Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee Make Theater History With Tony Nominations

The gender-nonconforming actors are breaking down barriers on Broadway

Curtain up! Light the lights because Broadway theater history has been made with this year's Tony Award nominations. 

On Tues (May 2) Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee became the first gender-nonconforming actors to be nominated for a Tony. According to NBC News, "Ghee is nonbinary and Newell is gender-nonconforming, and both of them use the pronouns he, she and they."

"I went to the Met Gala at 8PM and 13 hours later I was Tony Nominated!!!! I’m unwell!" Newell posted on Instagram following the news of their nomination for best supporting actor in a musical category for their show-stopping performance in Shucked.

J. Harrison Ghee was nominated for best actor in a musical for their role in Some Like It Hot, the most nominated show for this year's Tonys, with 13 nods.

“It’s such an honor. I just continue to live in the four-fold way of living. I show up, tell my truth in present and I’m not attached to the outcome, "Ghee told The Hollywood Reporter. "So I’m just honored that the work is speaking for itself and I’m so proud of the special show we’ve got going on at the Shubert."

Newell said: “It’s a step in the right direction, because there are so many gender non-conforming and nonbinary performers that might not ever get to shine because of these gendered categories."

In a recent interview with Variety, Newell explained their decision to submit in the best supporting actor category, even though they identify as gender-nonconforming:

"I went based off the English language. The standard has always been a male is an actor and a female as an actress. And I don't like that. Because when I say I'm an actor, I mean that is my profession, the craft that I studied, the craft that I'm doing. Everyone who does acting is an actor. That is genderless."

"I appreciate that the categories are separate to give cis women, and women in general, an actual fighting chance to win awards in such a male-dominated field," Newell continued. "If we can create that, we can create more lanes for other people who don't want to stick to those two categories. I think me choosing actor, I hope, will be a spark to use that word as it was meant to the art of acting."

If Newell or Ghee won they would join Toby Marlow, who became the first openly non-binary person to win a Tony. Marlow and Lucy Moss won the Tony Award for Best Original Score last year for Six.

Earlier this year, Justin David Sullivan, a nonbinary actor starring in the jukebox musical & Juliet, removed themselves from Tonys eligibility, releasing a statement saying: 

“While I was thrilled to see that some are eliminating gender from their nomination categories, I was disheartened to learn that the Tony Awards are not planning on making this year’s nomination categories more inclusive of gender expansive or trans non-binary performers like myself. Because I was told I had no other but to choose between one of the two gendered categories in which I would be eligible, I felt that I had no choice but to abstain from being considered for a nomination this season.”

When The Hollywood Reporter asked what they would like to see from the Tonys moving forward, Ghee responded: “I hope to inspire more freedom, more space to free ourselves. Especially as an artistic industry, we limit ourselves far too often. And so there’s room to expand and continue to have conversations, which I’m grateful are being had and people are opening their eyes. So we’re moving in the right direction.”

Congrats to Newell and Ghee! The 76th annual Tony Awards air Sunday, June 11, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+.

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