BWW Interview: Welcome to the Age of Javilton; Meet HAMILTON Alternate Turned Leading Man, Javier Muñoz!
After over 300 performances on Broadway, a sold-out run at The Public Theater, eleven Tony Awards, a Grammy Award, a Pulitzer Prize and countless other honors, HAMILTON creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has said goodbye to the role for which he'll be forever remembered. What comes next? The age of Javilton.
Javier Muñoz has been the Hamilton alternate dating back to the musical's early development and debut at The Public Theatre in January 2015, as well as throughout the Broadway engagement. Now he has officially taken over the title role- something he has past experience with. He previously took over the role of Usnavi - again, replacing Miranda - in the latter's Tony-winning Best Musical IN THE HEIGHTS.
Muñoz checked in with BroadwayWorld just last week to chat about his new leading man status. Catch up below!
What's the feeling been like at the Richard Rodgers [Theatre] this past week with all of the changes happening?
Definitely a lot of new energy, a lot of great energy, but I think the overall major feeling is a lot of love. A lot of love, in the form of us appreciating each other in all that we've been through together, saying goodbye to folks and their energies, and appreciating what everyone put in to make this happen. And then in turn, sharing the excitement of new people coming in, Lexi [Lawson], who's making her Broadway debut as Eliza is absolutely phenomenal. Miguel [Cervantes] just completely blew us all away with his first performance this week. Like, literally. You just welcome in this fantastic energy, and we'll probably be celebrating for days how amazing he is. We all have complete faith in our creative team and our producers. We know everyone who comes in to join the family, and the family just expands. We know that everyone's been carefully chosen, and everyone who's already there is brilliant, and everyone coming in will be brilliant. It's all very exciting.
For someone like Michael [Luwoye] or Miguel, who are just getting started, what kind of advice do you have for them?
I've been a big advocate for welcoming the mistakes. I think with a role as massive as Hamilton is, with all the language comes the work as an actor to make choices very quickly. The music goes very fast, so there's a lot of detail work involved in this. And it's so massive that you're gonna make mistakes. And the mistakes are beautiful, they're wonderful. Laugh at them, because it's not the end of the world, and literally every mistake will teach you something new about the character, and the moment. So take the pressure off yourself. Enjoy the mistakes, and then come back the next time and enjoy the part. That's the best advice.
Have you thought at all about how you're going to be spending your now very precious days off?
I think you are using the correct word. "Precious" is the word. [Laughs] I'm going to be taking full advantage of something Lin has passed on to me. He had a very specific regimen with body work, and he's passed on and purchased my first session with a massage therapist. So that's a gift Lin has given me that I'm going to be taking advantage of this Sunday. Yeah, he's got my back, so it's great!
The first day off will be all about tending to my body, tending to my voice and nourishment... sort of replenishing whatever I spent. And then the next day off... there has to be some time for me, to say hello to my family, and spend time with them, and say hello to my friends and have a life of some sort. So that one day, that second day off, will be for me. And it will be about what matters most to me, which is my family. That will be a great gift. It will really be a great gift to have that extra day. I will be taking full advantage of that.
There are a lot of people who come to see this show, knowing the cast recording and Lin's version of the role. Does it excite you, knowing you get to give them something different?
I don't really put much mind to it. One of the exciting things about this particular experience is that it's Live Theatre. Even if it was a performance of Lin that someone was coming to attend, it would not be the recording. The recording is fixed, and what you're experiencing when you come to see Live Theatre is a live performance. The energy that you as an audience bring to the experience, we feel on the stage. It's a live conversation that's different every night, so it will never be what the recording is. It will be live and present and in the moment. So I don't put too much mind to it, I just sort of love what I love most about theatre, which is that it's a live experience.
Having been a part of this from the very beginning, you, probably more than some of the other cast members, have been able to step back and watch it all happen. What's been the wildest part of his experience for you, so far?
I'm one of a handful of people in this cast, who had the opportunity to be immersed in it, and to watch it, and it's very precious to me. I remember very clearly, the very first preview for Hamilton at the Public [Theatre]. Up until that point, there was a sense that this was ours. It was very precious and it was very special to us. And we were all feeling very connected and proud of the work that we were doing, and not knowing what it was going to become, but just knowing that there was a great value to all of us. I remember I had left the building, and I crossed the street, and I stood across the street of the Public and I remember I just stood there, and took in, what I considered the last breath, before this was going to belong to everybody else. Because, then, it changes, and that moment, the moment the show is no longer ours and belongs to everyone else... that is what art is.
You write a poem and you hope that you've been able to, with clarity and with some sort of mastery of the medium, make the expression. Then you hand it over to everyone else and it becomes theirs and it becomes interpreted in ways that you couldn't even imagine. It's no longer yours, it belongs to the collective, it belongs to all. And so it becomes this next thing, but I'll never forget that moment of just appreciating that it's been ours for however long it was, cast and creatives.
Then the most amazing momentum began. It's been incredible. Opening night on Broadway I parked myself by the window- I didn't have to perform. I was in my comfy clothes to chill out for the night, just peeking in, and I sat by the window of the theatre that faced the front of the theatre so I could see the sidewalk and the red carpet. I got to take in all these celebrities coming to see the show, and the energy of the crowd across the street, it was incredible. Wow! [Laughs]. Just wow. The whole momentum of it was just amazing. To have the perspective of being in the room to create the thing; seeing it grow from a music stand presentation, to the Public, to Broadway; to see Lin on the cover of Rolling Stone. Then to see the message of love that he and Jennifer Lopez just recently presented to us on the Today Show. It's the most amazing thing to begin and watch happen. I am grateful to have had that perspective.
And of course, more recently, wasn't Hillary [Clinton] in the audience?
She sure was! That was something else! [Laughs] I made a joke with my family- I let them know Hillary Clinton was coming, and for a hot second my family was like, "Are you nervous?" and I was like, "Guys, really? At this point?" [Laughs]. No, I'm not nervous. And it's crazy that that is a day in the life of being in Hamilton. And that's amazing. There's so many levels of appreciation and also the knowledge that we collectively, with the show, have such a wonderful, far reach. Hopefully that reach will continue to be a positive one.
Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 14, 2016
Speaking of the reach, some of the Chicago cast was just announced, and it's not going to be long until the National Tour, and the West End versions happen. That has to be pretty cool knowing that a little piece of all of you guys, of what the original cast created, is going to be continuing around the world...
It is. To me, it's the metaphor of the acorn, right? You plant the initial tree, and the acorns fall, and the whole point of them falling is so they can populate more and more area, and just create more growth, and more life. I do believe that the conversation, or conversations plural, that can be inspired from this particular show, are important conversations, and that they're spreading, and amen! Let's keep those conversations going. It can only make us better to talk about the thing instead of pretending the elephant in the room isn't there. I'm excited that this is creating dialogue, and that it's reaching out.
And on a personal level, to know some of the cast members so well, who are going out and experiencing those roles that they will be inhabiting and spreading the message is pretty exciting, too. I think about Karen [Olivo] playing Angelica, and I want to hop on the first plane and see every performance, you know? It's pretty exciting.
Lin and his work have been a big part of your career so far. Do you ever think about what your life would be like if that had never come to be?
All the time. And I've said it before- I don't think I would be in theatre at all without Lin-Manuel Miranda. There was no opportunity for me at the time that I made the decision to quit the business, in 2005, and there was just no opportunity for a Latin actor like me to do anything on Broadway, and work consistently. There was not enough open-mindedness, and there was not enough material with integrity that would have allowed me to make a living doing what I do. And I simply would not have the career that I have without him, and the impact he's had on the industry. I don't know where I would be, but I certainly wouldn't be here!
Muñoz's other stage credits include the title role of VENICE in the musical at Center Theatre Group, TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, a rock opera, at Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, and RICHARD III and INTO THE WOODS at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Javier is a native of Brooklyn, NY. He is represented by Kazarian, Measures, Ruskin and Associates and Soffer/Namoff Entertainment.