said that winning a Tony topped a massive year for him. "It's spectacular. I can't believe this has all happened in a 12-month span," he told the press, listing last year's opening number at the Emmys, the final season of How I Met Your Mother, his upcoming film with David Fincher and the opening of Hedwig as other highs. To prepare for the stage role, he did a ton of cardio and yoga. "I stopped doing any kind of upper-body strength training, which I had been doing for the TV show I was on, because you never knew when you were gonna be shirtless on that show, and I really wanted to change my posture and silhouette more than anything, so losing weight was good because it just eliminated pectoral strength and a scapular retraction from my silhouette."
Harris said he loves having fun with the audience and being spontaneous about any show hiccups. "The other night, a safety pin had been lodged in my fishnets – I kept feeling it stabbing me … so finally, I just had to stop the show and squat down and have someone in the front row yank it out – I'm still talking about the pin," he said with a wink. Of having fun with Orlando Bloom, Sting and Kevin Bacon in the front row during his Hedwig performance earlier that night, he said, "One of the benefits of having hosted this show previously is, I can sneak around and get intel on who's sitting where. They weren’t alerted that things were going to be happening to them – naughty, dirty things."
Lena Hall, featured actress in a musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
"This show has meant a lot to me for a really long time – I saw it in the Jane Street in 1999, and it was like a religious experience, and what's interesting is that now that we're on Broadway, we're getting all this attention, more people are coming to have that same experience of finding yourself," said Hall after listening to Neil Patrick Harris' acceptance speech backstage. "If you really listen to the message, and you realize that you are all you need in your life, if you embrace it, and if you embrace that, you are able to embrace those around you." Hall also noted that her "Friendship is magic!" shout is a reference to My Little Pony, which she became a fan of a year ago, thanks to Netflix. "I learned about friendship again and what it really means to have friendship in your life – for the longest time, I felt alone in the world … I've found a lot more happiness, and that happiness has moved into my professional career."
Of the evening's saucy yet star-studded performance – during which Harris gave Sting a lap dance, kissed David Burtka, landed in Kevin Bacon's lap and treated Orlando Bloom to a "car wash" – Hall admitted that she's not sure how much of it was planned. "I really actually don't know – I'd imagine they'd have to get approval, but honestly, Hedwig does what Hedwig does, I can't stop her from going out and accosting whoever she's going to do that to!"
Mark Rylance, featured actor in a play, Twelfth Night
"Oh, I thought you might be expecting it!" said Rylance on why he didn't recite a poem during his acceptance speech, adding that he hopes to return to Broadway with another Shakespeare production. Of being so well-received by America's younger theater patrons, he said, "In the end, it's a touch of grace, really. It was one of those rare occasions where what we were doing was making sense to them; it was very joyous." In comparison to his previous wins, "This one's very delightful because I'm not on my own ... I've sometimes found these awards more isolating, but tonight it's felt like the whole group is being celebrated, and that's very joyous for me," he said. "I'm very happy that nowadays, nominations are treated with almost as much respect as winning!… The nomination is an enormous celebration, and winning is a little bit of an embarrassment. The nomination is the thing that means the most to me."
Audra McDonald, lead actress in a play, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
McDonald took off her shoes to speak to the press after winning her sixth Tony – an awards record that left her speechless backstage. "I'm just overwhelmed – I don't know what to say! I'm deeply grateful." After repeating that she wove her way into Billie Holiday's vocal sound by imitating her grandmother, she noted that from her perspective onstage, "I'm seeing in the change in the landscape of who's in the audience, and that's very exciting." Of all the songs in Lady Day, McDonald said she connects most with "Deep Song," which is "the last one she sings – she doesn't quite get through it." She added, "I'm very, very lucky that I'm in a situation and a place in history that I don't have to deal with the racism and the misogyny that people like Lena Horne and Billie Holiday had to deal with, and because of the fights that they fought, I am able to be here and have the opportunities that they were not afforded."
James Monroe Iglehart, featured actor in a musical, Aladdin
"What will I do afterward? My wife and I are going to McDonald's," Iglehart, wearing a bejeweled tux, told the press after his win as the Genie in Aladdin. "It's something we do, we did it after opening, we do it after very important occasions. It keeps us humble, it keeps us grounded – we don’t go to some fancy restaurant, we take our Tony, we take our tux, we take our nice dress, we get in the car, we get a Big Mac and fries and go back to the house, and we kick it with our cats because it lets us know that this is still real life." He noted that the Genie is his favorite character ever – a love that keeps his energy up at a notable level onstage – and that his shout, song and dance at the podium was truly spontaneous. "My next goal is to be People's first 'Sexiest Man Alive With No Abs Whatsoever.'"
Kenny Leon, best director of a play, A Raisin in the Sun
"That was shocking and surprising, but I felt the production was well-deserved – I know it's for direction, but this represents the work of a lot of people … anchored by Denzel Washington," said Leon, who is currently directing the Tupac Shakur-inspired musical Holler If Ya Hear Me. His Q&A with the press was disrupted when Sophie Okonedo won for featured actress in a play, causing Leon to shout loudly, "Yes! Yes! Yes! That girl, she works harder than anyone! Sophie, I love you, oh, man!" And then to finish answering a question from a reporter, "But yes, Denzel was snubbed." Of directing the renowned play for the second time, he said, "The first time, I hold that in my heart because Sean Combs had never done a play before, but he brought new faces, new audiences to Broadway, Phylicia Rashad won a Tony for lead actress … in that ten years, I've grown as an artist, but this was about doing an intimate production of a big play … there's a presence of Lorraine Hansberry when you walk into the theater – it was all about honoring her."
Jessie Mueller, lead actress in a musical, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
"You have to form connections with people because you have to do very intimate things with people, and you have to do it really fast. You experience something very special … because it's so intense, I think that's why relationships last," said Mueller, who spoke to the press alongside Carole King, of stage work. King reflected, "I learned a lot of new things about myself from watching Jessie portray me. At that age, I had no idea of who I was or what was good about me or what was not good about me. I've sort of learned that over the years, but to see that with such clarity … Jessie found all this on her own, and what she portrays is so true, it's so true for me. We were saying to each other that we've given each other a gift … I think it's such a gift to see myself as the woman I was then, and actually like myself."
Mueller said of King's songwriting legacy, "It's the honesty – you started with a different lyricist but, to my understanding, you learned that what you had to say was important too." And King said, "And that's why I love her!" Mueller added of her dance with Hugh Jackman as he presented her category's nominees, "When Hugh Jackman pulls you up and does the running man with you, one must do the running man with him, and one must say, 'Yes and.' "