The gargantuan hit musical ‘Hamilton’ is finally landing in London, and people are very, very excited about it. Giles Terera is taking on the second biggest role in the musical, Alexander Hamilton’s mentor-turned-nemesis Aaron Burr. An accomplished actor, musician and filmmaker, Terera is the probably most experienced actor in the UK cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show, but he isn’t yet a household name. This could be his big shot.
When did you first hear about ‘Hamilton’?
‘I got a text one night from a friend who’d just seen it on Broadway. She said: “I’ve seen the most extraordinary show and you have to be in it.” The little I knew about it was that it was hip hop and rap and I thought: They might not want me, they might want somebody more hip-hoppy and rappy but I need to do this.
Did you see it on Broadway? What did you think?
‘Yes. I thought it was the greatest piece of theatre I have ever seen. Every aspect of it worked in complete harmony. I couldn’t really form what it was that I was feeling about it until a couple of days after I’d seen it. It was just beautiful.’
You’re playing Aaron Burr, who eventually kills Alexander Hamilton – but he’s not exactly a villain, is he?
‘History has portrayed him as the villain, the guy who murdered Alexander Hamilton, and I suppose what the show tries to do is address that. That’s what I liked about it: there’s a real person here who has real frailties and real insecurities. He’s faced with a series of situations where he has a choice to make, and it could have gone one way or it could have gone the other.’
It’s very much a show about America – is there a danger the Brits won’t connect with it?
‘No, I don’t think so. One, because it tells you everything you need to know about the time period, about the relationships between Britain and the colonies. And two, what Lin has done is focus on the human element of it: a man is driven to achieve something and at what cost does that achievement come?’
Does it function as a celebration of British diversity, even though you’re all doing US accents?
‘Artists of colour don’t, in my experience, get the opportunity to tell a story like “Hamilton” often. I think it’s such an important thing for people to look at that stage and see a very diverse group of people telling this story.’
Is it daunting to step into something so big? Your US predecessor Leslie Odom Jr won a Tony…
‘In one way yes. The “Hamilton” with a big “H”, which President Obama championed and which is a cultural phenomenon, is quite a daunting thing. I just focus on the play itself.’
‘Hamilton’ is in previews until December 20 and opens on December 21 at Victoria Palace Theatre.
Want to get your head around the story first? Read our complete guide to ‘Hamilton’ in London.