Daniel J. Watts ’04 becomes first Elon alum to be nominated for Tony Award

Watts was nominated for best featured actor for his role as Ike Turner in "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical."

Daniel J. Watts ’04 is nominated for a Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical, the American Theatre Wing announced Thursday.

Watts is nominated for his performance of Ike Turner in “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.” In press about the musical, which opened in 2019, Watts said he wanted to humanize the abusive Ike Turner as a complex person.

“My challenge is not to make you like him, but to maybe help you understand him a little more,” Watts told Broadway.com. “Hurt people hurt people. It’s never to excuse his behavior but to understand what was behind that behavior that kept everyone working with him. He’s a person who had dreams and feelings and wishes that got jumbled up in all of the pain he never let go of.”

The role is Watts’ ninth on Broadway, where his credits include “Hamilton,” “In the Heights,” “Memphis,” and “Motown the Musical.” In addition to the stage, Watts has performed recurring roles on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” NBC’s “Blindspot,” HBO’s “Vinyl” and “The Deuce,” and comedian Tracy Morgan’s “The Last O.G.”

He has also earned acclaim for “Daniel J. Watts’ The Jam,” a spoken word and storytelling show that incorporates a live band, music, dancing and multimedia.

Watts was back on Elon’s campus in 2018 to perform as part of the celebration of the inauguration of President Connie Ledoux Book in Whitley Auditorium.

In this file photo from his visit to campus in 2014, Daniel Watts ’04 works with students during the week he spent on campus sharing his expertise and professional experience.

“Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” is nominated for 12 Tonys, including best musical.

The Tony Awards will stream online this fall/winter, according to the American Theatre Wing announced, but no date has been announced. The awards are usually held each June and broadcast live. Due to the coronavirus, Broadway theatres closed and the nominations and awards were postponed.