39 Tony-Nominated Performers on Why They Act: ‘It’s Intoxicating’

What attracts actors to the stage? Certainly there is a desire for attention and a passion for storytelling. For some, it feels like a vocation. Forced for others. A way to connect or feel. In preparation for this year’s Tony Awards, which take place on June 11th, we asked the Tony Award-nominated performers to think about why they do the things they do. And we took pictures of them, as we’ve done since 2018 (although there was a hiatus due to the pandemic).

“Death of a Salesman”

“I used to want to be a lawyer.I used to want to be an architect.I had a desire to be a painter. Actors can explore all the human desires out there.” — Wendell Pierce

“Doll House”

“With 1,000 people in the room, quiet, sometimes the quietest room I’ve ever been in, we have a real experience between the audience and the performers. It’s magic. What the hell is that?” No.” — Ariane Moyeed

“When I was seven years old, my grandmother took me to see a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Sacramento. I was trying to find my outlet, and the play started, and there was a little girl on stage narrating it, and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, this is me.'” Jessica Chastain

“Everyone was always saying that the theater was unique, as if nothing could match it, but I never understood what that meant. When you’re in a room with a lot of people and they’re all experiencing something at the same time, the energy is electrifying and that’s one of the greatest joys of the experience.

“Top Dog/Under Dog”

“As an actor, as a performer, when you do what you set out to do, you never forget it.” — Yahya Abdul Mateen II

“I grew up always telling stories in a family where it was an important tradition. It’s an opportunity to tell a story.” — Corey Hawkins

“Good night, Oscar.”

“Why do I act? Because I love it. Because I don’t have to be myself.” — Sean Hayes

“I grew up the only child of a single mother.

“I don’t remember before I did this. It’s where I found a lot of my identity since I was about five years old. It’s where I’m perfectly comfortable and open to the world and other people.” It was the only place that felt like that.” — Ben Pratt

“Ohio Murders”

“That’s all I’ve ever done.” — Audra McDonald

‘I like it hot’

“I started acting because I wanted my mom to love me.” — Christian Ball

“This is my service. This is how I make a difference in the world.” — J. Harrison Gee

“I feel called to play. I can do it too, don’t say this, but I did it for free. It makes me happy.” — Natasha Yvette Williams

“In my sophomore year, I wrote my own version of Star Wars, Stupid Wars. I wrote, directed, starred in, and have been doing it ever since.” — Kevin・Del Aguila

“Who else is lucky enough to spend time observing someone else’s behavior and deciphering it through their emotions? Who is lucky enough to explore themselves so deeply?” Colton Ryan

‘Cost of living’

“Many of my characters are survivors of capitalism and show how women of color and black women in particular are oppressed by capitalism. can be moved by it.” — Kara Young

“I act because I want to live. I act to live.” — David Zayas

“Ever since I saw ‘Annie’ as a kid, I’ve always wanted to be in it. I was like, ‘How are these guys doing?’ I feel that the desire to be an artist, to be creative, to express myself was born with me. — Katie Sullivan


“The first person I ever loved was a rodeo clown, because I grew up on the rodeo. I wanted to be a rodeo clown more than anything else in the world. There was no turning back.” — Kevin Cahoon

“When you work with actors, it’s like jazz when they’re bashing each other’s lines. It’s very fluid.” — Nicky Crawford

‘Sweeney Todd’

“Ever since I was little, I knew my life plan was to become a storyteller.” — Analeigh Ashford

“For so many of us with bugs, ‘Why do we do this?’ is ‘How did we feel when someone did it for us?’ I want people to feel the luck I had when I was sitting in that audience every time I stepped in.” — Josh Groban

“I perform because I need to see myself on stage. — Lucy Ann Miles


“Why do I perform? Because it’s what theater has done for me since I was a kid: to change people’s minds and open their minds to new things.” —Brandon Uranowitz

“Characters are like different people. It is.” — Justin Cooley

“I feel God has given me a gift, and I feel it is my responsibility to cherish it, repay it, and be an agent of healing in the world.”—Victoria Clerk

“I grew up in a trailer in the Midwest and didn’t own anything. So when I was a kid, I would often act in front of the mirror. I shot a scene with myself.I can imagine myself in a movie.I had a very dense fantasy life.” —Bonnie Milligan

“Sidney Bulstein Window Sign”

“I was originally a dancer. I was also an athlete and played football really seriously. I think it’s about moving around and thinking about how they stand and how their bodies work in space.” — Miriam Silverman

“Ain’t No Mo”

“I believe stories heal. I believe stories reveal the truth about what exists, what could exist, and what once was. I believe it will.” — Crystal Lucas Perry

“Performing is when I am closest to God and closest to man.” — Jordan E. Cooper

“Between Riverside and Crazy”

“I act because I love poetry, and I realized that there is a profession where you have to tell poetry, you have to tell beautiful words about what it means to be human.” — Stephen McKinley Henderson

“Into the Woods”

“It started when I was a kid and realized that acting gave me purpose. It gave me confidence and helped me find my voice in the world.” — Brian・Darcy James

“I wrote songs at age six, sang in choirs and did community theater in my formative years. I felt most like myself.” — Sara Barrez

“I come from a long line of theater and film actors, and it is naturally in my blood. — Julia Lester

‘& Juliet’

“I have a three-year-old girl. She loves coming to the theater and in fact I see what I’m doing through a completely different lens. Everything is so new and fresh to her.” , she’s in this place of sheer curiosity and discovery, and I remember that feeling when I was just starting out in this business.” — Betsy Wolfe

“My sister and I used to make plays and invite our parents to watch them in the room we shared. We wrote songs and everything. We were probably five or six years old. I think.” — Lorna Courtney

“I think it’s one of the greatest jokes ever played on humanity that adults get in touch with their inner child and pretend to be other adults. Why would anyone want to work in an office?” Do you think?” — Jordan Donica

“Summer of 1976”

“I perform to talk to people. At the end of the day, performing for me is an extension of that. That’s why we keep coming back.” — Jessica Hecht

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