For Broadway star Laura Benanti, the 2016 Tony Awards is hardly her first time at the ceremony. “It’s my fifth rodeo,” the actress, who first won a statuette for the 2008 revival of Gypsy, jokingly tells ET ahead of this year’s event where she’s nominated for “playing Meg Ryan” in the revival of She Loves Me, which is based on the same source material as Ryan’s 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail. “It feels exciting. This is my first nomination in a leading actress category.”
The musical’s limited engagement, which closes July 10, sees Benanti taking the lead and giving new life to the show’s most popular number, “Vanilla Ice Cream,” as Amalia Balash, a shop clerk who has a secret pen pal, among a star-studded cast, including fellow nominees Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski. Levi plays Amalia’s unbeknownst pen pal and co-worker, Georg Nowack.
“It’s a lot of pants-ing,” Benanti jokes when asked if she hazed Levi, who is a first-time nominee and performing in his second Broadway production ever. “He’s a newbie. He has learned from me a lot.”
“It’s very surreal,” Levi says, still in disbelief over being nominated and going to the Tonys for the first time. “It’s really, really nutty and it’s only my second Broadway show. So, to be in this kind of conversation with these incredibly talented guys is nuts.”
Though, the actor admittedly has accepted his nomination with a “grain of salt because Hamilton is the juggernaut that’s going to sweep it all,” acknowledging Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton. “It’s also an amazing show.”
While he has yet to announce his next onstage or onscreen project, Levi can be heard in Tangled: Before Ever After, Disney’s new animated series continuing the film’s journey. “It was a great movie,” Levi says, adding: “There’s a reason why there’s a TV show now.”
When she’s not onstage, Benanti is busy making a name for herself on TV. Among her most recent and popular roles have been guest-starring appearances on The Good Wife and Nashville. She also plays Kara Danvers’ (Melissa Benoist) mother in flashbacks and her evil Aunt Astra in the present on Supergirl, which will head to The CW for season two.
“I never thought I would be so happy to be in a lycra black suit, punching people. It’s awesome,” Benanti says. “And then to get to do a musical based in 1930s Budapest is very different. I get to do a lot of fun stuff.”
While she has a future on TV, Benanti admits that Broadway is her favorite gig. “I’m a Broadway baby,” she professes.
The 2016 Tony Awards hosted by James Corden airs live on CBS on Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. ET.