Once was the big winner at last night’s Tony Awards, but the buzz on Broadway this morning is all about Steve Kazee, the talented strummer behind the movie-turned-musical — and the newly minted Tony winner for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. Kazee’s long been a presence on Broadway, but his success with Once should propel him higher into the ranks of New York theater, which is right where this leading man belongs.
EW chatted with Kazee before Once opened in February, on the day he got his Tony nomination, and again on last night’s red carpet. Each time, we learned a little something new about Broadway’s newest headliner.
6. He is one with his guitar.
“I’ve got a guitar on my back for two hours, and there are times when I’ve got it on when maybe I wouldn’t necessarily have it on in real life,” said Kazee of his instrument-toting character, a guitar player who dreams of becoming a professional musician (Kazee himself has been strumming strings since he was 13). “It becomes a part of you. It’s scary as hell, but I know I’m okay because that’s my partner. It’s my acting partner.”
5. He’s a Tony good luck charm.
Not only was Kazee fortunate enough to earn his own trophy, but the dashing thesp has an astounding connection to almost all of the night’s other major winners. He went to NYU with Nina Arianda (Best Leading Actress in a Play); he costarred in Spamalot with Featured Actor winners Michael McGrath and Christian Borle; Audra McDonald (Best Leading Actress in a Musical) played his love interest in 110 in the Shade; he bonded with Judith Light (Best Featured Actress in a Play) over the recent loss of their parents; and he used to get drunk at a Times Square bar with James Corden (Best Leading Actor in a Play).
4. He knows the key to Saturday Intermission Pictures.
Under the hashtag #SIP, the Twitter-happy casts of a handful of Broadway shows best each other by tweeting creative photos during intermission at Saturday matinee performances. One of Kazee’s recent endeavors is far and away the current one to beat. What’s his secret? “I never plan them. When we get to intermission, I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ve got five minutes to come up with something,’ and I look around and try to find something cool and, boom, we go,” said Kazee. “Hence me with my pants down in the bathroom.”
3. He didn’t need to plan a speech.
“I don’t do speeches,” said Kazee on the day he received his Tony nomination. “I’m confident in my ability to flow, if I’m lucky enough to have anything happen! I think I’ll be okay and know what to say.” Although he eschewed any preparation (he calls speeches “presumptuous”), Kazee managed to craft one of the most moving speeches of the night honoring his late mother, who passed away from breast cancer last Easter.
2. He’s well aware of the stigma of movie musicals.
“It’s a hard thing to get right, but I joke all the time that we’re going to end up giving movie musicals a good name,” said Kazee before Once‘s February opening. According to its star, the show derives much of its screen-to-stage success from renouncing typical tropes, like forcing songs into awkward, non-musical moments. “Only about 1 percent of them get it right and turn out to be something good,” he said, and he doesn’t shy from giving his opinion on the 99 percent of movie musicals that flop. “After all these interviews, the producers are gonna be like, ‘Oh, you don’t like movie musicals, huh?’ I’ll never get cast in a movie musical after this.”
1. He knows exactly what he’s doing today, the Monday after the Tonys.
Kazee didn’t hesitate for a second to reveal his plans for Monday morning. “I’m gonna get a milkshake and a hamburger and fries and I’m gonna go see Prometheus and just chill out,” he said. “In IMAX 3-D, of course.”