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'A Strange Loop' star L Morgan Lee opens up about groundbreaking Tony nomination

The actor is the first openly transgender performer to be nominated for a Tony Award. “It’s cheesy to say this, but it feels like such a Cinderella story,” Lee told TODAY on the red carpet.
"A Strange Loop" Broadway Opening Night
L Morgan Lee during the opening night curtain call for the new musical "Strange Loop" on Broadway at The Lyceum Theatre on April 26, 2022 in New York City.Bruce Glikas / Getty Images

On the Tony Awards red carpet, L Morgan Lee spoke candidly about her nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical.

The nomination made Lee the first openly transgender performer to be nominated for a Tony Award.

"(This nomination) means getting to step into many rooms I have only dreamed of being able to step into," Lee told TODAY. "I’m really excited to have been learning and watching and getting as many lessons as I can to help be a part of helping create that space for me people like me."

L Morgan Lee
L Morgan Lee attends the 75th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 12, 2022 in New York City.Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

Lee stars in "A Strange Loop," a critical darling and the most nominated show at the Tonys on Sunday night. The self-described "big, Black and queer ass American Broadway show" took home the award for Best Musical.

Written by Michael R. Jackson, the meta-fictional musical took home the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2020. Jackson started writing the show in 2003, and since then, the musical has only grown. Lee's journey with the show began in 2015.

"To me, this is the absolute icing on the cake, and the largest thing any of us could have dreamed of," Lee said.

Related story: How Michael R. Jackson’s big, Black queer show ‘A Strange Loop’ is transforming Broadway

Lee did not win the award that she was nominated for; instead, Broadway legend Patti LuPone took home her third Tony Award for her work in "Company." However, Lee said that the nomination itself is a "dream come true."

"It’s cheesy to say this, but it feels like such a Cinderella story," she said. "I used to watch these awards as a little kid and I would dream and dream and hope and I did not think it was even possible, because I knew what the world saw when they looked at me. To be able to now have that happen and to be able to be on that stage is everything to me. It is the thing that I thought was impossible, happening."

Now that she's broken this barrier, Lee says she hopes to continue starring in theatrical projects while opening doors for others.

The cast of "A Strange Loop"
The cast of "A Strange Loop" at THE 75TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS, live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, June 12, 2022. L Morgan Lee is at the front left.CBS via Getty Images

"I do hope that this can help people understand that trans people have been studying and preparing and getting ready, the same as so many other people, and just needing an opportunity to show what that preparation looks like," Lee said. "I hope that (this nomination) will allow me to be a part of helping make more space ... People wonder, 'Where are these people?' Everyone is here. Where are you looking? If you're not actually doing the search to find people, you never will."

For Lee, it's equally important that diverse groups of people feel welcome once they arrive to spaces where they weren't historically present.

"We have so many conversations about diversity and equity and inclusion. It is important that when you're thinking these things, you are also making sure that the spaces that you're asking these people to come into are safe and are made for these people," Lee continued. "I think that's going to be the biggest thing, hopefully being a part of helping people understand what it means to make a space safe."

As for what's next for the actor? Lee will continue in "A Strange Loop" while keeping her eyes open for the next big thing.

"I certainly hope that doors will continue to open for me, because 'A Strange Loop' is one project!" she joked. When asked what her dream role is, Lee says the goal "changes every day.

"Right now, I would love to do Dot in 'Sunday in the Park with George,'" said Lee, referencing a musical by the late Stephen Sondheim. "I'd also love an Audrey moment in 'Little Shop of Horrors.'"