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Ariana DeBose on Hosting the Tonys: ‘Whatever We Do Is Going to Be Fun’


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A decade ago, Ariana DeBose made her Broadway debut as an understudy within the musical adaptation of “Bring It On.”

This weekend she’s hosting the Tony Awards.

DeBose’s rise to prominence, due largely to her Oscar-winning performance in Steven Spielberg’s movie remake of “West Side Story,” has been hard-won. She was an understudy, an ensemble member, and struggled before breaking through; in 2018 she was nominated for a Tony Award as one in every of three actresses playing Donna Summer in “Summer,” and since then she has had multiple film and tv projects, including “The Prom” and “Schmigadoon!”

This yr she became the primary Afro Latina and first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award. Next, she will likely be featured within the motion film “Argylle,” the superhero film “Kraven the Hunter” and the space thriller “I.S.S.

DeBose, 31, is now rehearsing the three-hour broadcast portion of the Tony Awards ceremony, which starts on Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS. (An earlier hour, starting at 7 p.m., will likely be streamed on Paramount+.)

In an interview this week, DeBose talked about her determination to honor Broadway’s unsung heroes and her desire to return to the stage. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What are your goals for Sunday night?

That is the primary time we’re back at Radio City. The community remains to be coming out of what has been a particularly difficult time. I do have a look at this as a possibility to attempt to provide an actual moment of celebration, because I believe it’s a gosh-darn feat and a triumph to have been in a position to make work in any respect and get to this moment in time.

You’re recent to this. Are you nervous?

I would love to throw up, if I’m honest. But I really like a challenge. And I just feel like whatever we do goes to be fun.

You’ve talked lots about your identity. Tell me what you hope that prompts for people watching you?

If I do my job right, it would be a reminder to young people on the market watching that there’s a place for us. And, to be perfectly frank, Broadway was the place that gave me freedom to explore my identity, freedom to explore my artistry. It was the place of affection and acceptance that helped create the lady that you just see now.

There’s been loads of discussion this season concerning the role of understudies and standbys, who kept many shows going when other performers tested positive for the coronavirus. Are you able to discuss what your intention is for Sunday on that front?

In three of my six Broadway shows, I used to be an understudy. And I started on this industry within the ensemble. There’s no way on this planet that a bunch like me goes to let this moment go by without acknowledging swings and understudies, but in addition the myriad groups of those that put within the work to maintain this industry going, and that features stage managers, dance captains, associates, hair and makeup departments, musicians. There’s not a version of the world where I don’t have something up my sleeve. I’m not going to inform you what it’s, but what I’m going to inform you is that if it doesn’t occur, you’ll be able to hold me accountable.

Considered one of the opposite necessary developments this season was the death of Stephen Sondheim. Should we expect to see that acknowledged?

Well, we wouldn’t have the American theater as we understand it without him. So while I is not going to inform you what we’re doing, there will likely be a ravishing moment for the person that’s Stephen Sondheim.

How has the pandemic affected you?

I’m one in every of the few actors who actually had opportunities — I’m painfully aware of that, and I actually have a little bit of survivor’s guilt. But my eyes are very open, and I’ve seen all of the challenges that my colleagues have faced. It’s a part of why I used to be really obsessed with coming back to host the Tonys.

What’s your sense of how Broadway is doing?

We’re taking steps in the appropriate direction. There’s work to be done, though. In case you have a look at this crop of nominees, you have a look at the shows that were on Broadway this season, there have been steps taken toward equity and inclusion. I’m blissful to see more faces that appear like mine. I’m blissful to see that the honorees are more diverse.

What’s the impact of the Academy Award? Have jobs offers been pouring in?

I actually have had more opportunity, yes, and I’m very grateful. I remember very clearly after I didn’t have this type of opportunity. I remember very clearly after I needed to work very hard to vary people’s minds about my talent or my capabilities, and quite frankly it wasn’t that way back. Now I feel prefer it’s my job to turn into more discerning. I have the desire to make work that has the capability to make people feel, and hopefully opens their minds.

You were a dancer within the “Hamilton” ensemble. What was that like for you?

There have been times where it was difficult. I made the choice after “Hamilton” to strive for more speaking parts because I felt I could not move my body the way in which that I desired to — I sustained several injuries on that show. And I believe moments like that are available in every dancer’s life where you’ve to take stock. But I’m grateful for my time in that show since it taught me my price.

Last query: Do you would like to come back to Broadway? And, if that’s the case, in what capability?

After all I would like to return back to Broadway. I’m waiting for the appropriate thing. I don’t need to necessarily come back and do something that folks know me for. I would like to try something recent. I feel in being a flexible actor, dancer, storyteller. So perhaps I’ll do a play, or perhaps I’ll do a revival that seems really off the wall. But I’ll do something that I feel is different.

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