The actor, who became the first Asian-American to play the title role, sings out loud on the support he gets from the diverse “Ham fam”
“Since going on as Hamilton, I’ve received many kind, uplifting messages from all over the world,” Marc delaCruz says about that momentous night in January when he heard that he was to play the title character in the hit Broadway musical.
Born in Hawaii and of mixed heritage (his dad, Roy, is Filipino, while his mom, Rochelle, is part Japanese), Marc is the first Asian-American actor to play Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed musical, which won a Pulitzer Prize and a staggering 11 Tony Awards. Cast in November last year, Marc debuted as an ensemble member in December — so to be offered a chance to take on the lead role on January 19 was a huge honor.
These days, Marc continues to relish performing night after night at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (hamiltonmusical.com/new-york), as part of the ensemble and as an understudy for Alexander Hamilton, Philip Hamilton, John Laurens and King George III. “It has been an unforgettable journey,” he says.
Many years from now, what will you remember about playing Alexander Hamilton on the night of January 19?
MARC: I will never forget the way the cast, crew — everybody in the building — rallied around me and lifted me up to give me the energy, focus and confidence I needed to perform that night. From the moment everyone gathered
with me right before curtain time, I felt so supported and energized. The love, care and spirit they shared with me was electric
When you were first told that you’ll have a crack at the role, what thoughts came to your mind?
One of my first thoughts was, “OK, what do I need to do to be ready because this is definitely happening!”
I knew that performing Alexander Hamilton would happen at some point, but I was trying to focus on one thing at a time. I also knew that, as an understudy, it would be my job to be ready to go on as Hamilton at any time, even at a moment’s notice. When I was told that I had a date for going on, it all became very real! I felt nervous,
You made history as the first Asian-American actor to play Alexander Hamilton on Broadway. What are your thoughts on this honor?
MARC: As an Asian-American actor, I’m aware that any chance I have to step onto a stage is an opportunity to represent my communities. It is an honor I take very seriously. What is most meaningful to me is when people, especially young people, say that seeing me on stage helps them feel included and seen, and gives them courage to pursue their dreams. I can’t describe how it touches me to hear someone
This is why I do what I do. I know how happy and proud I feel when I see Asian performers on stage and screen. Growing up, I was aware that my ethnicity wasn’t well represented in entertainment and the media. We’ve come a long way since then. Yet, when an Asian actor plays a lead role, especially a leading man, it’s noteworthy, which indicates we still have a ways to go. The hashtag #representationmatters is used on social media to celebrate instances of minorities being represented in the arts and media, so there’s a vibrant and spirited discussion about representation, which is so exciting.
It is a huge honor to be the first Asian-American actor to play A Ham on Broadway, although I’m not the first Asian-American to play the role. Jin Ha did it in Chicago and Joseph Morales is currently playing Hamilton on the Philip Tour. There are Asian-Americans representing in every Hamilton company, including here on Broadway — we have Eddy Lee, Karla Garcia and Christina Glur. Also, our guitarist, Robin Macatangay, is Pinoy! What Hamilton has done for performers of color is monumental. It has given us opportunities to be seen as central characters in a story — leading men and women and complex characters with full arcs — rather than two-dimensional stereotypes. This is one of the gifts of the show.
But I also love it when people see the show and remark on the beauty of the multi-ethnic cast and then say that as the show goes on, they become less focused on people’s races because they’re so invested in the characters and story. This is part of the power and magic of Hamilton. It both celebrates and transcends diversity and difference.
What tips and advice would you give to young people who are aspiring to make it as actors, especially in theater?
MARC: Be kind always. Acting, especially in theater, is a collaborative art form, so it’s important to have good, trusting, respectful relationships with the people you are working with. This doesn’t just include other actors or your director, but everyone you come in contact with the moment you enter the building — crew members, dressers, ushers, stage managers. Everyone has a role to play to make this art happen. Show up early and be dependable. Being an actor is certainly about skill and talent, but it’s also about being a good worker — the kinds of things that take no talent, just dedication. I would also say that the learning process never ends, so embrace the fact that there is always something more to learn and [somewhere] deeper that you can go. Continue to train, take classes, work with coaches and be around other actors and artists.
Take in other art forms — visual art, dance, different kinds of music, literature — to enhance your work as an actor. Also, believe in yourself. It might sound like a cliché, but it is so true. Nobody will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.
What are the theater roles that you are dreaming of playing?
MARC: Hamlet; Jesus or Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar; and Bobby in Company.
This article first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Smile magazine.