2018 Tonys: 14 Facts About The Black Nominees

Lists

This weekend’s Tony Awards is expected to bring plenty of thrills as the nominated plays break genre and creative norms. Part of that includes the many faces leading such plays as the dynamic “Donna Summer Musical,” Tiny Fey’s “Mean Girls,” the elusive “Joan of Arc” and this year’s breakout, “Spongebob Squarepants.”

As Essence notes, the Tony Awards have led the wave when it comes to representation for people of color. In 2016, plays like Hamilton and The Color Purple made history with Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom, Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry and Cynthia Erivo taking home the awards for Featured Actor, Lead Actor, Featured Actress and Lead Actress respectively. It was also the first year that all major four musical categories went to black actors.

This year, history is bound to repeat itself as the Tonys have reserved nominations for standout performances from Denzel Washington, Joshua Henry and LaChanze. R&B and hip-hop heavyweights like John Legend and T.I. could also take home a Tony for their contributions in the “Spongebob Squarepants” musical.

But these creatives are more than just their roles. Take a look below for fun facts behind our favorite theatric mavens.

__

Denzel Washington

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Leading Actor in a Play (“The Iceman Cometh”) as Theodore “Hickey” Hickman

Fun Fact: As a child at his Boys Club community center, Washington performed The Beatles’  “I Want to Hold Your Hand” with the late Wayne Bridges–the father of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges.

Condola Rashād

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Leading Actress in a Play (“Saint John”) as Joan of Arc

Fun Fact: The daughter of Phylicia Rashād and sports caster Ahmad Rashād is one of the youngest actresses ever to be nominated in the category. This is also her first nomination in the leading actresses category as she’s been nominated for her feature roles in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” and “Stick Fly.”

Lauren Ridloff

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Leading Actress in a Play (“Children of a Lesser God”) as Sarah Norman

Fun Fact: Born  deaf, “Children of a Lesser God” is Ridolff’s first theatric role as in the past she was a sign language-tutor.

“If you didn’t know her résumé, you’d swear she’d been doing this her whole life,” her co-star, Joshua Jackson told The New York Times. “You’re dealing with an actress that doesn’t know what she’s doing, and communicating with her in a language she doesn’t speak, and trying to connect another actor to her — but she had a presence that I thought could transfer easily to the stage, and she has instinct enough that she can’t make a false move.”

Yolanda Adams

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (“Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical”)

Fun Fact: Adams’s glow has also brightened film scores. The gospel legend’s song, “Believe” was featured in 2003’s Honey soundtrack.

T.I. “Tip” Harris

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (“Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical”)

Fun Fact: Tip’s quickest shopping spree–$20,000 in 30 minutes–happened in 2017 when he took care of single mother’s shopping lists during the holiday season.

John Legend

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (“Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical”)

Fun Fact: Legend was featured in his first Super Bowl ad with Pepsi’s LIFEWTR in 2017. “It’s all about creativity, it’s all about inspiration, and it’s all about art,” he previously told VIBE. “I thought that the combination of that and imagery looked really beautiful together.

Domani (L) & Darwin “Lil C” Cordale Quinn (R)

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (“Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical”)

Fun Fact: As the son of T.I., Domani has the gift of making music in his DNA. “Music was just another way for me to create,” he told Respect in 2017. “I had always liked music, but when I was like nine, I was like, let me do something. I got in there, put it down and kept doing it.”

Before being the go-to producer for T.I. and the Grand Hustle Records family, Lil C produced his first hit–Young Jeezy’s “My Hood”–at the age of 17.

Hailey Kilgore

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Performance by Leading Actress in a Musical (“Once on This Island“) as Ti Moune

Fun Fact: Her fandom for Ariana Grande has led the actress to some interesting places. While performing in her hometown of Portland, Ariana’s brother Frankie was also on the bill.

“He sang this rendition of ‘I Believe’ from The Book of Mormon, but he changed the words,” she told Broadway. “He was just like ‘I’m here. This is my personality; this is what I’m like. You can like it, or you can leave it.’ We were backstage, and he walked up to me and said, ‘I love your outfit, and you are so beautiful. Your voice is so beautiful.’ I remember just being like, ‘Wow!’”

LaChanze

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Performance by Leading Actress in a Musical (“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical“) as Donna Summer (Diva Donna)/ Mary Gaines

Fun Fact: The Broadway legend actually originated the role of Ti Moune, which Kilgore is nominated for. While she’s been beloved in the theater, LaChanze has been adamant about roles for black women.

“I have had success in certain types of roles. I am an African-American woman of dark skin tone, and there are very specific roles that are usually given to African-American women of a darker hue,” she told Backstage“Let’s start with “Once on This Island”: peasant girl. Let’s go to “The Color Purple”: young girl, beaten. Let’s go to “Ragtime”: Her baby’s taken. The majority of the roles I’ve played are women who have been either impoverished or subjugated in some way. So while I’ve been fortunate enough to have success because these roles exist, they are stereotypical roles.”

Ariana DeBose

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical“) as Donna Summer (Disco Donna)

Fun Fact: DeBose is used to making “first” moments. In addition to this being her first Tony nomination, she created the role of Jane in the musical version of Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale and originated the character Bullet in Hamilton. 

Joshua Henry

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Leading Actor in a Musical (“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”) as Billy Bigelow

Fun Fact: Henry is one of the few actors to span theater musical genres. He’s starred in Kander and Ebb’s “minstrel show” in Scottsboro, punk rock vibes in American Idiot, R&B and hip hop grooves in In The Heightssoul vibrations in Violet, rap and jazz in Hamilton and classical sounds with Carousel. 

Brian Tyree Henry

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (“Lobby Hero”) as William

Fun Fact: Henry’s theater career has been a long one and he’s had quite the pal along the way–Sterling K. Brown. The two have been friends for over a decade, in which they’ve worked together in Public Theater projects like 2009’s “Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet” (The Brother/Sister Plays).

The two earned Emmy nominations together in 2017; Sterling for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in This is Us (which he won) and Henry for his guest role on the hit series. They’re also co-starring in the futuristic thriller Hotel Artemis, which hits theaters Friday (Jun. 8).

Noma Dumezweni

CREDIT: Getty Images

Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”) as Hermione Granger

Fun Fact: The regal actress wasn’t fazed when trolls took to social media to protest a black Hermione in 2016.

“[People] go, What? What do you mean Hermione is black? No — it’s me, Noma, who happens to be black and the directors have chosen me,” she told The Cut in May 2018. “That weight of expectation, I’ve never felt it as a burden. The only burden that I put on myself is: Am I good enough in each day? What can I find? What can I do? If I don’t believe I’m doing the work well enough, that’s what hurts me more than anything, and that’s what keeps you reaching, reaching and reaching.”

READ: 12 Good, Bad & Political Takeaways From The 2018 Governors Ball Music Festival