Javier Muñoz took on one of the biggest jobs in Broadway history when he stepped into the title role of "Hamilton." (The show's creator and original star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, left last month.) Muñoz seized the opportunity - and seized is the word.
"Hamilton" has become a phenomenon, winning 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, with Miranda himself receiving a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (popularly known as "genius grants"). A Chicago production will open in September, with a touring company making its debut in March 2017.
Muñoz, who was understudy for Miranda and alternated with him in selected shows, has been with the production since the very beginning. "It was, I think, 2011 when I got the first call from Lin to come on in to the workshop process and I've been with it since," he told "CBS This Morning."
He'd actually met Miranda in 2005: "I auditioned for a workshop production of 'In the Heights.' That was the first time we met. I sang a George Michael song for him, 'Praying for Time.' And I booked the gig!"
When asked what was his first impression of the proposed hip hop musical about a founding father, Muñoz said, "The first thing I thought was, this sounds a little strange. But it's Lin and I trusted him. Of course I went in the room and it was upon hearing the music for the first time that it was clear this was going to be great. It just wasn't clear that it would become what it has."
When asked to explain the "Hamilton" phenomenon, Muñoz said, "I think we just touched upon something that I think audiences have been waiting for so long, right? It's diversity on stage, and it's a living history and it's something familiar to us. It's not a fantastic story as far as something made up, right? This is our history, and we are talking about something almost tangible, and that is so relevant to today. So I think all of that combined with just Lin's genius in the music -- there you go."
Co-anchor Gayle King said, "But think about Alexander Hamilton: His dad abandons him and his mom dies and a guardian commits suicide. He really is somebody who raised himself -- I'm young, scrappy and hungry, just like my country. That is really describing this character."
Muñoz said that against all odds, Hamilton "really made his life happen with his own hands. He manifested it all of these things."
Muñoz' own story is one of inspiration. Living with HIV since 2002, he is also a cancer survivor.
"You said part of the thing you bring to the role is, you know, you don't really have a fear of dying," noted King. "They always say God doesn't give you more than you can handle, but you say, 'God, please, don't give me no more stuff.'"
"I do, yes! That is an honest truth. There are days where it's like, 'Okay, I get it!'"
"How do you do it?"
"It's my family," he replied. "My family is my root, they are my support, they are my everything. And without them, I honestly don't know that I'd be here. So it starts with them. And then I'm very fortunate enough to have dear friends in my life and mentors and colleagues, but it starts with my parents and my brothers."
CBS Sports' Dana Jacobson remarked about the excitement among students attending performances of the musical.
"Oh, my gosh," Muñoz said, "when we have the student matinees, I swear, if there was a way to gather that energy and store it, it would power this country for a millennia. It is so much electricity coming from them and they are so excited to be there. They're so engaged and it's unlike everything I've ever seen happen with a young audience like that."
"You said that when you were younger, you saw theater as an instrument for social change," said Jacobson. "And this show really is as well."
"My root is in theater as an education tool and as a means to accomplish all sorts of things, whether it may be a community service-type of engagement."
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