Marc Kudisch has two previous Tony Award nominations as Best Featured Actor for a Musical, for his work in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but his third nomination in this category, for his portrayal of the chauvinist Franklin Hart. Jr. in 9 to 5: The Musical, is possibly the sweetest.
“I was really happy to be recognized for this show, in part because of the kind of role this is. He’s not an easy to love character; he’s more the guy you don’t want to touch,” he says. “I think I’ve kind of made a career of taking the jobs other actors don’t want to do. When other people go ‘nah,’ I usually go ‘ooh.'”
Kudisch says that portraying the admittedly unlikeable Hart was made easy by the show’s creators. “He’s so well specified by both Dolly Parton‘s score and Patricia Resnick’s book. I mean, he’s self-described as a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot — that pretty much tells you what you need to know,” he says. “But within that, I wanted to make him as human and as honest as I possibly could. I think he feels misunderstood and amazed that people don’t understand that he’s right. He doesn’t understand why women in the workplace even want to be at his level. In that way, he’s sort of innocent in his ignorance.”
As it happens, Kudisch had his own past experience with a Hart-like boss. “I once worked at a restaurant with this guy who thought he was the cock of the walk, and, of course, everybody hated him,” he recalls. “The company brought in this new assistant manager to take over for the guy, and when my boss found out he was being fired, he tried to fire me. But the new guy said ‘you can fire Marc if you want to, but the minute you walk out the door, I’m rehiring him.'”
While there’s no doubt Kudisch would love to take home the Tony Award, he’ll be applauding loudly whoever wins. “It’s a lot of fun to be in the category this year. My fellow nominees, Christopher Sieber and Will Swenson, are both good friends; we played the three knights last year in the New York Philharmonic production of Camelot, and I’ve known Gregory Jbara forever,” he says. “To me, winning this award would just be the icing on an already very well-iced cake.”