This year there are eight Tony Award nominees in acting categories making their Broadway debut. While that’s certainly a feat, there is a flip side to that coin: actors who have been working for years in the theatre and finally earned their first nomination. This year, two men and two women who have worked their way up the ladder see the glory (and all four in productions from Roundabout Theatre Company).
Powerhouse Jessica Lange is among them. With a storied stage career long before television’s American Horror Story, Lange conquered some of theatre’s most challenging roles, including A Streetcar Named Desire’s Blanche DuBois and The Glass Menagerie’s Amanda Wingfield on Broadway. But, it took Eugene O’Neill’s Mary Tyrone in this year’s Tony-nominated revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night that puts “Tony nominee” before her name. “I did [this role] in London 16 years ago, and it’s something I always wanted to come back to because I think there’s something about revisiting a part,” she says.
As for her co-star Michael Shannon, who plays her son, James Tyrone Jr., this nomination comes after more than 20 years in the theatre (albeit often off the Main Stem) and holds sentimental value as well. “One of the main reasons I’m here doing this play right now is because my father really loved O’Neill, and he used to see O’Neill plays on Broadway when he lived here in the ’60s, and he was always very nostalgic about it, and it meant a lot to him,” says Shannon. “I kind of did this [show] in his honor.”
David Furr, nominated for his performance as Garry Lejeune in the Tony-nominated revival of Noises Off, has also been plugging along, nearing closer and closer to this moment. “I’ve always taken one step [or] little steps forward at a time,” he says. “It kind of makes sense that it happens after a good handful of Broadway shows.” Furr’s been in more than a handful—six to be exact—including Roundabout’s 2011 The Importance of Being Earnest. Earning the nod for this play feels particularly special. “It’s a play I always wanted to do and a role I always wanted to do, so for a nomination to come for it is more than you could image,” he says. “It’s just fantastic to be recognized at this level for a role that I had such a good time with.”
His co-star, Megan Hilty, had a pretty good time herself as Brooke Ashton. Even though Hilty has taken on two leading roles in big musicals (Doralee in 9 to 5 and Glinda in Wicked), the nomination reassures her that she’s where she belongs. “It’s not just for attention or trophies,” she explains, “it’s just to feel like you’re a part of this community. It’s not like I didn’t feel a part of the community before, but something about this solidifies it.”
Ruthie Fierberg is the Features Editor at Playbill.com. She has also written for Backstage, Parents and American Baby, including dozens of interviews with celeb moms and dads for parents.com. See more at ruthiefierberg.com and follow her on Twitter at @RuthiesATrain.