Tony Awards recognize Broadway’s diversity as four actors of color win top honors

tony awards celebrate diversity with four top prizes hamilton
Hot on the heels of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy — which erupted after zero non-white thespians were nominated for Academy Awards in the acting categories earlier this year — there has been a victory for diversity on the stage, with all four major Tony awards for musical performance going to people of color.

The 70th annual Tony Awards celebrated Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash success Hamilton, which won 11 awards Sunday night and saw stars Leslie Odom, Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renee Elise take home awards for best musical performances. The Color Purple rounded out the four major awards, with Cynthia Erivo winning for her work as lead actress in the musical. Her victory moved executive producer Oprah Winfrey to tears.

But it wasn’t just award winners who contributed to the Tony’s diversity during this year’s ceremony, as the long list of nominees featured many actors with extremely diverse cultural backgrounds.

The varied members of this year’s Tony audience were celebrated by host James Corden in an anti-Trump quip: “Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity,” Corden joked. “It’s so diverse, Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theater.”

Diggs, who won the coveted featured actor prize, said he was proud of the varied cultural and personal backgrounds of the people who were nominated for this year’s awards, saying in a backstage interview with Variety: “There is so much diversity on Broadway right now. It’s nice to have it feeling a little more mainstream and a lot more inclusive.”

In February, film industry members such as Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Spike Lee boycotted the Oscars for the exact opposite problem. The Academy at first resisted the allegations, then eventually released a statement saying it would make, “substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse.”

The folks behind the Oscars may have their work cut out for them in terms of focusing on a more diverse array of films and stars, but such high-level victories for people of color on Broadway could spill over to Hollywood more directly given the Oscars’ renewed focus on diversity. And after the massive success of the hugely diverse Hamilton, perhaps casting directors will be looking to more and more people with non-white backgrounds for key on-screen roles.

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