After decades of opening and closing nights, Rachel Bay Jones, the stage actress and singer who was cast as Heidi Hansen, the loving, but struggling single mother in the Broadway hit "Dear Evan Hansen," has finally reached career nirvana. The Hollywood Reporter's chief critic called Bay Jones "the show's secret weapon." Last night, she won the Tony Award for best actress in a musical.
Born to two stage actors in Florida, Rachel dropped out of high school and spent years honing her craft in theaters all over the country — from Hawaii to North Carolina to the Great White Way. Speaking of her three-decade career, Bay Jones told The Hollywood Reporter, "I really believe we're always getting ready. Everyone's go-time is different."
NBC News BETTER caught up with Jones in her dressing room just moments before curtain call to find what keeps her fearless and inspired in her Broadway home away from home.
Every time I brush my teeth, I look to my good friend, Mr. Shark. And it kinda reminds me to just get in the water, face your fear and do it anyway.
What inspired you to become an actor?
Both of my parents were stage actors so my inspiration came from seeing their fearlessness on stage and their passion for theater.
What's your morning routine like?
Before I get up I think about any dreams I had — or anything that requires creativity or difficult thought. That middle place between sleeping and waking is the best for knowing what you really want.
Then, coffee! I try to make my bed. And I keep my phone on silent for a little while so I can get my bearings before the world calls me away from myself.
I'm really scared of sharks. I grew up in Florida and swam a lot in the ocean. And that was, and is, probably my biggest fear. So sometimes it's pretty scary going out on stage. And since my dressing room is my office, and also my bathroom, and my morning routine, every time I brush my teeth, I look to my good friend, Mr. Shark — Mr. Great White Terrifying Shark. And we brush our teeth together. And it kinda reminds me to just get in the water, face your fear and do it anyway.
When you did really feel like you "made it?"
Ummm... (Editor's note: She won a Tony Award!)
That middle place between sleeping and waking is the best for knowing what you really want.
What's on your nightstand right now?
A long dead Kindle because I like paper best. I have a hardcover signed first edition of Moonglow by Michael Chabon — I love him and I love this book. A tiny antique bell. Three pairs of scuffed reading glasses. And layers of tangled necklaces hanging from a hundred and fifty year old clock. I have a big nightstand!
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The one guilty pleasure you can't stop, won't stop:
Cookies — sigh!
Favorite workout jam of the moment:
Lose Yourself by Eminem
The one small thing that makes you feel better:
Kissing my English setters on that fuzzy sweet spot under their wet noses.
Editor's note: Updated to reflect Rachel Bay Jones' Tony Award on June 11, 2017.