Though he has replaced Lin-Manuel Miranda in the title role of Broadway’s smash hit Hamilton, Javier Muñoz isn’t new to the role by any means. Muñoz was Miranda’s alternate and performed in the role at least once a week due to Miranda’s other commitments. In fact, Muñoz was playing the lead when President Obama saw Hamilton. Speaking with the New York Times, Muñoz talks about his feelings on playing Alexander Hamilton full-time and his relationship with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Even with his experience in the role, Muñoz admits that he’s nervous about playing Hamilton full-time. He explains, “I was on Facebook the other day, and Lin released that little teaser of his song with Jennifer Lopez, and I sort of sat there and went, ‘I’m taking over for this guy?’ That just feels incredible. [But] it comes down to the work, right? I’ve been jumping in there every week, and I’ve helped build this character. So it’s like, I’m just enjoying this, man. This is just fun, and glorious.”
But it’s not the first time Muñoz has taken over for Miranda — Muñoz also succeeded Miranda in the lead role of Miranda’s last musical, In the Heights. He explains that the experience is similar, noting, “I felt that way with Heights. It would take a lot to earn the audience — to be like: ‘Really, I’m good. I don’t suck. Just come with me. It’s going to be O.K.’ But with Hamilton we were at the Public, and we mapped out three shows that I was going to go on, and the days varied. It was a test, and it started with such a positive impact because of the history I have with Lin.”
Interestingly enough, Muñoz is following Miranda’s lead and will only do seven of the eight weekly performances (Miguel Cervantes is his alternate). Muñoz says, “It’s the same structure. [For the eighth performance] someone else gets to be sexy — I’m going to go eat pizza.”
One piece of the Richard Rodgers Theater that Muñoz has put his own stamp on is the roof — Muñoz has planted a garden up there. Working on it has helped him unwind from performances. He explains, “There’s so much energy on the stage, there are so many things we’re doing day in and day out, and I needed something there that felt still and calm, and gardening gives me that stillness and that calmness. Also, I’m growing something. And it may sound cheesy or corny, but it’s really not. The fact that life is created in that little garden bed heals me. It just does.”