The Tony Awards air June 12 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS

By Chancellor Agard
Updated May 27, 2016 10:40 AM
Neilson Barnard/Getty

The Hamilton cast is making the most of their shot.

The hip hop-infused Broadway musical was recently nominated for an historic 16 Tony Awards, and nearly half of those nods went to the show’s roster of talented stars, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Phillipa Soo.

But just who are the people behind the phenomenon? As the Tony Awards near, PEOPLE put together this guide to help you put a face to the show’s nominated cast members:

Lin-Manuel Miranda


: Alexander Hamilton
Nominations: Best book of musical; Best original score; Best performance by an actor in leading role in a musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda doesn’t just star in Hamilton – he also created it. Miranda, 36, is responsible for the book, lyrics and music. His fellow cast members have described the MacArthur Genius and Pulitzer Prize winner as “quirky,” “generous” and the “optimist in the room.”

“It’s been an unbelievable year and a half,” Miranda told PEOPLE shortly after this year’s Tony Award nominations were announced. “I keep waiting for life to return to normal and I’m starting to realize this is the new normal.”

Drop That Beat! Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda Freestyle

Leslie Odom, Jr.
Role: Aaron Burr
Nomination: Best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical

Leslie Odom, Jr. has been in the business for quite some time. The 34-year-old made his Broadway debut when he was 17 in a production of Rent, and has since had memorable recurring roles on NBC’s musical/drama Smash and CBS’ Person of Interest. He first heard about Hamilton when he attended a reading of the first act at Vassar College in 2013, and was moved to tears.

“The song that really wrecked me was “The Story of Tonight” because it was four men of color on a stage singing a song about friendship and love and brotherhood,” he said during a recent SiriusXM Town Hall Q&A event in New York. “I’d never seen anything like that. That was the revolution.”

Phillipa Soo
Role: Eliza Hamilton
Nomination: Best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical

A recent Juilliard graduate, Soo made her Broadway debut in Hamilton. She joined the show after Hamilton director Thomas Kail asked her to take part in a reading of the musical’s second act. “I feel like in the past year there’s been like a list of life goals that have just kind of fallen one after the other, and it’s just so amazing,” she recently told PEOPLE Now.

Hamilton the Movie? Phillipa Soo Weighs in

If Soo wins, she’ll be just the third woman of Asian-American descent to take home the award.

Renée Elise Goldsberry
Role: Angelica Schuyler
Nomination: Best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical

Renée Elise Goldsberry is just one of several Broadway veterans who stars in Hamilton. The Grammy Award winner has appeared in Rent, The Lion King and Good People, and for seven years she had a recurring role on CBS’ The Good Wife as Assistant State’s Attorney Geneva Pine. However, she says her most important job is being a mother to son Benjamin, 7, and daughter Brielle, 3.

“My greatest wish for my children is that they fulfill their purpose,” Goldsberry, 45, told PEOPLE. “I know that all children, and in particular mine, are here for a reason.”

Daveed Diggs
Role: Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson
Nomination: Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical

Years before Daveed Diggs stunned audiences as one of the fastest rappers on Broadway, he was a struggling New York artist who would go on every audition he could find and either couch-surfed between friends’ apartments or slept on the subway at night. However, starring in one of the biggest Broadway musicals ever hasn’t stopped Diggs, 34, from pursuing his other dreams. He’s starring in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series The Get Down, and he’s currently working on a new album with his hip hop group, Clipping.

Jonathan Groff
Role: King George
Nomination: Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical

This isn’t Jonathan Groff‘s first time at the Tony’s. The Looking star, 31, was nominated for a Tony Award in 2007 for playing Melchior Gabor in the original production of Spring Awakening. In March, the Glee alum left the cast of Hamilton after booking a role in David Fincher’s new Netflix series Mindhunter. He was replaced by Rory O’Malley, whose Broadway credits include The Book of Mormon and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Christopher Jackson
Role: George Washington
Nomination: Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical

Christopher Jackson first heard about Hamilton while appearing alongside Miranda in In the Heights. As he recounted during a recent SiriusXM Town Hall Q&A event, Miranda told him about his idea during one of the “life conversations” they used to have while they hid out in the bodega in between songs. Following that talk, Jackson went out and bought Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the biography Miranda used to write the musical.

“I’ve been researching this show as long he’s been writing the show,” Jackson said during the Anderson Cooper-hosted event. “And it’s way easier to get jobs when you don’t have to audition for them.”

Hamilton also received Tony Award nods for best musical, best scenic design, best costume design, best lighting design, best direction, best choreography and best orchestrations.

The Tony Awards air June 12 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.