Joyful would be the best word to describe Daveed Diggs the morning Tony nominations were announced May 3.
The singing actor, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for his work in the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the megahit Hamilton, says it was his brother and best friend who let him know about his nomination in an unforgettable manner. “[They] broke into my house wielding a bottle of champagne and putting music really loud," Diggs laughs. "After I got over the shock of having people in my house, I’ve just been smiling real big. I’m very happy for the success of the show at large. I’m very proud to be a part of it. I’m new to this New York theatre community, and I’m always so inspired by it, so being sort of recognized as a part of it is kind of a really humbling thing."
Diggs’ fellow Featured Actor nominees include two Hamilton castmates, Jonathan Groff and Christopher Jackson, as well as Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along) and Christopher Fitzgerald (Waitress). Noting the great diversity of the season, Diggs says that it’s been “thrilling to be part of this season and part of this show. It means so much to me—there’s our show but also a lot of other things that I’ve seen that if I had gotten to see them when I was a kid, the world would have seemed like a much more open place to me.”
When asked the challenge of his roles in the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, which received a record-breaking 16 nominations, Diggs reveals, “It’s actually not that much of a challenge, you know, it’s so much fun to do, but the challenge is making it new and fresh every night. Fortunately, everybody onstage is doing that every night, so all you have to do is when you’re not feeling up to that challenge, you look to your left and you see someone who’s gonna force you into that. There is no weak link on that stage, so there’s no chance to slack off. Everybody’s always bringing their A game all the time.
“That challenge has been very easy to accomplish,” Diggs continues. “I’ve never done a longer run than like six weeks of a show. We’re so far beyond my sort of comfort level in terms of trying to recreate something in that way, but fortunately I have so much help in that respect.”
Looking back at the juggernaut that is Hamilton, Diggs selects a few standout moments, including a recent student matinee. “Before the matinee,” the singing actor explains, “there were representatives from all the schools presenting their work and their pieces on our stage, and that I’m absolutely never gonna forget. I was sick as a dog that day, and I was not going to come in, but I was laying in bed between vomiting, and just something in me was like, ‘You have to go see those kids! You’ve been looking forward to this for forever!’ I went down to the theatre and then watched them, and it was so inspiring I had to do both shows, and I could barely stand before I left [home]. I am for sure never going to forget those kids, who were amazing.
“Our White House trip—every part of that from the bus ride down, which was kind of the best party I’ve been to, to actually going there and being welcomed into that home by [the President and First Lady] and then getting to do workshops with kids in the White House. The kind of access they gave us and just how welcoming they were and how what large fans of the show they are—I was speechless all day, and I’m still speechless about it.”
There is one other evening that was particularly memorable for Diggs, a longtime fan of the Grammy-winning musician Prince, who threw a party for the Hamilton company about a month prior to his death.
“I’m never gonna forget that,” Diggs confesses. “I’ve been trying to see Prince my whole life, and I never got to see him. And then we get an email in the middle of the show saying Prince would like you to come to Avenue after the show, and we all went. I mean, nobody was missing that for the world. It was amazing. That’s another great thing to be part of something that people who are heroes of yours and you admire want to come and be a part of as well.
“You don’t ever get to say thank you to those people. Prince has informed so much in my life, and I got to see him that night and scream for him at a place that was really small. I got to actually say thank you to a person who has meant so much to me.”