Interview with The New Englanders star Javier Muñoz
Manhattan Theatre Club's world premiere of The New Englanders, written by Jeff Augustin and directed by Saheem Ali, begins performances at New York City Center tonight and to mark the occasion we caught up with cast member Javier Muñoz to find out a little more about this excitingly topical new play.
Mr. Muñoz is known to most Broadway aficionados, of course, for his association with Lin-Manuel Miranda, whilst television fans may recognise him from his role as Lorenzo Rey on Netflix's "Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments." He was part of the 2007 Drama Desk Award-winning ensemble of In the Heights, eventually assuming the leading role of Usnavi from Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in February 2009. History would have its eyes on him one more time in July 2016 when he once again succeeded Miranda at the Richard Rodgers, this time taking over the titular role in the musical phenomenon that is Hamilton.
Where do you go from there? And does being a member of Hamilton royalty mean an actor gets to cherry-pick roles for the rest of their career on stage?
For his next New York stage venture, Mr. Muñoz has chosen a straight play in the intimate confines of Stage II at New York City Center, home to arguably Manhattan Theatre Club's most daring and outside-of-the-box works.
The New Englanders marks playwright Jeff Augustin's Off-Broadway debut and asks the question: “Can you ever really live the life you envisioned?" It is told through the lens of a mixed race family, comprised of a teenaged daughter and two fathers, living in a sleepy New England town, where two members of the family find themselves trapped in more ways than one...
What were the main factors that enticed you to be a part of Manhattan Theatre Club’s world premiere of The New Englanders?
Firstly that this is at Manhattan Theatre Club, with whom I have a beautiful history. Secondly that these are characters of color, with varying sexualities, written with great integrity, inhabiting what is a Classic American story.
Having been such a huge part of the most celebrated musical currently on Broadway, experiencing life at the pinnacle of Broadway theater, does that have an impact on what you wish to achieve in future theatre projects and how you go about choosing them?
Yes, it’s almost impossible to not have my experience with Hamilton influence everything going forward from it. That entire experience expanded my ideas of what is possible with any production, from content to casting. That is a truly exciting feeling that colors both my project choices and what I aim for creatively.
In what way do the themes of interracial relationships and same-sex relationships shape the narrative of Jeff Augustin’s play?
Both themes are at the heart of the narrative. It’s both beautiful and powerful to see how normal these lives and relationships are in this context because, in reality, these are perfectly normal relationships and situations.
In what ways do you personally connect with the play?
In the most basic human ways I connect; the work a relationship takes; the desire to pursue greatness; the sacrifices made when creating a better life for oneself; the journey of pursuing your dreams and the compromises along the way.
What would you like audiences to take away from the experience of seeing The New Englanders?
The beauty of being completely honest with ourselves by fully embracing all that we are as we aim to build as close to a happy life as is humanly possible.
The New Englanders Tickets are available now for performances through October 20, 2019.