Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical “A Strange Loop” scored 11 Tony nominations last week — and the ensemble cast of “A Strange Loop” is inviting everyone to share in the success.
Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:
“I used to look at the Tonys as something that was for ‘them,'” said James Jackson Jr., who plays Thought 2 in the show (and memorably embodies the protagonist’s self-loathing). “Like it was these people that I put somewhere, whether it’s a pedestal or wherever, but definitely a ‘them’ that had nothing to do with me at all. That the ‘them’ is now including us feels really cool.”
Looking ahead to the June 12 ceremony, he added, “I want to be amongst that energy and then I want to shine it back on anyone else who’s put us somewhere up like that. I want to let people know the air is okay up here, and there’s space for y’all, so come, too.”
Jackson appeared on the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety’s theater podcast, along with the five other performers who make up tight, dynamic ensemble that gives life to the Thoughts living in the head of Usher, the show’s central character. Jackson joined castmates Antwayn Hopper, John-Michael Lyles, Jason Veasey and their Tony-nominated colleagues L Morgan Lee and John-Andrew Morrison to share their reactions to the nominations and discuss what the recognition means to them and to the broader theater industry.
“This is a such a big deal for so many people,” said Lee, whose nod for featured actress in a musical makes her the first openly transgender performer ever to be nominated for a Tony. She recalled thinking, in the days before the nominations came out: “If you can make [this nomination] happen, it’s going to make somebody else feel like they can. It’s going to make somebody else feel like it’s even a possibility to exist in this business in a way that you can be seen or recognized. That’s the thing that made me let out a primal scream of some sort. It was like, Oh my God, I can feel this shift from just that little moment in time. A shake in the ground.”
Lyles chimed in, “I’ve never watched the Tony nominations announcement before. I didn’t even know that was a thing until I watched ‘Smash’ for the first time during the pandemic.”
The six performers playing the Thoughts have all been involved in “A Strange Loop” for years. Morrison first got involved way back in 2008; as of the production’s April opening on Broadway, Veasey has spent a decade with the project. On the new “Stagecraft,” the cast discussed the ways in which their individual and collective strengths contributed to the musical’s development. “So much of who we are is really in the foundation of this piece in such a cool way,” Jackson said.
“Michael knows my singing voice better than I even know it,” Morrison cracked.
“We’re not coming in with pages like, ‘Michael, I got an idea,'” Veasey explained. “But we’ll just try something [in rehearsal], and the next thing you know it’s in.”
Also on “Stagecraft,” the Thoughts detailed some of the ways “A Strange Loop” has changed over the years, gush about their Tony-nominated lead performer Jaquel Spivey, and reveal the one good thing that’s ever happened after midnight at the Ritz.
To hear the full conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.