The latest Hamilton star whom Fandomize had the chance to speak with is Pierre Jean Gonzalez! Pierre Jean Gonzalez currently plays none other than Alexander Hamilton himself in the Hamilton Philip Tour. Pierre and I discussed what it’s like for him to play Alexander Hamilton, having his own production company, and more! Check out the interview below!
Shaun Hood: What does Hamilton stand for to you in terms of both American History, and today’s pop culture?
Pierre Jean Gonzalez: I mean, the show itself is such a powerhouse and such a spectacle. I think the thing that kind of draws me in the most and what makes it really important, is that you have this story of the founding fathers of this country, the people who have influenced and really built up the government, the way the banks work, but Lin-Manuel and the whole team decides to bring people of color and put them in those positions. That right there – that statement alone – I think is really powerful, and it shows how much this country has grown and how we have to put that in the forefront. We’re all immigrants when it comes to the United States. I think really pushing that narrative is one of the most important things that this show does and represents. For me I mean, it’s the music, the storytelling, it’s such magic and you just fall in love with it instantly.
SH: Is there any part of Alexander as a character that you identify or connect with?
PJG: Absolutely. I think being a first generation, here in New York City, coming from immigrants, coming from a background where we didn’t really have a lot of money, we didn’t have a lot of opportunity, I had to kind of hustle and I had to just kind of go for it. I think that’s a lot of Hamilton’s drive throughout the whole show. You see that the juxtapose of Burr, waiting for it and him constantly being, “Well, I’ll just wait for my turn,” or “I’ll just try to slide in here.” Hamilton is very much like, “No, I’m going to create my own rules. I’m going to create my own path.” I think that I’ve been doing that since birth, growing up in the Bronx, growing up in these places where people that looked like me, didn’t get to college, didn’t get to those opportunities. I was grateful and blessed enough to go to school at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts. I got my BFA in acting conservatory. I got to study in London. I got to do Shakespeare for a whole year. I think this show, Hamilton, it feels like my own personal Shakespeare. It feels like something that was literally created for me, through my language and my song.
SH: What is your favorite song in the show that Hamilton sings?
PJG: My favorite moment, if we’re looking at it in the album, as we know, where Madison, Burr, and Jefferson come in and kind of let Hamilton know that they found these accounts. They’re just coming in thinking that they’re about to explode his life. He actually turns it around and opens up his truth and confesses this little intimate moment. In that moment, Hamilton has to choose, “Am I going to say that? Am I going to kind of have to like live and walk around these men, who have such influence in the world that I work in?” I think it’s just such a beautiful moment in the show of vulnerability. It’s not the best choice, but in that moment, he feels like that’s going to save him. That’s one of my favorite moments in the show. I lose myself in that moment, which is really beautiful and fun to do.
I think that mix – going in from “We Know” to “Hurricane,” – is just the best ride. Hurricane used to terrify me, as an actor, you know what I mean? Because it’s so vulnerable and it’s just you and it could be really intimidating at times. Finally, I’ve found my ride in it and it really is satisfying and it feels really good to do.
SH: In Hamilton, you play the title character, meanwhile, Aaron Burr, is the actual narrator. What is your interpretation of the structure of the musical in that regard? Do you think it has anything to do with Burr’s perspective on Hamilton?
PJG: I think yes and no. I think the show is kind of set up to give you an intimate kind of a glimpse into these characters’ lives. There’s so much narration happening, where we’re explaining what’s happening in the moment. Then, you have these little moments where each character goes out and speaks their truth. I just really believe that Hamilton is everybody’s show. It’s everybody’s narration. I mean – for Eliza, at the end – that comes out of nowhere for certain people. Everybody has their moment. Everybody has their vulnerability being exposed to the audience. I actually was a standby first, so I covered Hamilton, Burr, and the king. I had many opportunities to put myself in those different characters’ shoes.
It’s so interesting because a lot of people think “Oh, Hamilton, it’s all about Hamilton.” It’s really not. Hamilton is driving, he’s kind of like the wheel. He’s like the thing that pushes the wheel, you know what I mean? He’s constantly pushing the narrative and continuing on the story that there’s no really moment to really indulge in it. That’s why I love, “We Know” into “Hurricane,” because it’s one of the first moments where we see him making that choice, and you can see the turmoil. It’s written in the music. The back and forth of the choice, of solidifying my name and my legacy. Something about legacy, “What are we leaving behind?” It’s like clicking throughout the whole show so it really drives us all, every character.
SH: Nice. Yeah. I like that part of the show that concept of, “What defines a legacy? What are you leaving behind?” Then there’s Eliza, who’s saying, “It’s already enough, just be who you are and be a good person.”
PJG: Yeah, and it’s like everybody’s going through that. It’s such a universal and human thing to connect to. Especially now, with what’s happening in the world. We are in a moment of, “Ok, this is happening, things could shift, things could like stop in two seconds. What do you want? What are you working for? What’s driving you? What’s that fire? What’s your purpose?” You know what I mean? I think for myself, this pandemic, this whole thing that’s been happening to us, it’s really driven me to figure out, “How am I making change? How am I affecting people around me?” I created my production company with my fiance, Cedric Leiba Jr., DominiRican Productions, in the beginning of that pandemic to highlight people of color on both sides of the camera.
