NEW YORK — Ari'el Stachel, tears in his eyes, thanked his parents for their love and support throughout a childhood spent hoping nobody would notice their roots.
"For so many years of my life I pretended I was not a Middle Eastern person," he said Sunday as he collected a Tony best featured actor in a musical for his role of Haled in "The Band's Visit.
His Haled, a ladies man and trumpet player in the story's Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, was his Broadway debut. The story, based on a language miscommunication, has the orchestra stranded in a small Israel town in the middle of the Negev Desert, where the Egyptians encounter townspeople who are both friendly and wary of the strangers but provide assistance nevertheless.
In addition to his parents, who glowed in the audience, Stachel thanked the show's creators for courage in "telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time that we need that more than ever."
He added: "I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they'd be able to portray their own races, and we're doing that." For their trouble, they've received messages of thanks from young people all over the Middle East in praise of such a "transformative" play.
Stachel's message back? "I want any kid who's watching to know that your biggest obstacle may turn into your purpose."
Stachel is a Berkeley, California, native who has appeared on CBS' "Blue Bloods" and the Netflix/Marvel series "Jessica Jones." He's a graduate of New York University's Tish drama department.