'Awards Chatter' Podcast — 2016 Tonys Actress Roundtable (7 Broadway Standouts)

Lupita Nyong'o, Jessica Lange, Michelle Williams, Megan Hilty, Jessie Mueller, Cynthia Erivo and Laura Benanti join THR's Scott Feinberg to discuss their lives, work and the roles for which they could win on June 12.
David Needleman
From left: Lange, Erivo, Benanti, Hilty, Mueller, Williams and Nyong'o

"For me," says Lupita Nyong'o, the 33-year-old 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner turned best actress in a play Tony nominee for her Broadway debut in Eclipsed, "the hardest time is the moment before I get onstage, when the mountain is ahead of you and you're just like, 'I can't.' Every day, it's total panic and confusion as to how this is supposed to happen, especially feeling the way I feel in that moment, the exhaustion my body is experiencing, being parched in the throat, drinking water and it's just not doing enough. Then they say, 'Places,' and you get on that train, and before you know it, it's over."

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Joining Nyong'o for The Hollywood Reporter's third annual Tonys Actress Roundtable (presented by New York's iconic Empire Hotel) were six other distinguished actresses who understand exactly what she's describing: best actress in a play nominees Jessica Lange, 67, who's currently starring seven times a week in Long Day's Journey Into Night, which runs nearly four hours, and Michelle Williams, 35, whose intense 90-minute show Blackbird doesn't have an intermission; best actress in a musical nominees Jessie Mueller, 33, who plays the title character and is hardly ever offstage in Waitress, Cynthia Erivo, 29, who, between London and New York, has been starring in The Color Purple since 2013, and Laura Benanti, 36, whose soprano voice is pushed to the limit in She Loves Me; and best featured actress in a play nominee Megan Hilty, 35, whose highly physical comedy Noises Off closed back in March, but who is still feeling its effects more than two months later.

Over the course of a 45-minute conversation that took place in New York in mid-May, this all-star team talked about how they came to these parts; how originating a role compares to stepping into one already made famous by others; what Hollywood could learn from Broadway; and why, despite the mental, physical and emotional demands of the job, they still find themselves drawn back to those 40 or so cramped and creaky theaters in and around Times Square.