I was wondering when I saw “Hamilton” on TV this weekend. It was my second time seeing the original cast. The first was in February 2016, when I was alone in the Richard Rodgers Theater, banned and overwhelmed.
I looked back on old Facebook memories and apparently posted the following that day: “They asked Hamilton, ‘Why are you writing as if you’re running out of time?’ My answer during the pause of this show of America’s opportunity: Because we are. “
I noticed the few white faces on the stage and wondered if they might have any insight into what it’s like to live the revolution that was “Hamilton”, what that means now and if they could have advice on what it means to be an ally people with color.
So in the film version I turned to Thayne Jasperson, who plays Samuel Seabury – a British Crown loyalist and Alexander Hamilton’s rival. Jasperson is the only original actor still on the show, which, like all of Broadway, was closed in mid-March due to the corona virus.
I interviewed him by email and edited the interview for length and clarity.
Let us rewind how you ended up in the original cast of “Hamilton”. Did you know that this would be a hit and revolutionary for diversity in casting?
I had no idea what I was getting into when I auditioned and then came to “Hamilton”. I remember the first day and this beautiful new version of the founding fathers who were portrayed as people of color.
During the first lab on the ramp to Broadway, I knew it would have an impact on humanity. From there it only got better.
How many white actors were there in the original cast and in this film version?
There were two women on stage, me and the king.
Let us investigate whether we are the only one. Did you have this experience before “Hamilton”?
I don’t know that I can ever fully understand what it means to be a man of color, and I don’t try to pretend that my dealings with the needs of racism are comparable.
For me it was the “only” in situations growing up in Wyoming and being bullied for my interest in the arts and my softer nature. I had friends and an ex-girlfriend who called me “fagot”. Whether it was me or not, the emasculation took effect. I also grew up in a belief in which being a bisexual man was not easy.
I learn every day to embrace all aspects and to share my voice.
How often was the race openly discussed during the rehearsal at work? How did you get involved and what did you learn in this process?
The race was discussed regularly. I learned that I grew up more ignorant than I thought. I tried to tell, understand and develop an awareness of how I could be supportive. It is still a journey. I found my foot in my mouth several times as I continue to study.
In early 2014 we were in the rehearsal. We sat outside for a lunch break and the discussion about racism in its current state followed. I was amazed to hear how some of my friends, who are kind and loving people, spoke of several cases where they were profiled for the color of their skin while they were in mostly white areas, streets and neighborhoods.
With “Hamilton” I immersed myself in a whole new world of education: I learned what my fellow actors are going through as colored people.
What is the weight of being the only original actor who is still on the show?
I’m the last remaining original actor in “Hamilton” on Broadway. When I’m a pioneer on such an impressive show, I feel obliged to share ways, learn and find how we can bring light and awareness to the world in whatever way we can.
Did you read “White Fragility”? What reading or preparation did you do before or during this role?
I haven’t had the opportunity to read “White Fragility” specifically, but I’ve done a lot of research on my character Samuel Seabury. In addition, in the six years that I have lived and breathed the story of “Hamilton”, I have understood why it is so difficult for men and women who are white to speak about racism.
It is uncomfortable, yes. It can be uncomfortable and humble because we all have so much work to do to fill this gap.
As a white man, I believe that we can start to dispel racism by opening conversations in our own communities, small or large, even within our own four walls.
There is no effort that can be too big or too small for our brothers and sisters. I have as much room to grow in this aspect as in any other.
What is it like when the film version is currently released in America?
Isn’t that something nice ?! The fact that this show can be global and affect the human mind. Everyone connects to this show in a different way, ideally and leads us to the same goal.
Do you have any thoughts about playing King George III on the show and casting him as white?
For me, playing King George is an opportunity to portray a man plagued by dementia, control, and selfish ideals. Opposition to … what we as Americans fight for: our freedom, for one and for EVERYONE. Together.
What would you say to white people who fear losing their power or fame in the midst of the Black Lives Matter?
Don’t talk about the existence of racism or have no knowledge of it – The slows down the progress of equality.
James Baldwin said: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”
That depth to Baldwin’s statement. Now is a wonderful time to solve the traps and expand our minds to a brighter world.