Javier Muñoz is 40, openly gay, HIV positive, survived cancer – and he just took on the biggest role Broadway has on offer.
Monday (11 July) marked the first night the Puerto Rico-born actor appeared as the full-time leading man in Hamilton, the Great White Way’s most contested show.
He took over the Ten Dollar Founding Father’s coat from the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and was immediately greeted with the same fervour fans awarded his predecessor.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) July 12, 2016
And while it may be the first time Muñoz’ name appears in an actual Playbill at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, rather than on an insert, the actor is far from new to the role.
For the last year, he’s been understudying Miranda, but also took to the stage every Sunday as his alternate; as such, he got to play for some big names, including Barack and Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and the late Prince.
Speaking to the New York Times’ Michael Paulson, Muñoz revealed taking over from Miranda – whom he also worked with at In The Heights, Miranda’s first musical – felt incredible.
‘I’ve been jumping there every week, and I’ve helped build this character,’ Muñoz said.
‘So it’s like, I’m just enjoying this, man. This is just fun, and glorious.’
Fans have often called his performance the sexy Hamilton, while backstage he was given the nickname of Javilton.
— Javier Muñoz (@JMunozActor) June 18, 2016
He also opened up about his HIV status and the cancer diagnosis which forced him to take a few months out from Hamilton, to undergo surgery and radiation treatment. (He’s fine now)!
‘I have been living with HIV since 2002, and I’m undetectable,’ he said.
‘I’m healthy, I’m strong and I’m very out about that because of the stigma still attached to it. But I’ve had a healthy fear about my health since I tested positive, and I asked how to test myself for lumps, because both my parents had cancer.’
Asking for help from his cast mates, Muñoz said, was the hardest thing, but much like his HIV diagnosis, cancer only made him even more grateful for what he has.
‘You can’t unknow what you know. Life is not the same after that,’ he said.
‘But I’m alive, and I’m for all intents and purposes healthy and well. And I’m grateful for that.’
And if the whole excitement gets too much, Muñoz has created a small retreat for himself, right at the theatre: on the marquee, he planted a garden.
‘I’m growing something. And it may sound cheesy or corny, but it’s really not, he told the NYT.
‘The fact that life is created in that little garden bed heals me. It just does.’
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