UPDATE: 6/11/23 — J. Harrison Ghee became the second nonbinary actor ever to earn a Tony Award, winning Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical moments after Alex Newell won Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical. “
“My mother raised me to understand that my gifts that god gave me were not about me, [but] to use them to be effective in the world, to help somebody else’s journey. So thank you for teaching me how to live, how to love, how to give,” the performer said during their acceptance speech. “For every trans, nonbinary, gender noncomforming human who ever was told you couldn’t be seen — this is for you.”
The American Theatre Wing, which hosts the annual Tony Awards ceremony, announced in May 2023 that Ghee was up for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for their role of Jerry/Daphne in Some Like It Hot. The North Carolina native — who uses he/they pronouns — is competing against costar Christian Borle, Josh Groban, Brian D’Arcy James, Ben Platt and Colton Ryan. The ceremony airs live on June 11, 2023, via CBS.
“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 gushed to The Hollywood Reporter after nominations were announced. “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 [Theater].”
The Raising Dion alum is not the only history-making 2023 Tony Award nominee. Glee alum Alex Newell, who also identifies as nonbinary, earned a nod for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for their role in Shucked. Newell, who is gender nonconforming, portrays whisky distiller Lulu in the cornfed musical.
Ghee’s Some Like It Hot role also breaks boundaries. The musical — written by Red, White & Royal Blue director Matthew López and comedian Amber Ruffin and inspired by the 1959 film of the same name — is set during Prohibition in Chicago when two musicians (Ghee and Borle) are forced to flee town after witnessing a mob hit. With gangsters on the heels, the two pals go undercover in drag, which Ghee’s Jerry really enjoys.
“Jerry is a grounded artist who dreams and is always keeping Joe [Borle] in line. They have such a sibling relationship that is an odd couple, if you will,” the Over My Dead Body actor said in an Instagram video shared via the production’s account that May. “Their relationship is grounded in love and in truth and in experience.”
Ghee added at the time: “It was such a process and collaborative in the way of always having conversations. There were oftentimes I would come in during the workshop and during the rehearsals for Broadway and things I say in my everyday life found their way into the script.”
Some Like It Hot is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw and costars Adrianna Hicks, Kevin Del Aguila, Natasha Yvette Williams and Adam Heller. It is the most-nominated production of the 2023 theatrical season, earning a total of 12 Tony nods, including leading acting honors for both Borle — who previously won a Tony in 2004 and 2015, respectively — and Ghee.
Scroll below to learn more about the first-time Tony nominee: