Ephraim Manessah Sykes was born on July 17, 1985 in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is a Tony and Grammy Award-nominated stage actor who also starred as Seaweed J. Stubbs in NBC’s Hairspray Live! in 2016.
After attending Fordham University in New York City, Sykes made his Broadway debut in 2009, joining the cast of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. He then earned a spot later that year in the Broadway premiere of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Memphis. Sykes made his Off-Broadway debut originating the role of Benny in the 2011 revival of Rent at New World Stages and later that year, he returned to Broadway as part of the original cast of Disney’s Newsies. He followed this turn up as an original cast member of the 2013 Broadway premiere of Motown The Musical.
In January 2015, Sykes returned off Broadway to The Public Theater, originating the role of George Eacker in the musical juggernaut Hamilton. After receiving wide acclaim, the production transferred to Broadway from July 2015, eventually winning the 2016 Tony Award for Best Musical. Sykes remained with the production until September 2016.
His big break as a leading man came after being cast as David Ruffin in Ain’t Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations. Following tryouts in Berkeley, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Toronto, the Broadway premiere opened at the Imperial Theatre in March 2019. Sykes earned his first Tony Award nomination for his efforts, followed by a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album in 2020.
On screen, Sykes is known for playing Seaweed J. Stubbs in NBC’s Hairspray Live! in 2016. He has also appeared in 30 Rock on NBC in 2011, Leave It on the Floor (2011), NBC’s Broadway-centric musical series Smash (2013), as Marvin in Vinyl on HBO (2016), Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix (2016), Amazon’s Crisis in Six Scenes (2016), and the movie Detroit (2017).
Sykes was originally cast as Michael Jackson in MJ The Musical, beginning Broadway performances in December 2021. However, he withdrew from the production due to scheduling conflicts.