/J. Harrison Ghee, Alex Newell Are First Nonbinary Actors To Receive Tony Nominations

J. Harrison Ghee, Alex Newell Are First Nonbinary Actors To Receive Tony Nominations

Whether J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell emerge victorious from Broadway’s biggest night remains to be seen ― but they’ve already made history.

On Tuesday, Ghee and Newell became the first nonbinary performers to be nominated for acting prizes at the Tony Awards, which are set to take place next month.

Ghee received a nomination for best actor in a musical for their performance as Jerry/Daphne in the musical adaptation of “Some Like It Hot,” while Newell received a nod for best supporting actor in a musical for “Shucked,” in which they play the character of Lulu.

In an email, Ghee said they were “thrilled” and “overwhelmed” by the recognition.

“I’m thankful to every member of this production for creating such an affirming space where I get to show the complexity of this human and go on a beautiful ride every time the curtains go up,” Ghee wrote. “I’m grateful to the committee for recognizing this work. It’s a moment I will cherish forever.”

J. Harrison Ghee in Broadway's "Some Like It Hot."
J. Harrison Ghee in Broadway’s “Some Like It Hot.”

Newell expressed similar sentiments on their Instagram story while sharing a photo of the two actors posing together at Monday night’s Met Gala.

“We walked in The Met as Met Gala Virgins,” Newell wrote in the caption, “and woke up TONY NOMINEES!!!”

Both Ghee and Newell use the pronouns he, she and they. Their nominations come just one year after British composer Toby Marlow became the first-ever nonbinary person to win a Tony. Marlow won for their work on the musical “Six.”

However, just how the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League ― which co-present the Tony Awards each year ― plan to recognize nonbinary performers moving forward remains in question.

In February, actor Justin David Sullivan announced that they were withdrawing their performance in the musical “& Juliet” from Tonys consideration due to the awards’ gendered nomination categories.

Alex Newell in Broadway's "Shucked."
Alex Newell in Broadway’s “Shucked.”

Mathew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman

“Because I was told I had no other option 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,” Sullivan wrote in a statement at the time. “I could not in good faith move forward with denying any part of my identity to conform to a system and structure that does not hold space for people like me.”

Newell, whose credits include “Glee” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” ultimately decided to compete in the best supporting actor category.

“I went based off the English language,” they told Variety last week. “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.”

Still, Newell went on to note that they hoped Sullivan’s decision would be “a wake-up call.”

“Change is inevitable and it will happen,” Newell added, “but we need to move a little faster.”

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