The winners of the 2014 Tony Awards converged backstage with their glittering new hardware in hand. Here’s a look at the emotional outbursts, moments of hilarity and off-the-cuff confessions from the press room on Broadway’s biggest night.
Best Leading Actor in a Play winner Bryan Cranston (“All the Way”) referenced his iconic role as drug-cooking dealer on “Breaking Bad” while explaining his attraction to stage acting. Performing in front of a live audience is a drug, he explained.
“It’s as strong as blue crystal meth,” Cranston said.
Cranston was more reserved about whether or not he would reprise his role as Lyndon Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up, “The Great Society.”
“It almost feels like when you’ve just had a baby and people say ‘you’re going to have another one,'” Cranston said.
Best Leading Actor in a Musical victor Neil Patrick Harris (“Hedwig & the Angry Inch”) admitted that Samuel L. Jackson and Sting were only vaguely aware that he would grab their glasses and sit in their laps during the Tony telecast.
“They weren’t alerted to the fact that things were going to be done to them…naughty, dirty things,” Harris said.
Harris said he and his boyfriend David Burtka have yet to decide on a wedding date.
“We are right in the middle of this juggernaut, so when things calm down,” Harris said.
Jessie Mueller brought a buddy with her as she did the media rounds backstage — Carole King, the pop icon she portrays on stage. King said it was a joy to watch her formative years brought to life on Broadway.
“It’s such a gift to see myself as the woman I was then and actually like myself,” King said.
Mueller was similarly effusive when asked about what makes King’s songs so enduring.
“It’s the honesty,” she said.
Best Actress in a Play winner Audra McDonald (“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”) made history by becoming the first person to earn Tonys in all four acting categories. Backstage she graciously thanked women such as Lena Horne and Billie Holiday, the jazz singer she plays on stage, for breaking barriers of race and gender.
“Because of the fights that they fought, I am able to be here,” McDonald said.
Best Featured Actor in a Musical winner James Monroe Iglehart will celebrate his Tony win for playing the Genie in “Aladdin” in grand style…and he will most certainly be getting asked if he wants fries with that.
“My wife and I are going to McDonald’s,” Iglehart said.
“It keeps us humble, it keeps us grounded,” he added.
Though he’s now won theater’s highest honor, there’s one more trophy he has yet to claim. Iglehart said he hopes to become the first People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” to have no abs.
Meanwhile, there was talk of those whose performances didn’t get recognized.
“Yes, Denzel was snubbed,” said Best Direction of a Play winner Kenny Leon (“Raisin in the Sun”).
Denzel Washington failed to grab a Tony nomination for his acclaimed work in the revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece. However, Leon shared a moment of joy with the assembled press. As he was fielding questions, Sophie Okonedo picked up a statue for Best Actress in a Featured Role for her work in the play.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Leon exclaimed.
“She works harder than anyone,” he added.
He added that he hoped his award inspires economically disenfranchised people to reach for their dreams.
“This gives voice to a lot of people in this country who grew up poor,” Leon said.
Okonedo returned the compliment, crediting him with believing that an English actress like herself could play an American from Chicago’s South Side.
“He didn’t want any showy kind of acting or any tricks,” she said. His direction: “Be simple. Make it true.”
Lena Hall, Best Featured Actress in a Musical winner for “Hedwig and the Angry Itch,” admitted that the last line of her acceptance speech, “friendship is magic,” was indeed a reference to “My Little Pony.” Discovering episodes of the children’s cartoon on Netflix was a revelation for the actress.
“Watching them I learned about friendship again and what it means to have friends in your life,” she said.
Watching and learning was also key to Hall’s transformation into a man in the show. Hall said she spent hours studying men around the city, and the way they moved.
“I categorized their walks from the shuffle to the dick first,” Hall said.
Best Featured Actor in a Play winner Mark Rylance, picking up his third Tony Award in as many nominations for his cross-dressing work in “Twelfth Night,” promised that he wasn’t done bringing the Bard to the Great White Way. There were important differences between English and American audiences that Rylance found exciting.
Broadway audiences were “very expressive and enthusiastic and thoughtful,” Rylance said, adding, it was one of the “rare occasions where what we were doing seemed to make sense to them.”
The celebrated Shakespearean actor also offered advice to performers tackling the playwright and iambic pentameter.
“It lives because each age needs to find the way that the nature of that age can be expressed through Shakespeare,” he said.