Meet Andrew Chappelle, Broadway Actor
If you follow Ouidad on Instagram, you might recognize Andrew Chappelle from his hilarious Stories takeover from backstage at the monster Broadway hit Hamilton. As a member of the show’s original cast, the NYC-based actor has made a name for himself on the stage (previous roles in Mamma Mia! and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert round out his résumé). We spoke to Chappelle to find out what it’s like to have a dream job like his, and the secret to his amazing curly hair.
You have a really unique role at Hamilton where you play multiple characters, can you tell us about that?
I am what’s called a principal standby. So my job is to essentially show up to the theater whether they need me or not, and if they do need me, I am ready to perform at any moment the roles of Hercules Mulligan/James Madison, Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and King George III.
Is it hard to remember all those parts?
It was a gradual experience for me, because I had the extreme fortune of joining Hamilton when it was in its off-Broadway run, when they started rehearsals for the Public Theater. So I was able to watch the people who originated the parts learn the parts, and I was also learning the parts. Every day I would go to rehearsal, and I would sit and be a sponge – I would listen to everything that was said, I would watch everything that was there to watch, and every day on the subway I would listen to the vocal parts, and then I would come in the next day and repeat. Over time all the information gets in your head, and now each of these parts is like a second skin to me.
How did being a part of the show change your life?
It opened my mind, it opened my heart. I’ve met some lifelong friends doing the show. It’s like, one person can make an impact on your life, and then you meet 15 impactful people, your life changes exponentially even more. And so that was what Hamilton was for me and continues to be for me.
How did you and the rest of the cast feel when you saw the show becoming so successful?
I knew the moment I heard the demos on my phone, that it was going to be a success. But I did not know the magnitude. I didn’t even know it was going to be on Broadway, I just thought it was going to be something that people were talking about in New York. You never know – there are so many shows that are fantastic and people don’t know about them. And the thing I think that is really special and amazing about Hamilton is that it’s an extraordinary piece of art and people have realized it while it is around for them to go and see it. I think that’s very rare.
Can you reveal anything surprising that goes on backstage?
I think something that’s very unique to Hamilton is that a lot of our men wear wigs, because a lot of them are bald-headed [offstage]. The wigs are fantastic in our show, especially for the guys. Some of these wigs are like cornrows and all different types of hairstyles. I wear my natural hair in the show, though.
How would you describe your curls?
Tight but not afraid to have a good time. [laughs]
What does your haircare routine look like? Do you do your own hair before shows?
Yes, I do my own hair. When I’m on for Lafayette/Jefferson, my hair’s back in a little knob. And when I’m on for Jefferson, it’s wild. I rely on bobby pins and my blow dryer and my Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel. I prep my hair in the morning – I take my shower and I use the Advanced Climate Control shampoo and conditioner, and then I put in the gel in if I need to, and I go about my day and let it air dry. And by the time I go to the show, it’s ready to style however it needs to be styled.
Do you have any advice for someone who’s looking to get into an acting career or end up on Broadway?
I always think about that moment right before Hamilton [when I hadn’t booked work for 9 months]. What if I had decided that my last audition was the one before Hamilton and I hadn’t auditioned? So that’s what I always tell people – just stay in it. Keep going – and this could apply to any profession. You just persevere and keep your eyes on the prize, and eventually, you see returns on your investment.
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