‘Hamilton’ actor sings words of advice to students

Miguel Cervantes, actor in Hamilton: An American Musical, speaks at the Alumni Center on Oct. 2 about his experience being a part of the cast of Hamilton and the importance of having a cast that reflects the diversity of America. (Photo by Regan Tokos | Collegian Media Group)

Miguel Cervantes, the actor who plays Alexander Hamilton in the Chicago production of the musical “Hamilton,” spoke and sang to about 300 students on Monday in the Kansas State Alumni Center’s ballroom.

Cervantes grew up in Dallas and is a descendant of Mexican immigrants. He said he was always interested in acting and theater.

“I was always the kid who came up to the front of the class and wanted to do the poem or song, the first one to put my hand up,” Cervantes said. “I realized there was something I was passionate about. Soccer practices and baseball practices kind of took a back seat, and theater became a thing that I did.”

After graduating from Emerson College in Boston with a degree in musical theater, Cervantes lived in New York City. He described his first out-of-college experience as “crashing and burning” and that he had “more arrogance than confidence.”

Megan Fish, junior in public relations, said a takeaway for her was that one’s life may not necessarily turn out how they had planned.

“It’s okay to fail right out of college because that’s what he did, and now he’s insanely successful,” Fish said.

Cervantes compared life to “Hamilton” by saying the set looked like a construction site and thinking about what the end result will look like.

“Finally, it’s finished and you have the finished product and you back out and it’s the first step of a gigantic building,” Cervantes said. “What an amazing image for life, for everything we do.”

Before joining the production of “Hamilton,” Cervantes said he was unsure where his life was headed and what the next thing was for him. He was at a point in his life at 38 years old when he thought about this was his ‘when’ moment, or when he would find the next thing.

“Unless ‘Hamilton,’ Lin-Manuel Miranda, calls, then I won’t go,” Cervantes jokingly said. “Unless ‘Hamilton’ comes calling, I will probably think about transitioning.”

After several auditions and callbacks, Cervantes was cast first as the alternate Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway production and then as the Hamilton lead for the Chicago production.

During the audition process, he said he went through multiple emotional events, including his daughter’s birth and her epilepsy diagnosis.

Cervantes has used his platform of “Hamilton” to spread awareness of the disease. Because of his daughter Adelaide, Cervantes said he was able to have more of the musical experience rather than less.

“I realized that ‘Hamilton’ took on a deeper meaning,” Cervantes said. “I can stand up in front of people and give a voice to epilepsy.”

Social justice is a theme of Miranda’s musical, and actors are cast based on ability rather than race.

“Our perception of what America is and what it should be and can be, should be shaken so that all of these norms are erased,” Cervantes said. “If it’s not there, make it. Create your own ‘Hamilton.’”

Some of the students in the audience had seen the musical, and more were fans of the music and movement it was creating.

Michael Duncan, sophomore in theatre, was chosen by Cervantes to sing one of the “Hamilton” songs on stage with him in front of the audience. The pair sang “The Schuyler Sisters” from the musical.

“It was very fun to go up and sing with him,” Duncan said. “When my part came along, I was a little shaky to be honest, but it was easy to perform with him. It was nerve-wracking but totes worth it.”

The Office of Diversity, the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, K-State Libraries, the Student Governing Association, the Office of the Provost and K-State Theatre in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance sponsored the lecture.