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"The Outsiders" musical producer Angelina Jolie and Tony Award-nominated actor Sky Lakota-Lynch in their finest on opening night
"The Outsiders" producer Angelina Jolie and Sky Lakota-Lynch in their finest on opening night
Jenny Anderson

Staying Gold with Sky Lakota-Lynch, Star of “The Outsiders”

The Tony-nominated actor opens up about his 6-year journey with the musical ahead of the awards

Gertie Grable is Wondercade's Broadway correspondent, dishing on the juiciest gossip heard in the wings, the rehearsal rooms and her favorite booth at Sardi’s.

June 14, 2024 11:38 am

While Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, who I interviewed ahead of the Tony Awards, is carrying the torch for Spamalot with that show’s sole nomination, The Outsiders is a different story entirely. (Speaking of stories…the musical is based on S.E. Hinton’s classic book, which recalls West Side Story with its tale of Socs versus Greasers.) It scored a breathtaking 12 nominations, including Best Musical and — for our purposes today — Best Featured Actor in a Musical, which went to Sky Lakota-Lynch. (Also in that category? Fellow Outsiders actor Joshua Boone and…Daniel Radcliffe.)

After a put-in rehearsal and before a Friday night performance, I again removed my dangling emerald earring to put the phone to my ear, this time to chat with lovely Sky. We prattled on about playing the Greaser Johnny Cade, being shown around Tulsa (the musical and book’s setting) by Hinton herself, and having a bonafide superstar as a producer…join us, won’t you?

Gertie Grable: I just had the most marvelous chat with fellow nominee Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer. She told me all about her favorite Tonys performances — did you watch them as a child?

Sky Lakota-Lynch: I did. My grandmother used to watch it a lot. I remember the year that Tituss Burgess sang Guys and Dolls and the microphone wasn’t working and someone ran a mic out to him and he continued the song. That really inspired me to get into theatre. It shows that you can make mistakes and keep going, and everyone still can clap. You can forgive yourself in the moment — it’s live. I think the live-ness fed the adrenaline junkie in me. I also used to skateboard, I was a wrestler, I was a rowdy boy. So I was looking for something to channel that, and it was the performing arts.

Sky Lakota-Lynch and Brody Grant during rehearsal for the Broadway musical "The Outsiders"
Brody Grant, who plays Johnny’s best friend Ponyboy, also scored a Tony nom
Jenny Anderson

GG: I admit, I am a sucker for backstage stories about how a show gets to Broadway. I love this brand of juicy gossip. So, I must ask, what’s the biggest thing that’s changed about The Outsiders since you first started working on it 6 years ago?

SLL: The thing that informed the play the most for me was getting to actually go to Tulsa and go with Susie [S.E. Hinton] to her high school with my cast, and get to know where these characters are from. I’m a mixed kid — I’m Native American and Black — so I always sort of felt like an outsider. Going to Tulsa to see how much of a melting pot that city is informed so much about my performance.

GG: I read about that story in the Times! Dearie, that seemed like the trip of a lifetime.

SLL: All of us were in these Tulsa two-step clubs. We got the key to the city!

GG: How did that change your approach to the character?

SLL: Not all people from New York — but most people from New York are waiting to talk [in conversations]. Whereas in Tulsa, I noticed that people are just straight up listening. I brought that to Johnny, because he only has like 10 lines. Most of the time, I’m listening. It’s like Edward Scissorhands. If you watch that movie, Johnny Depp has, like, two lines.

The cast of the Broadway musical "The Outsiders" rehearsing in the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
That’s not a junkyard, that’s the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Jenny Anderson

GG: Well, even though you don’t have the most lines, it’s a very hot-blooded show. And Johnny goes through a devastating emotional arc, from cover-your-eyes violence to the 11 o’clock number “Stay Gold.” Do you do anything before the show to get ready to go on that journey?

SLL: I meditate a lot. I’m a funny person in life, and that helps me get through. I try to keep it light backstage with my cast members. We all goof around. Then when it’s time to play Johnny, I meditate, even if it’s for 5 seconds, just to ground myself so I can truly listen to my scene partner.

GG: Besides going to Tulsa, have there been any I can’t believe this is happening moments?

SLL: When Angie [producer Angelina Jolie] joined the production, it was wild just to get to be around her and see how wonderful a human being she is, and how she brought Matt Dillon to the show. I got to have people who I looked up to my whole life now be peers to me, sort of. It’s wild. Like, at the Tonys luncheon, I was so overwhelmed.

GG: Ah, the Tonys luncheon, that annual ritual where all the nominees gather at the Rainbow Room…. Was there somebody specific you were starstruck by?

SLL: Jonathan Groff. I feel like a lot of us Greasers are in a similar position that he was in during Spring Awakening: we’re the young bucks on the block and we don’t have a lot of people to talk to, so I can only imagine what he was going through at that time with that show. Also of course Jeremy Strong, who is one of the best actors I know, was like two feet away from me. I couldn’t believe it.

Sky Lakota-Lunch in his dressing room for "The Outsiders"
Look up outside the theater and you might just see Sky putting his face on…
Jenny Anderson/Sky Lakota-Lynch

GG: Before I leave you to your pre-show meditation…in such a packed Broadway season, what does The Outsiders offer that audiences won’t necessarily get from the other shows on the Great White Way?

SLL: It’s unique because everyone has felt like an outsider in their life, and whether you’re a Soc or a Greaser, I feel like a lot of people aren’t seen. When people watch this show, they can forgive themselves for things they may have done or said, and they can move on. There are people who are like Bob [Sheldon] and there are people who are like Johnny Cade — and both need to forgive themselves and move on and say it’s okay.

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