Hamilton's Nick Cordero awoke "almost intuitively" Tuesday morning at the moment Tony Awards were being announced, flipped on his TV and saw to his surreal delight that he had been nominated.
The tall, dark-haired actor is in the running for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical for his work on "Bullets Over Broadway."
Following his nomination, he marvelled that the tangled path he followed — growing up in Hamilton's west end, attending Ryerson University for acting, dropping out to start a rock band and even recently enrolling in a real-estate course as a fall-back option — could lead to a Tony nod.
But win or lose, Cordero already has a golden souvenir from this run on the Great White Way.
"I have a pile of hand-written notes written on yellow notepaper in Woody Allen's (handwriting) that are sitting in my dressing room, that I have to put in a very nice frame one day," Cordero said down the line from New York on Tuesday.
"Again, I'm a kid from Hamilton," he added with wonder.
Allen adapted the screenplay of his 1994 film caper for the stage musical, which opened April 10 under the direction and choreography of Susan Stroman.
The 78-year-old film legend was present at Cordero's audition and became an enthusiastic supporter of the production throughout its development, the actor said.
So, what did Allen scribble in his notes?
"Things like, early on, when you're sort of figuring out what the tone of the comedy is, you tend to maybe push it a little more than you need to or emphasize it in a way that it doesn't need to be emphasized," recalled Cordero, who made his Broadway debut in "Rock of Ages."
Bullets Over Broadway stars Zach Braff from Scrubs
"And some of his early guidance was really stuff (like), don't present it necessarily that way. If you don't get a laugh, then it'll be my fault and not yours — which I thought was pretty sage advice. Just be heard and be truthful and if it's funny, it's funny.
"Working with him has been incredible. Something I'll never forget."
Cordero had similarly resounding praise for the production's star, Zach Braff, who's a "true prince."
"He's doing such a good job," Cordero said. "He's onstage for about two and a half hours straight. He rarely leaves, and he's gotta deal with me spitting in his face and throwing him on the ground and shoving him around.
"He's giving it 110 per cent every night. Without him, there's no show."
The production is about a 1920s playwright who leans on the mob to finance his show, on the condition that he find a role for the demanding girlfriend of a gangster. Cordero portrays Cheech (played by Chazz Palminteri in the film version), the newbie actress's escort who possesses a surprisingly keen eye for theatre.
Cordero: 'I die at the end'
And Cordero says it's a dream role.
"I get to do so much cool stuff," he enthused. "I drive an electric Ford Model-T car on stage. And I shoot people. And I tap dance. And I get to be intimidating.
"And spoiler alert — but I die at the end and I get talked about what an artist I am. So it's pretty much the perfect role."
Although a challenging one, to be sure.
"Dude, I'm tap dancing on Broadway," he said. "I'm not a tap dancer."
Cordero is up against Danny Burstein for "Cabaret," Joshua Henry for "Violet," Jarrod Spector for "Beautiful — The Carole King Musical" and the widely presumed front-runner, James Monroe Iglehart for "Aladdin."
Whether he's a serious contender or not, Cordero says the nomination is "flabbergasting" and marvels at "the randomness of it all."
He was to have a full day of appointments and interviews Tuesday, followed by another performance in the evening. Still, he was already making plans for the June 8 award gala, which will be hosted by Hugh Jackman and broadcast on CBS.
"I'm talking to stylists," he said with a laugh.