Interview: Hamilton National Tour Actor Austin Scott on His Journey to and Interpretation of Alexander Hamilton
Over the last year, actor Austin Scott has starred as Alexander Hamilton in one of the currently two (and soon to be three) national tours of Hamilton: An American Musical. Austin took on the intensive role, made famous by award-winning star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and made it his own and introduced the culture-defining show to new audiences in cities throughout the United States, alongside his equally talented cast mates. Having now played his last show as the celebrated and captivating American icon, Austin is moving on to new projects and new opportunities. In honor of his exceptional work in Hamilton, we’re sharing our sit down with him, recorded during his run with the show. Read on to learn about his experiences while on tour and his unique interpretation of #AScottHam.
How did you get your start in the arts and what inspired you to pursue theatre as a career?
I was always a ham growing up. When I was in elementary school, a traveling theater group came to our school and put on a short production of The Barber of Seville. They cast one student to play a funny character in the show. They actually came to each classroom and had auditions. I landed the coveted role of “Dr. Bartelow” and from that moment on I was hooked.
In college, what prepared you the most for a career in professional theatre?
My training is a little unorthodox. I actually never went to college for acting or any kind of performing. My training has come to me in the form of private coachings and hands on experience.
How did you find an agent/management team, and what is your relationship with them like?
I have had a few different agents and managers over the years. My current agent is bicoastal and I was repped by them when I lived in LA, so when I moved to New York, I signed with their East Coast branch and they introduced me to my current manager. I love my team.
Did you ever have any doubts or thoughts of giving up during your career?
Oh absolutely. I doubt you will find many entertainers who can honestly say they never thought about throwing in the towel. It is a very tough and cutthroat business. You have to go through so many no’s before you ever hear a yes. I had to develop some pretty thick skin.
How do you define collaboration?
Collaboration to me is the act of two or more creative forces combining their efforts to create something new that neither of them could have created alone.
If you had any choice in the world, who would you choose to be on your collaboration dream team (living or dead) and why? What kind of project would you work on?
Lin-Manuel Miranda of course, John Legend, Steven Spielberg, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Michael Jackson. We would change the world.
How did you become involved in the Hamilton national tour?
The creative team brought me in for a few work sessions last year. A few weeks later I got the call and the rest is history.
What were you most excited for when you started working on Hamilton? What were you the most nervous about?
I think I was most excited about bringing this show to the fans. Being a big fan of the show myself, I know how much it means to people and I was excited about getting to be a part of bringing that story to people.
I was probably most nervous about how I would be received though, since at the time I was in many ways different from the other actors who have played the role.
How do you distinguish your interpretation of Alexander Hamilton from all the other interpretations that have come before, especially in a show with such a passionate fan base?
I wouldn’t say that I have actively sought to do things differently than other people. In fact, I actually never saw Lin or many of my predecessors do the role, so I really don’t know how they played it. I have just always striven to bring myself to the character in every moment and to be as honest as possible. I feel that, in doing so, I have created a character that is unique to me.
How do you get ready for each show and how do you keep your stamina up for eight shows a week?
My warm up process is pretty extensive actually. I usually start with some sort of physical stretching and aerobic activity, usually yoga and swimming. Then I’ll steam my voice for a bit before warming up my voice in the shower. Then I usually bike over to the theater to warm my body up further. When I get to the theater, I do diction warm ups while I get dressed and then I usually meditate for the last 10 minutes or so before show time.
How would you describe a typical workday?
On a typical weekday where we only have one show a day, I usually spend the day checking things off of my to do list and exercising. Two days are pretty much entirely spent at the theater.
What has been the most unexpected thing you've learned as an artist from playing Hamilton?
Hmmm . . . that’s an interesting question. I think I just have a new found respect for artists who do 8 shows a week for a living. This is not an easy role and luckily I only have to do it 7 times a week (a “Lin-ism” that has stuck around) but I really have to be strict about my health and exercise to be able to pull it off week after week. It’s like being a professional athlete in many ways.
Have there been any differences in the reception of the production from city to city?
Oh absolutely. I feel that every city has embraced the show and been excited about it, but I’ve noticed a clear different in crowd response from city to city. Some places are much more vocal than others.
What's the most significant thing you've learned from working with the creators of Hamilton, particularly Lin-Manuel Miranda?
I’ve learned that they are people too. I know it sounds cliche but I was guilty of putting them up on a pretty high pedestal before I met them because they created such an impressive work of art. Once I met them and started working with them though, I realized that they were very chill and down to earth.
What has been your most memorable moment working on Hamilton?
My most memorable moment would still have to be my debut back in San Diego. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the feeling of walking out on stage and hearing the crowd go crazy. Then getting to meet the fans after the show and see how much they loved the show, I’ll never forget that first time.
What kinds of projects are you planning to or hoping to work on in the future?
You’ll just have to wait and see ;). I will say though that I would love to get more into TV and Film but I’ll definitely keep theater in the mix as well.
What is your dream role?
I’m not sure that I have one. Honestly, it was probably this, lol. But I’ve always wanted to play Simba in The Lion King, even if it was just for a month.
How do you define success as an artist?
For me, success as an artist means finding a way to sustainably produce a body of work that makes you feel creatively fulfilled. I don’t connect fame or any large amount of money with success. If you can create work that your proud of while also making any kind of living, that is success in my eyes.
Which artists (living or dead, and in any discipline) inspire you?
The list is a mile long. To name a few: Michael Jackson, John Legend, Viola Davis, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, and Meryl Streep.
What's the most difficult thing about being an artist? What's the most rewarding?
I think the most difficult thing about being an artist is learning how to separate your self-worth from your craft. As artists, we have to bear our souls to the world and if you’re not careful, your work and people’s opinions of it can seriously impact your mental well-being. But I believe that the feeling of getting to be so honest and to express yourself through your given medium is the greatest reward.
What's a piece of inspirational advice that you would give to other artists starting out in the business? What's a piece of practical advice that you would give?
My advice that I give every young actor I meet is to remember that what is for you is for you and what is not, is not. Never compare yourself to other actors in your field because everyone has a different trajectory and a different timeline. I will also say that, to be an artist, art should be in your blood to the point where you can’t imagine life without it. It is not an easy path, so make sure you choose it for the right reasons.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.