Time Magazine Names Alex Newell Breakthrough of the Year | Playbill

On the Rialto Time Magazine Names Alex Newell Breakthrough of the Year

The Shucked star made history at the 2023 Tony Awards becoming the first openly non-binary actor to win Broadway's top honor.

Alex Newell Michaelah Reynolds

Independently owned and breaking barriers! Shucked star Alex Newell has been named 2023 Breakthrough of the Year by Time Magazine, part of the annual Person of the Year issue hitting newsstands December 6.

Newell is being recognized for their trailblazing success as a non-binary actor on stage and screen. They made history in 2023 becoming one of the two first-ever non-binary actors to win Tony Awards (along with Some Like It Hot star J. Harrison Ghee).

“It was the perfect storm," Newell tells Time of the historic night. "You think about, ‘Well shit, how am I gonna get up these stairs? Will I fall if I go up these stairs? It’s really, really hot. This could be anyone’s. Please say my name.’ You have everything spiraling at one time. My mother could feel me shaking, and she just grabbed my hand.”

Newell goes on to tell the outlet about theatre's work—and sometimes lack thereof—to move towards greater inclusivity. "I can see them trying," they share. "I can feel them trying. And you know, with trying comes mistakes, and with trying comes error. You might not always see the incremental change, but you can feel the bubbling of it. It’s taking another step forward. You can start a fire, but can you keep that flame growing and maintain it, or do you let it fizzle and die out?”

Newell rose to prominence as Unique Adams on TV's Glee, a role they won after competing on the competition reality show The Glee Project. Since the end of that series, Newell has largely turned to stage work, starring in the 2017 Broadway revival of Once On This Island as Asaka and as Lulu in Shucked, now playing the Nederlander Theatre through January 14, 2024. They're also an accomplished recording artist. Newell's EP Power released in 2016, and they were Grammy-nominated for their performance on the Once On This Island revival cast recording.

For more on Newell's Time Magazine honor, visit Time.com.

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