Harry Connick Jr. has joined Taraji P. Henson, who is set to play Miss Hannigan in the NBC special

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Harry Connick Jr
Credit: Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Harry Connick Jr. is headed to Easy Street!

The actor and singer, 53, is taking on the role of billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks in the upcoming Annie Live! special on NBC.

"It's such a classic show and it's a show that I'm so familiar with, just from seeing it a million times," the star tells PEOPLE exclusively. "And it's one of those things where you watch it and enjoy it and never really imagine yourself a part of it, so when I was asked to play Daddy Warbucks it was kind of surreal because that's such an iconic role." 

"It wasn't something I ever really thought about," Connick Jr. adds. "I was just thrilled that I was asked to do it." 

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Annie
Credit: Everett

The Will & Grace alum says he knows the story of Annie well, especially from watching the 1982 film with his three daughters — Georgia, 25, Sarah, 23, and Charlotte, 19 — whom he shares with wife Jill Goodacre.

"I've seen the Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters and Albert Finney version dozens of times probably because all three of our daughters love that show and the performances are so great," he says, adding that he also recorded several of the songs from the soundtrack for a children's album in 2001, titled Songs I Heard. 

So far, only Connick Jr. and Taraji P. Henson have formally signed on for the live musical, which will air on NBC in December. Henson will play Miss Hannigan, the infamous head of the orphanage where Annie lives before she is adopted by Daddy Warbucks, the network announced last month. 

"I absolutely love her," Connick Jr. says of Henson, 50. "She's just one of those super, super talented — multi-talented — people that are very rare and I'm a huge fan. I'm really excited to not only be around her and get to work with her, but just to kind of watch her work and see what makes that big brain that she has tick. It's going to be be a really fun experience for me."

Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

As for whether he's nervous to perform a musical on live TV, Connick Jr. says he's too excited for nerves. 

"I love the idea of live television — the more difficult the tightrope walk is for me the more excited I get, so I'm just really fired up about it," he says. "It's this intersection of live theater and film and television, so I think there's an opportunity to do things that can exist in any of those mediums." 

The show will be the sixth live musical the Peacock network has aired since reviving the trend with 2013's The Sound of Music Live!. Other musical events have included 2014's Peter Pan Live!, 2015's The Wiz Live!, 2016's Hairspray Live! and 2018's Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.

A nationwide search for a young person to fill the role of Annie is ongoing.

Annie Live! will air Dec. 2 on NBC.