Interview with Lexi Lawson & J. Quinton Johnson
As Lin-Manuel Miranda's smash hit Tony-winning musical Hamilton continues to sell out the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway and as the musical was recently voted "Favorite Long-running Show" at our affiliate partner Broadway.com's Audience Choice Awards, we decided to grab the opportunity to interview a couple of its shining stars.
Lexi Lawson assumed the role of Eliza Hamilton on July 11, 2016, whilst J. Quinton Johnson took over the dual roles of James Madison and Hercules Mulligan on January 3, 2017. The roles mark the Broadway debuts for both performers. Prior to their current roles, Lexi played Vanessa in the National Tour of In The Heights and Mimi in the National Tour of Rent, whilst J. Quinton appeared in the film Everybody Wants Some!!, the TV series The Son and ABC's recent re-make of Dirty Dancing.
Thomas Hayden Millward: How did it feel when you took over your respective roles in Hamilton and knew you’d have a fight on your hands to drag this little show into the limelight and sell some tickets? (Laughs)
Lexi Lawson: (Laughs) Sooooo hard! It’s soooo hard to continue pulling in audience members! (Laughs)
J. Quinton Johnson: Well, I’ve taken to the streets, you know! I’m just begging people on the streets to come and see the show. A huge social media push on different platforms. You really gotta put the work in, if you want to see the results! (Laughs)
THM: Now - joking aside, folks – it must be quite nice to join the cast of a Broadway production that is doing quite well already?
LL: It really is. We’re super fortunate and super lucky. We have a great creative team that supports us and our decisions. We don’t play the roles anything like the previous cast members. I feel like we’ve all brought a sense of our own selves to the roles and the creative team has let us do that. I think the fans still love the show, no matter what we do with it.
THM: On that note, do you both personally know your predecessors Phillipa Soo and Oak Onaodowan? Were there any words of encouragement as they passed on the baton?
LL: Yeah, there were several words of encouragement. I was lucky enough to be there and start rehearsing when the original cast was starting to fade out, so I did get to see the original cast and have some words with all of them. I was so grateful and fortunate to be able to do that.
THM: There is a big West End premiere of Hamilton coming up at the end of the year which will be the first big test for ‘Hamilton’ outside of North America. Do you feel that it will have the same level of appeal internationally outside of the States?
JQJ: Well, I feel that it’s very similar to how ‘Les Mis’ had its appeal in the US because I think the story is still relatable, no matter where you are in the world. Even with ‘Les Mis,’ I think there were a lot of regional specificities to it, but we, as Americans, still gravitated towards the story. So I think ‘Hamilton’ has a high, high probability of having the same affect overseas.
LL: And hey, thank God for King George!
THM: Does Lin-Manuel Miranda ever pop in and see you guys – and then everybody needs to look busy - or have you not had the opportunity now he’s in London filming “Mary Poppins Returns”?
LL: Yeah, he’s in London, but the thing about Lin is that he’s so cool. Yes, he’s our boss, but he’s also one of the most easy-going, kind and gentle human beings you’ll ever meet.
JQJ: And he’s still so active on Twitter. He’s very supportive and it’s a kind of “father figure from away” type of situation.
THM: And finally, for the extreme minority out there, who maybe don’t know what ‘Hamilton’ is about, could you give us a little summary of what they could expect from a trip to the Richard Rodgers Theatre?
LL: Well, know your American History when you come and see our show! (Laughs) But even if you don’t, just know that there is a storyline that you can still follow… and there’s going to be a lot of words! Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Eliza Schuyler – you can google all these characters and read about them before you come and I would definitely suggest to do that.
JQJ: All you really need to know, when you come and see ‘Hamilton’ is that the first question in the show is going to be what you learn and you’re going to figure out how a bastard, orphan son of a whore becomes a hero and a scholar!
THM: I couldn’t have put it better myself!