I want to use this platform as being Hamilton, yes, this is an amazing moment. I thank God for this. I’ve fought to get to this point, but now being here, what am I going to do with this platform? How are we, as people of color, being put in these positions, how are we going to make change? I think Lin did his job by creating the show. The producers and the casting directors booked us. They got us in there. Okay. Now we’re here. How are we now going to spread that and really build change? It’s in the show, it’s in the show by just us playing the characters and it’s in the show in the storytelling. It’s really passionate for me and it means everything.
SH: Tell us about when you got the role of Hamilton. What was that process like?
PJG: Yeah, that was a very crazy time. Like I said, I was a standby at first on the Philip tour for about a year and a half. Then I got a call, I think, sometime in the fall or like in November time, and my agent told me, he was like, “Are you around anybody?” I said, “No.” He said, “Sit down?” I was like, “Ok, what?” Then he told me, and I’ve dreamt about this. This is something that I’ve always wanted and then it happened. I think that feeling that of getting it, of it actually happening. I’ll never take that for granted. I’ve worked so hard for it, but it really was a shock.
I was going to take over March, 2020. I took two weeks off, three weeks off, and right when we were about to go back and I’m about to go into rehearsals to take over March, 2020. We were going to push it back for a month. We were going to push it back again for another three months. Then it turned into 18 months. The whole year of being in the pandemic was really difficult for me in the beginning, because it just felt like this dream that I’ve been fighting for, that I worked so hard for, was just snatched away from me. It was nobody’s fault. It was happening, people were dying everywhere. It was really traumatic, especially here in New York, a lot of people don’t know what it was like here. Driving down the FDR, seeing bodies in a truck, seeing white bags, it was very traumatic.
Out of that, came my production company. My fiance and I were sitting together and we’ve always wanted to do this. We were like, “Why not just start, just to keep ourselves busy, to keep our spirits up.” Then, it just kind of snowballed and it’s turned into this amazing, beautiful thing. We have three short films that we’ve filmed already. The third one is what we are just submitting now to a bunch of festivals. Called American Made, starring Jared Dixon, who plays Burr on the Philip tour and the director, Tiffany Nicole Green, who is our resident director. Not only that, but being able to highlight all these Hispanic theaters in New York, filming for the Pregones/PRTT, doing NASDAQ, doing PBS. It’s been really amazing. It’s opened up a whole new world for me. Then, being able to actually come back and open up in to Fox and then have my business. It’s just been a dream come true. It’s not easy, but it’s everything that I could have hoped for and more.
SH: Has your perspective on this huge hit of a musical changed at all now that your such an important part of the Philip Company?
PJG: No, because I have moments in Yorktown when I am literally, genuinely – not crying as Hamilton – but just crying at like the little boy me that’s like, “I can’t believe this is still happening,” you know? Because the music is so magical and I’m so grateful that I still have that feeling for it. I’m just so grateful for that really. I’m constantly gagged constantly like, “I can’t believe this is my life,” you know?
SH: I also recently interviewed your castmate, Stephanie Jae Park. Is there anything notable that you want to point out about the ups and downs of the love story between Alexander and Eliza within the musical?
PJG: Yeah, it’s really beautiful and pure. I think it’s definitely very dramatic and very soap opera-ish, but that’s the appeal of it. It’s human. We’ve all been in those positions. Even from Hamilton’s perspective, or Eliza’s perspective. I think the narrative in the end, that forgiveness, is really powerful. I think she’s one of the most powerful things in the show, because that’s the hardest thing to do. It’s easy for Hamilton to say, “I had an affair.” It’s easy for him to be like, “I’m going to go do this.” It’s easy, but for her to make that choice, everybody that I speak to who still comes to the show, my fiance comes. He came he’s seen the show, I think maybe like six times already. Until this day he says that, when you hear that forgiveness, you see that moment happen, that breaks us constantly, because it’s so human, it’s so relatable.
I think she’s just one of the most powerful things in the show, one of the most purest things and you know, it just sucks. It sucks to break her heart every night, but it really is beautiful when she forgives me. Stephanie and I have such a great working relationship and friendship, that I am just her biggest cheerleader. She is magical on stage. The vocals are ridiculous. They call her Stephanie Slay Park for a reason. I’m just so grateful and blessed to have somebody who I actually consider a really close friend and to be able to do that with. I know that, that’s very rare, not everybody has that. I’m lucky enough to have that with Stephanie.
SH: Yeah, I was almost crying when I watched that final song for the first time on Disney+. It really was exactly what you were saying, the forgiveness.
PJG: It’s a very powerful thing and yeah, it still, it gets me every night, every night. I’m like, “Oh Steph, come on, I’m tired.” It’s the job and I mean, we’re just so lucky and grateful to be able to do it really, in this time where things are shutting down left and right.
SH: Is there anything else that you’re working on or that you have coming up that you’d like our readers to know about?
PJG: Well, yes, absolutely. If everybody wanted to go check out DominiRican Productions, you could check out our pages to look at all the productions that we have been doing. Our latest short, “American Made,” has a trailer that’s out right now, and is in a lot of festivals. Our newest piece and we have, “Rhythm is Going to Get Who,” is our second narrative short. That is going to be released out to the public in March. I’m just really excited to continue the work that I’m doing. Trying to highlight people of color on both sides of the camera, as well as using this platform to get more people of color in the theater to see this show. It’s really important for the little kids to see themselves really.
Pierre Jean Gonzalez can be found on Instagram @pierrlito.
The Hamilton Philip tour is currently preforming at the Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton, Ohio until February 6th, and after that, their next stop is the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Visit the Hamilton website to find out when and where you can experience the show yourself near you. Get your tickets to see Hamilton today!