Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in 2001. Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth in 2004. Judy Kuhn, Emily Skeggs and Sydney Lucas in 2015. It’s not uncommon for multiple cast members of the same show to go head to head in the same category come Tony time. This year there are four groupings of actors who rely on each other to make magic onstage but face off on June 12—knowing that in order to win, their co-star (and friend) will lose. Even so, if you ask these pairs (and one trio) how they feel about their names listed with their buddies on the ballot there’s not a bitter tone to be found. In fact, most of the nominees credit their co-stars with elevating their performance to a nominee-worthy level.
Life imitates…life. Just as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr faced off in a fatal duel in Weehawken, NJ, their stage counterparts, Miranda (the show’s creator) and Odom, Jr., will battle for the title of Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Odom, Jr. “I depend on Lin every night for so much of my performance.” Odom, Jr. and Miranda’s performances feed each other. The two were friends before Hamilton fame, and Odom, Jr. feels it only fitting that they be nominated together for the journey they lived side by side. “I mean, it’s built on our relationship, our friendship. It’s built on love,” he says, “so, I’m certainly happy to be included, but I couldn’t see being in this category without him.”
Daveed Diggs v. Jonathan Groff v. Chris Jackson (Hamilton)
“I wish I liked them a little bit more,” Chris Jackson deadpans. “I don’t really [like them]. In fact, this just gives me, you know, an opportunity not to speak to them.”
“No—I love them both.” The truth comes out. “I love their work equally, and miss the hell out of Jonathan, just ‘cause he’s my buddy, as well.” Daveed Diggs, as a first-time nominee in his Broadway debut, agrees, “I was very excited to be nominated with them. They’re my best friends.”
“Oh my god—I cried when I heard Chris Jackson’s name,” says Jonathan Groff. “Cause it’s Chris Jackson.” Even though Groff has already departed the phenom, the bond between these three is airtight. The three musketeers are nominated for vastly different roles—Groff for his nine minutes of stage time as the whiney King George III, Jackson as wise papa and first president George Washington, and Diggs as ladies’ man and rebel Marquis de Lafayette and Hamilton’s political nemesis Thomas Jefferson. In addition to the other two nominees (Brandon Victor Dixon and Christopher Fiztgerald), it’s a race between Groff’s impressive range and comedic timing, Diggs’ lightning fast rapping and characterizations, and Jackson’s smooth vocals and gentle nature.
Jackson feels the presence of three nominees from a single show in his category is “just a testament to the way that Lin and [director] Tommy [Kail] allowed us to all have, you know, time onstage and really complete the story,” says Jackson. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Saycon Sengbloh v. Pascale Armand (Eclipsed)
The race for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play includes the ladies who play Wife #1 and Wife #3 of a Liberian war lord in Eclipsed. The first all-female production (cast and leading creative) to hit Broadway, Armand feels that being nominated alongside her fellow “wife” is par for the course. “We’ve built a great sisterhood doing this play already. So to hear that another one of my sisters is also nominated alongside me is just,” she pauses, “it’s like icing on the cake.”
For Sengbloh, she wishes she had even more internal competition. “Honestly I wanted my other two costars to be in the same category as well,” says Sengbloh. “I really was hoping we would all get nominated. That would be the best problem to have ever. I feel like these women work so hard.” Of course, Sengbloh would love to win, but “I’m like, ‘If I don’t win, I hope she wins. I think she deserves a nomination just as well as I.”
While this is the sixth nomination for Martin, this is Hilty’s first—though she’s appeared as a leading lady on Broadway two times before. The actress known best for her singing voice earned the nomination for her portrayal of blonde bombshell Brooke in the third revival of the never-gets-old farce, Noises Off. As for being nominated against her co-star, Martin, both women see the double-nod as nothing but wins for their show.
“This is a real ensemble piece—it was written as an ensemble—and, honestly, I don’t think any one person would have stood out without the collaboration and expertise of the other actors that we all worked with,” says Martin. “I wish the Tonys had Best Ensemble because I think that’s actually the most appropriate award for this show.” That support still reigns, even though the show closed. Martin received a congratulatory email from Hilty the morning of the announcements May 3. “The subject line is Congratulations,” says Martin. “It says ‘AAAAGH!!!! So well-deserved.”
Hilty truly does have so much love for her co-star. “I’ve always thought this—I’ve never been nominated before but—the people who get nominated and the people who win, it’s really a win for the entire ensemble,” says the first-time nominee. “No actor can do what they do without the rest of the cast. The more the merrier. Two nominations is just more love for all of us.”
Now the question is—as Martin says: “What the heck do we wear?”