The New ‘Hamilton’ Star Is a Gay, HIV-Positive, Cancer-Surviving Hero

Javier Muñoz has been through a lot, so we reckon he can handle Broadway just fine


July 12, 2016 :: 3:40 AM

This week Javier Muñoz has stepped into the shoes of Lin-Manuel Miranda, taking over the title role in Hamilton, one of the biggest Broadway shows in years. That must be a scary prospect, but somehow we think Muñoz can handle it.

The 40-year-old actor isn’t new to the show, or the part. He’s been Miranda’s alternate for the past year, playing the role once a week, and watching almost every show from offstage. He’s even already earned a reputation for being the “sexy” Hamilton for the swagger he brings to the part, and has performed it for both Beyoncé and President Obama.

But more than that, he’s faced down some pretty tough stuff in his personal life. He’s openly gay, HIV-positive, and a recent cancer survivor — which took him off Hamilton for a few weeks last year while he underwent surgery and radiation treatment. “I had my first follow-up in March, and all green lights,” he told The New York Times in a new interview. “I’m good.”

“I have been living with H.I.V. since 2002, and I’m undetectable,” he explained. “I’m healthy, I’m strong and I’m very out about that because of the stigma still attached to it. But I’ve had a healthy fear about my health since I tested positive, and I asked how to test myself for lumps, because both my parents had cancer. And very early on in my learning how to do a self-examination, I found the lump. I wasn’t immediately worried because of where it was — and I do want to keep that private because that’s the only thing that’s mine in this.”

“I have this joke — if it’s funny or not funny, I don’t know — but the joke is that I have died several times already, and that’s how it feels. My life completely and drastically changed in 2002 when I was diagnosed with HIV, and then again last year with cancer. And you can’t unknow what you know. Life is not the same after that. But I’m alive, and I’m for all intents and purposes healthy and well. And I’m grateful for that.”

Muñoz took over the show yesterday, and will do seven performances a week, as Miranda did, leaving the eighth for his own alternate. For that show, “someone else gets to be sexy — I’m going to go eat pizza.”

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