This year’s Tony nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play include a roster of beauties perhaps better recognized for their work on screen rather than their abilities to shine for live audiences. And while Michelle Williams and Lupita Nyong’o could easily be spotted in a crowd of thousands, it’s time to get to know the other sublimely talented women in the pool: Jessica Lange, Laurie Metcalf, and Sophie Okonedo.
Together, these vastly diverse stars prove that the most successful figures in the industry are those capable of taking up roles that push their skill sets and are unlike their last one. Below, all you need to know about the 2016 Tony contenders.
1. JESSICA LANGE, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
Two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange is unarguably Hollywood royalty, best known for—depending on who you ask—her winning roles in Tootsie and Blue Sky along with, most recently, her dramatically diverse portrayals of troubled leads in Ryan Murphy’s first four American Horror Story anthologies. To date, we still haven’t unearthed the secret to her ageless beauty (she’s 67 but looks many, many years younger), but we do know Lange defines talent. Her standout portrayal of Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night garnered her first Tony nomination.
2. MICHELLE WILLIAMS, BLACKBIRD
Michelle Williams has a knack for landing strong female roles that empower, what with My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island, and Brokeback Mountain considered just some of her most recognized flicks. She made an impact on TV at an early age, making appearances in ‘90s favorites like Baywatch, Lassie, and eventually Dawson’s Creek. For Williams, a 35-year-old blonde face of Louis Vuitton, her Tony nomination for Blackbird is her first.
3. Lupita Nyong'o, Eclipsed
InStyle April 2016 cover star Lupita Nyong’o’s ascent into stardom can be credited to her 2013 Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave, but searching for the spotlight isn’t the Mexican-born, Kenyan actress’s priority. Nyong’o has used her celebrity to champion the voices of women, which is part of the reason she chose to portray a “fully rendered African woman” in Eclipsed, her first Broadway stint. “I see a work of incredible power that is transforming lives by daring to offer women of color fully rendered narratives, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it,” she wrote in a Lenny Letter essay in May. Powerful indeed.
4. LAURIE METCALF, MISERY
Metcalf is the winner of three Emmy Awards, making her a certified TV regular with roles on everything from Roseanne to The Big Bang Theory. Funnily enough, the actress is so versatile she portrays one of our favorite all-time characters, Andy’s mom, in the Toy Story franchise. Her Best Performance nomination is for Misery, a racy thriller co-starring Bruce Willis in which she portrays a nurse obsessed with her patient.
5. SOPHIE OKONEDO, ARTHUR MILLER'S THE CRUCIBLE
Though she’s not exactly a household name, British actress Sophie Okonedo is one you must know. She took home her first Tony in 2014 for her brave, debut Broadway performance in A Raisin in the Sun, and is now receiving accolades for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. An intriguing add: the beauty, who is 47-years-old but looks like a glowing 20-something, has a diverse background. Her father was Nigerian and her mother Jewish, a fact she touched upon during her 2014 Tony acceptance speech.