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Nonbinary, Gender-Nonconforming Actors Make Tony Awards History

Nonbinary, Gender-Nonconforming Actors Make Tony Awards History

Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee

J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell are the first out nonbinary or gender-nonconforming actors to receive Tony nominations.

J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell have become the first nonbinary or gender-nonconforming performers nominated for Tony Awards.

The nominations for Broadway’s best were announced Tuesday morning. Ghee, who is nonbinary, is nominated for Newell is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Some Like It Hot, an adaptation of the beloved 1959 film about two male musicians who hide from gangsters by joining an all-woman band. Ghee’s character, Jerry, “initially adopts the name Daphne as a disguise, but comes to embrace a sense of self that touches on both identities,” the Los Angeles Times notes.

Some Like It Hot had the most nominations of any show, with 13. Other nominees from the production include Christian Borle, also in the leading actor category; gay songwriting team Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman for Best Original Score; Casey Nicholaw, also a gay man, nominated for both directing and choreography; Kevin Del Aguila, for Best Featured Actor in a Musical; Matthew López and Amber Ruffin, for Best Book of a Musical; and the show itself, for Best New Musical.

Newell, who is gender-nonconforming, is nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Shucked, about a small town whose corn crop fails. Newell plays Lulu, a whiskey distiller who encourages the townspeople to seek outside help “but is then suspicious of the Floridian urbanite who claims he can fix everything,” the L.A. Times explains.

The Tony categories are still gendered, so nonbinary and nonconforming actors were asked to choose the category in which they wanted to be considered. Because of this, nonbinary performer Justin David Sullivan of & Juliet withdrew from consideration. Ghee, however, told Elle, Staying in was very intentional. I’m grateful my producers considered and asked me before saying they are going to submit me for consideration, acknowledging I identify in this way. … Someone else’s labels or limits are not going to bound me and my ability to do anything.”

Newell recently told Variety that other performers’ decisions to withdraw are “admirable” and that awards organizations need to evolve. For their own nomination, they said, I went based off the English language. … Everyone who does acting is an actor. That is genderless.”

Last year, another nonbinary artist made Tonys history. Toby Marlow collaborated with Lucy Moss on the book, music, and lyrics of Six, and the duo won for Best Original Score, making Marlow the first out nonbinary person to win a Tony.

The Tonys will be presented June 11 at the United Palace in New York City. Ariana DeBose, the out actress who hosted the ceremony last year, will do so again this year.

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