Jim Parsons May Have 4 Emmy Awards, But This Is His 1st Tony Nomination | Playbill

Tony Awards Jim Parsons May Have 4 Emmy Awards, But This Is His 1st Tony Nomination

The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor is currently starring in Mother Play on Broadway.

Jim Parsons Vi Dang

Jim Parsons is a beloved stage and screen actor, having received four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for his screen work. But this year, Parsons is finally nominated for a Tony Award, for his performance as Carl in Mother Play by Paula Vogel, now running on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre

Parsons began his career Off-Broadway, before transitioning to television in the hit CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. And, he couldn't stay off the stage for long—his Broadway credits include The Normal Heart (his 2011 Broadway debut), HarveyAn Act of God, and The Boys in the Band. Parsons will follow up Mother Play with the Broadway revival of Our Town, directed by Kenny Leon.

But Mother Play has been special for Parsons. It is based on Vogel's own life, as she and her brother Carl moved from apartment to apartment with their mother Phyllis, a single mother filled with resentment. In the play, the kids struggle with finding their own voice, and coming out as queer—knowing that their mother might not accept them. Celia Keenan-Bolger plays Martha, Vogel's stand-in in the play, and Jessica Lange plays Phyllis. Both actors have also been nominated for a Tony Award this season. Vogel has also been nominated for Best Play.

Parsons' character, Carl, is based on Vogel's brother who died of AIDS in 1988. She previously wrote about him in The Baltimore Waltz, which Parsons did in college. "It was my first exposure to her writing," said Parsons. "I've thought so much about Baltimore Waltz during this [play], obviously because of Carl. But also, because in getting to work on a Paula Vogel play, I realized what I'm so attracted to about her writing is her full use of the theatre as a medium that no other medium can compete with or compare with...Me and Celia and Jessica moving those sets around right in front of you and changing clothes right in front of you and just aging, by just telling you we're a different age, in front of you—it's so theatrical."

The actor was so excited about finally getting a Tony nomination that he couldn't wait to talk to the press the morning of the April 30 nominations. Below, Parsons dives into how the play has been a "healing" experience.

Jim Parsons, Jessica Lange, and Celia Keenan-Bolger in Mother Play Joan Marcus

How are you feeling?
Jim Parsons: I'm very, very happy. I'm very excited. I've been doing theatre all my life, so this is completely unique and different, in some way, than any other acknowledgment. These are the Tonys. It's really special, maybe even more special than I should allow it to be. It means something to me in a different way.

How does it feel to be nominated for playing Paula Vogel's brother? It feel like it's such a personal play for her.
Yeah, it is such a personal play. It feels blessed. And in some way, it feels like I'm not alone in this process. It's like her brother rides along with me. She's been so forthcoming, not only in the script, but also in talking to me about him and their lives together. From day one, she's been so gracious and giving about making sure that the part reflects both Carl and what I can bring to it. She's allowed it to be a real marriage between someone she loved and someone she just met in me. There's been something special the entire time about getting to craft this part with her in this new play, and also to bring him to life as it were every night on stage. This is a really nice, cherry on top of that, I have to admit. 

What's been more satisfying—getting Paula's approval of your performance or this Tony nomination?
Oh, definitely, Paula. Paula is the biggest reason I'm even a part of this project. As soon as I got the information that they were offering me a part in a new Paula Vogel play, before I even read it, I was like, "I am doing this." It was just a dream come true. You know, as long as I've been an actor, as a young actor studying scenes, I studied Paula Vogel scenes. It wasn't even a dream come true to do it, a new Paula Vogel play, mostly because I just never thought it would happen. Who knew? This has been one of the most exciting rides of my theatre life, to be in the room as Paula is creating this new play, such a personal one. The award stuff is definitely a beautiful cherry on top and I'm very happy for the other performers, and for Paula herself. But just the process has been a blessing of a lifetime.

How are you all planning on celebrating because all three of you got nominations?
And, Paula too! I don't know. I mean, we'll do the show again tonight, which is its own form of celebration. It's funny, I'm realizing as you say it, how excited I am to get to have this moment with the three of us. It's such a beautifully intense and bonded experience for the three of us, having been working on this for so long, in workshop and now into rehearsal and production. We're so intertwined with each other on stage for the full hour, 45 minutes every night. You can't lose sight of anybody there. We're all just right there with each other. This is a nice symbol of that, all getting to do this together. 

And I feel like it's so significant that you're getting the nomination for the first time for playing a gay man.
It's definitely been a special part of playing this role is getting to play a gay man who lived in an earlier era than I did. We overlap, but he was older than me. Because it's tracing through a lifetime, for all these characters—I get to touch on all these different ages of this gay man, from a child, to a teenager, to a young adult, to his dying days. That's been a remarkable opportunity. I feel like it's one of those things that you're so lucky if you get to do it, it works on your soul in a way that you can't even consciously understand how. It's that kind of gift. 

What Paula has put into the play has some of that effect on the audience that comes every time, too. The word "healing" has come up more than once in people who have seen it. And I'm like, "That makes a lot of sense to me." I know that's why Paula wrote it, was to try to heal herself in a way, searching for a way to forgive her own real-life mother. To be a part of that is not only an honor, but again, it affects you. You are healed from being a part of somebody else's healing. It's really amazing in that way. That was a very deep answer to your question! I'm sorry.

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