Q&A: Westchester Native Lands Broadway Debut in 'Hamilton'
The curtain call is nowhere in sight for Anthony Medina's acting career
Photo by Joan Marcus
Medina on The Red Carpet for the premiere of Flesh and Bone on STARZ
A cracked phone screen, with its jagged, glass fissures bolting outward like lightening, is a devastating experience. At most, it’s a soul-crushing affirmation of life gone awry. At the very least, it's an indication that it’s time for a new phone.
For Westchester native Anthony Lee Medina, his cracked screen was an after thought, quickly overshadowed by the nature of the phone call that caused it: an invitation to join the Broadway cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical Hamilton. Medina’s casting for the role of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, his Broadway debut, was announced earlier this December, but has been a long time coming.
A graduate of Walter Panas High School’s Panas Players and a Westchester Broadway Theatre alum, Medina has been neck deep in the acting world since playing Ren McCormack in a Panas production of Footloose. He’s had experience with Miranda’s work as Usnavi in an off-Broadway production of In the Heights, toured nationally as Otto in Spring Awakening, and more recently has taken on television roles in the 2015 mini-series Flesh and Bones, as well as the HBO web-comedy High Maintenance.
Naturally, we had to get Medina on the phone to discuss his excitement about accepting one of the top jobs on Broadway, and his experiences on the way there.
You’re taking on the role in March?
I have a tentative date of March 7, but that will change depending on a lot of things that I don’t know yet. I’m contracted for a year.
What are your thoughts and expectations about the roles you are being cast for?
I have been auditioning for this role for a really long time. I started auditioning when it was off-Broadway about two years ago. I didn’t really know what it was at first — I was auditioning for what was at the time The Hamilton Mixtape, which I just thought was a hip hop show.
As far as expectations go, I just want to do my job to the best of my ability and make sure everyone walks out with thoughts on what this experience was, something that makes you think. I want you to have an opinion, no matter whether it be a bad opinion or a good opinion. That’s all I strive for.
What went through your head when you heard about getting the role?
I freaked out. I dropped my phone. My phone cracked. I was like a crazy person, jumping up and down. I didn’t know what to say or what questions I should've asked at that point. I’m just like screaming. It was amazing. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, ever.
Is there anything you’re excited to see behind the scenes?
I first saw the show with the idea that, here was a part for me, but then as soon as it started — I’m not going to lie — I started crying. Then three hours later the show was ending and I was still crying.
I don’t remember what I saw or what any of it was. But I’ll see it a lot in February; I’ll see it every night. I have no idea what to expect.
How are you going to turn down everyone asking for tickets?
Look, if I could get a ticket for every single person I’ve ever met in my life, I would. I think people will understand. It’s friends and family first, because I’ve had a really great support system for a very long time and they deserve to see the fruits of their labor.
Have you thought about doing film?
I would love to, that’s always kind of been a part of my goals. T.V., film, and theater are three different beasts and I want to accomplish them all.
What kind of movie?
I’d probably be in a drama most likely. If I had my actual choice — on Twitter there was this hashtag “We need a Latin-American superhero” — I’d love to be that superhero.
Medina as Usnavi in "In The Heights" at Theater Under the Stars, Houston
Is there anyone from Panas Players or Westchester Broadway Theater you are thankful for having had the chance to work with?
Everybody was pretty incredible and supportive. If there’s someone I can always go back to and say was just the most supportive, it was Ms. [Annette] Vacarro. She’s the choir teacher at Panas.
She came into class everyday at the crack of dawn and was completely on, ready to do her work, ready to inspire all of us. And there were definitely days that we needed to be inspired. She just always supported me and was excited by my excitement, which is very hard to find.
Any fond memories of Panas Players?
Our cast parties were pretty outrageous. We had a lot of fun. When you’re working towards something for four or five months, and then you get to celebrate with everyone for the first time, our parties were like ... the SNL Crucible Cast Party that Lin Manuel did, it was literally that.
Can you compare your dreams back then to reality now?
I didn’t realize how big I was allowed to dream. When I left Panas I actually didn’t even know what I was going to be doing. I didn’t really understand the business, which I think was a gift. I never walked into something thinking it was too huge or too small and didn’t matter. Everything felt big.
I genuinely thought that I would just eventually get a contract at Westchester Broadway Theatre and work there as an actor regularly. I didn’t think that I would end up on tour with the musical. I didn’t think T.V. and film were ever going to be in my sights. And now everything is so much bigger. I can’t even fathom how I would have thought at 18 that this is where I was going to be.
Any words of encouragement for aspiring artists?
Be as persistent as you possibly can, and don’t compare yourself to anyone. There’s so many times when I’ve been in finals for something or not even gotten the audition, and it sucks. The business you are working towards is a continuous series of “nos.” And being told no everyday is really hard on your soul. If you keep pushing forward, it pays off. I’m living proof.
I was on tour with Spring Awakening, and one by one everyone I worked with went on to better roles. I had to remind myself that we are all completely different people with different journeys, and I didn’t know what that meant for me. But now, I’m here doing what I’m about to do, and it’s the biggest thing ever. If I continued to compare myself to them I would never be where I am. I’m so happy I didn’t.