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Broadway Q&A: James Monroe Iglehart of ‘Hamilton’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The Tony-winning ‘Aladdin’ alum reveals his love for New York City

James Monroe Iglehart plays the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton. Lin Manuel-Miranda’s groundbreaking musical about the nation’s first United States Treasury Secretary has won 11 Tonys, a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy award. Iglehart joined the cast in 2017 after a show-stopping run as the Genie in Aladdin. His dazzling performance as the lovable Genie won Iglehart a Tony Award for Best Actor in a musical. Iglehart's other Broadway credits include Memphis and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Iglehart has a prolific television and film career that includes playing Coriolanus Burt on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the voice of Lance Strongbow on Tangled. He is also a member of the hip-hop group Freestyle Love Supreme. Last month, he revisited his Genie glitter and danced and sang with four other Genies for a special performance celebrating Aladdin’s 5th anniversary. 

James Monroe Iglehart at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

James Monroe Iglehart at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

How cool it is to be be in Hamilton
James Monroe Iglehart
: It is extremely wonderful to be in a show that my friend (Lin Manuel Miranda) wrote. And it’s awesome to be able to say his words and take over a role that my friend played. I'm also getting to work with my friends. It's like being in the cool kids club. Plus it’s really fun to play these iconic roles – to entertain and educate at the same time. 

What attracted you to playing Jefferson? 
: The fun thing about Jefferson is that we get to play with his character a little bit. It is kinda fun to be the antagonistic one.  I'm always a nice guy. It’s interesting to be antagonistic to Alexander Hamilton, and also tell the other side of history. Jefferson wasn't the best guy in the world. But he had some good ideas. It's fun to convey them and let people see both sides of the situation. Even if I don't agree with mostly everything. 

Do you remember when you knew you had to perform? 
: I knew when I had my first solo in church when I was four or five years old. The song was a Christian song, “Bullfrogs and Butterflies.” I remember singing it, and how wonderful it made me feel. The moment I heard the applause I thought, “This is all I want to do.” 

How did playing the Genie in Aladdin change your life? 
: Oh my gosh. In so many ways. I won a Tony. People began to know my name. My whole life was changed with that role, and helped my family. I also got to play my favorite Disney character, and play it on Broadway. The role changed everything for me. 

What went through your mind when you were cast in Aladdin?
: A million things. All I kept thinking was, “Oh my God, I can't believe this is happening. Oh my God, thank you that this is happening.” I also hoped that people didn’t hate me. At the time, no one knew what was going to happen. They had done the cartoon and people loved it. But I wanted to make sure that I was good, and people liked it. I hoped that I could give a little bit of magic to the fans who came to see the show, the same magic I felt from Robin Williams when I was 17. 

What was it like for you when you first arrived in New York City? 
: I’m from Hayward, California, near San Francisco. When I first got to New York, the first thing that went through my mind was, “I don’t like snow.” But I said, “You know what? I love Broadway more.” Because I love Broadway, I can get through the winter. And this was one of the hardest winters ever. 

When I first came to New York, I just stood in Times Square and thought, “This is great.” I still love being part of this community, and being able to walk around Times Square and say, "Wow, this is still amazing to me.”

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in April 2019.  

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