The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star was nominated this year for her role as the fun-loving Ilona Ritter in She Loves Me, a play that’s especially close to her heart. Growing up, Krakowski watched her father, Ed, play the part of Kodaly in local theater. Now, with her dad battling Alzheimer’s disease, the actress says her nomination is even more meaningful.
Asked how it would feel to win a Tony for her performance, Krakowski tells PEOPLE, “That would be beyond. It was one of the reasons I wanted to be part of the production, to honor my father, because he had played the role of Kodaly when I was a child.”
She adds, “Doing the show as a whole was a very heartfelt reason for me. I thought it might be the last show that my dad would see me in, but he’s not well enough to come actually as it ultimately turned out.”
As disappointing as it was not having her father in the audience, Krakowski says, “Just being in the show, and him knowing that I’m in the show, has meant a lot not only to myself but to our whole family. It was like a childhood dream being in those same productions that I saw my parents in on Broadway.”
WATHC: Jane Krakowski Talks Young Robert Downey Jr., Remembers Winning Her Tony
Remembering her 2003 Tony win for the musical Nine, the actress says, “Well, to be honest with you it was an out-of-body experience.” She adds, “And when they called me name, I don’t really remember anything else that happened, except now there’s a lovely Tony on my shelf at home.”
Krakowski, who was also nominated for a Tony in 1990 for her role in Grand Hotel, talks about another, less successful musical she was apart of. The play, called American Passion, was closed after its opening night, but it happened to star a host of future stars, including Robert Downey Jr.
“It was an absolute failure,” she says of the musical. But even back in 1983, Krakowski says she knew Downey would be famous one day. “I will say he was a star at that point anyway,” she explains. “He wasn’t known yet but he had that charisma.”