Disney recently announced that on July 3, it will stream via Disney+ a filmed version of the Hamilton stage production. The movie will feature the original Broadway cast and has been highly anticipated since Disney won the rights to the show to the tune of $75 million. The movie was originally slated to release next fall, but thanks to current events, its release date moved up 15 months. “In this very difficult time, this story of leadership, tenacity, hope, love, & the power of people to unite against adversity is both relevant and inspiring,” tweeted Disney executive chairman Robert Iger. To hear more about these story elements, Casting Networks spoke with actor Bryson Bruce, whose credits include the 20th-anniversary tour of Rent as well as the Angelica tour of Hamilton. Before COVID-19 shut down performances of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking show, Bruce was performing as both Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the production’s first national tour. Keep reading for the actor’s firsthand perspective on the timeless takeaways from the story of Hamilton that can be applied to the challenges we’re currently facing.
1. Take care of yourself.
A lot of people are having a hard time right now. There’s a lot of fear about the unknown looming. Will jobs come back? Will they be the same as we left them? And then there’s this aspect of the “eye of the hurricane.” Even though the whole world’s in turmoil and everything’s swirling around, it also feels like things are slowing down. When you look out your window, you see less people on the sidewalks and fewer cars in the streets. There aren’t as many horns to be heard. It makes for a sense of stillness, but there’s also a feeling of dread for what’s to come. So I try to center myself in the quiet and take a second to just breathe. I guess that’s what the song “Take a Break” is all about. The character of Hamilton is always busy pushing forward, and he doesn’t take the advice to rest, which leads to trouble. We need to take a break every once in a while, and the whole world is getting that opportunity right now, whether people want it or not. But there’s both beauty and a gift to be found in that rest and restoration.
2. Help others.
You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others, which is why self-care is so important right now. It’s that whole idea of putting on your own oxygen mask on an airplane before helping someone with theirs. So once you’re in a good place with everything going on right now, then you can pour into others. Lafayette models that well because he went to America to help its people during their trying times. The character is a spitfire who is just full of tenacity and ends up being an incredibly electric addition to their military. His example can inspire people to help others during this time, even if it starts with just calling someone to see what they need. And if you’re not to that place yet because you’re still feeling low, someone else can come in to lift you up and be your Lafayette.
3. Live with passion.
Jefferson is very big and energetic, and when he enters a room, it feels like he was absolutely meant to be there. There’s a sense of confidence in Jefferson that I feel people might be lacking right now in the midst of all the unknowns. Jefferson’s bravado, for example, is the same energy that I take with me when I go on walks. They may be few and far between during this time of quarantine, but when I do go on a walk, I try to insert a little Jeffersonian hop into my step. I take in the fact that the sun is still out, and the birds are still tweeting. There may be a lot going on with the world, but I’m still on that walk. Through that dichotomy, you can continue living with passion during these dark times, and you can also discover new passions. It isn’t featured in the show, but Jefferson was an inventor. He was always a tinkerer, trying to figure out how things worked and exploring new areas. That side of him inspires me to learn new skills in this time of stillness. And I believe they’ll help me come out of this stronger and better than I was before it started.
4. Have hope.
The story of Hamilton is one of hope. During times like these, we don’t know what’s coming down the line, and the same was true for the characters in Hamilton. At the start of the show, everything’s up in the air about whether or not America will pull through its trying times. But the characters persevere and keep fighting, which has been a source of inspiration for me. As an actor, my job involves a crowd gathering to watch my performance, which isn’t a safe thing for people to do right now. Having to deal with that fact and not being able to perform on stage has been hard. But I believe that we’re going to find a way to eventually come back to some new sense of normalcy. And I’m excited for that day.
Bruce said in his interview that his hope for the future of the entertainment industry was reinforced when he had the opportunity to speak with producer Jeffrey Seller and other creatives behind Hamilton. “They believe there will be a time when we can come back from this because stories have always been told,” Bruce shared. And though the way in which we tell stories may look a little different right now, not even a pandemic can quench them. The early release of the Hamilton movie, for example, allows people who may not have otherwise had access to the show to view it and take in all its inspiring messages. So whether you’re anticipating its arrival next month because you’re already a fan of the production or because you’re eagerly awaiting your first viewing of it, you can keep in mind Bruce’s takeaways from the show. They’ll help you through these challenging times, and you can watch them come to life from the comfort of your own home when Hamilton drops on Disney+ on July 3.
This interview has been edited and condensed.