Robin De Jesus: Anatomy of a Tony Nomination

I think The View was the first time I got to see the opening number.

It's even better live, though, I've gotta say. It's much better live. It's a longer number. We had to cut out a lot of things for The View to make it work, the number is almost like twice the amount of time as that.

And is that the cadence for most of the show? That hip-hoppy, rhyming...

No. It's very, very mixed. Lin's character is the one that talks like that. It's almost like every character has a different musical voice. Lin's voice is like that, mine is kind of like a spoken word, rap thing. The grandmother, her songs are more traditional Caribbean salsa. Another one of the girls, her music is more pop musical theater, and another girl is more of a poppy merengue sound. So each of the characters has their own musical voice. There's lots of mixes, and it's all very lyric. It's not very hard on the ear.

Obviously, you're in the center of the storm, but from my little outpost here, I went to a revival of The Odd Couple in this little theater last week and at intermission, people were talking about an upcoming trip to New York, and someone said, "Well you have to see In The Heights."


And I watch a guy on YouTube who is a concierge in New York City, and he said the show he tells everyone they have to see is In The Heights. So, I keep bumping into it everywhere I go. There's this ongoing buzz.

My good friend's mom from back home is a bartender, and she was bartending a gay wedding for these two gentlemen and people started talking about the show randomly. And she piped up like, "Oh, my daughter's friend is in that show," and they all look at her like, "Who the fuck is this woman?" But, yeah, it's crazy. Word's sort of gotten out on the show.

I feel ripped off. I've known about the show for over a year, and I still didn't see it.

Don't worry, you'll get to see it.

Has the show changed a lot since we first talked?

There's about three new songs in the show, and in other songs the endings and different things were changed. Because there were ties when the audience didn't know when to clap, when the song was done. So now it's very clear. There is a little more to the book now, more book scenes. Before it felt like everything was quick, and now it feels like everyone has time to breathe. It's not that there's more dialogue, you just get who they are more. Everyone has their story completely fleshed out. You know who they are. You know what their arc is. It's all much clearer.

So what's your plan for Tony night?

Tony night... that day we have a dress rehearsal for the show and that's like 10 a.m. to 12 or 12:30. Then we run to our theater and do the matinee, so I'm just going to stay there and have my clothes ready. And I have like an hour and 15 minutes to get over to Radio City for the red carpet. So, there's no time to rest. You just go.

My mom's flying in from Puerto Rico , so she'll be there with her husband, and my sister and father will be there, and probably a cousin and her husband and a good friend of mine. And then once the show is over, we'll head over to the party.

I'm trying to keep the evening as simple as possible. It's so crazy. One of the things that's been really amazing to me is one of the other nominees, Boyd Gaines (from Gypsy with Patti LuPone), has won three times. I met him at the luncheon where we got our official certificates and he was like the sweetest gentleman ever. He was just so great and giving me advice. Here's someone that's in the category with me and it didn't faze him. They were all so sweet, which I loved.

His advice to me was that this is going to seem like a crazy time period, but today's luncheon is the day to celebrate. The actual awards ceremony is a TV show. Don't go in thinking it's going to be this crazy, amazing night. You'll go through moments where it is, and you'll go through other moments where it's "Oh, OK... whatever, it's not about us. It's about a TV show." So, I feel like I'm enjoying this part of it moreso, and the night will be the end to it all. Once the night is done, things will get much simpler again.

I think I'm going to feel crazy that night, but I'm not really stressing it now. Once I have an outfit, I'll feel much better, though.

Do you know if your category comes before or after your performance?

We don't know yet. I have a feeling that my category is going to come first. But I'm not sure. What's weird is that the first hour of awards don't air on CBS. They usually air on PBS, and then it goes live on CBS. So I think supporting actor in a musical happens pretty early on, which will be so great to get it over with. It maybe won't be so great if I lose, you know? (laughs) But hopefully I'll handle it well.

Are you preparing a statement to read if you win? Going off the cuff?

A combination of the two. I don't feel comfortable with the idea of pulling out a piece of paper. When you read things, even if they are heartfelt, you're still looking down at a piece of paper as opposed to exposing yourself. And I think I'm the type of person that would like to expose myself a little more. So I'll think of general things and, if I forget, I'll put up a MySpace blog (laughs). You know what I mean? If it were to happen, I'd love that I'd say something beautiful and brilliant, but as long as it's genuine that's really all that matters. To come up there with a list of names is just like ... plus, I don't want to jinx it by putting it on paper. Although maybe that would be the opposite, and putting it on paper would be putting it out in the world, who knows?

The speeches you remember most from awards shows are the people who speak from their heart and you see them radiating in the moment, as opposed to (mumbling) and my agent, and my publicist...

Yeah! I agree completely. Even if you're forgetting names and stuff, there's still something crazy and in the moment with that, as well. I want to make sure that I'm in the moment. And pulling out a piece of paper kind of kills that a little bit.

Well, if you can stand onstage and perform without a script for two and half hours every night...

Yeah, this is also very true. One of the things I also said was that if I'm so blessed to win, I want to take the time to take the visual in. I know it's a TV show and it's about that, but wouldn't that award in a way... there's a part of it that's a little selfish. You know? There's definitely other people you want to thank. You don't get there on your own. But I'd hope part of me could take a moment to visually take it in and then move forward with the speech.

Well, Lin put it all on paper, but you gave it form, body, and whatever it is that made people gravitate to it and get you on that list. So, nothing wrong with owning that.

Wow... thank you.

And, I didn't even see it yet! I can guarantee you, this is the last interview we do until I see the show.

(laughs) I won't allow it!

Well, we better let you get running, you have a show to get to.

Thank you so much, Jeff.

And what's the rule on awards? I know you shouldn't say good luck before a performance... but does that cover Tony nominations, too?

Ahh, I don't follow any of those rules.

Good luck, break a leg, either one?

Good luck, break a leg, mazel tov, God bless...

Alright, well either way, I'm definitely rooting for you that night. And continued good luck with everything.

Thank you so much. My best to you, as well.

(Update: Robin didn't win tonight. The winner was the person he talks about so appreciatively in this article, Boyd Gaines, co-starring with La Lupone in Gypsy).