Brandon Victor Dixon, who currently plays Aaron Burr in Hamilton, was thrust into the spotlight after reading a statement to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence after a performance of the show on November 18.
Pence was booed as he entered the theater, due to his conservative record and anti-LGBT policies as governor of Indiana. Donald Trump has demanded an apology, but Dixon insisted that their post-show speech was not harassment.
Dixon has been performing in Hamilton since late August, taking over for Leslie Odom Jr., who originated the role of Burr in the show. While on CBS This Morning on November 21, Dixon said that he doesn’t think the Hamilton team needs to apologize for their actions.
Here is a look at the 35-year-old’s career and his thoughts on Mike Pence being at Hamilton.
1. Dixon Said the Cast Was Told Pence Was Attending Before the Show Started & Knew it was an Opportunity They Couldn’t Miss
After the show, Dixon did an interview with Broadway.com. He said that they knew Pence was coming before the show started and rushed to call show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and producer Jeffrey Seller.
“When we first got the call that he was coming, there was certainly a question of what we would do,” Dixon said. “These are the opportunities that you die for.”
Dixon said that he saw Pence enjoying the show and that he hopes he remembers what they said after the show.
“It was a message from the producers, the creative and the cast,” Dixon told Broadway.com. “If you have differences, say something! What better place than on this stage telling this story with these people? I hope he thinks of us every time he has to deal with an issue or talk about a bill or present anything.”
The speech was written by Miranda, Seller and director Thomas Kail, with input from the cast, The New York Times reported.
While on CBS This Morning, Dixon said there is nothing for the Hamilton team to apologize for.
“We are men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations, and the resonant nature of the show throughout the world, throughout the global community demands that we make statements when there are important issues, I think, facing us as a community,” Dixon said. “And so we wanted to stand up and spread a message of love and of unity considering all of the emotional outpouring since the election.”
Dixon explained that he didn’t know why Seller picked him to deliver the speech after the show.
“I think the most important thing, with respect to all of the emotions that everybody is feeling after this election, is to make sure that people recognize that we are not alone,” Dixon said. “We are here together and we need to listen to one another and speak with one another, and those of us who feel like maybe their voice has been marginalized, or might become marginalized, need to recognize there are allies all over the place.”
2. Dixon & the Rest of the ‘Hamilton’ Cast Held a Voter Registration Drive & They Performed on Election Day
The Hamilton team, especially Miranda, were very busy during the election season. Miranda endorsed Hillary Clinton and made jokes about Trump on Saturday Night Live. Dixon and other members of the cast even participated in a voter registration drive between shows on the Wednesday before election day.
Hamilton was performed on election night, while Trump was being declared the victor.
“The greatness of America is in its pursuit of greatness,” Dixon told the Hollywood Reporter before the Election Night performance. “And the moment we get complacent, and we decide we can’t be honest about the flaws in our education system or our health care system, or we can’t look at other systems around the world that have had greater success in certain areas than we have, the second we decide that American exceptionalism is the definition of patriotism, that’s the moment our republic fails and we begin to descend.”
Dixon continued, “We have to look honestly at ourselves and recognize the positives, the negatives and the challenges we can overcome. That’s what makes America great: not what is, but what’s possible.”
“There are millions of people who still believe in tolerance and equal rights and diversity and respect for everyone who lives in this country, no matter where you were born,” Miranda told People Magazine after the election.
3. Dixon Starred in the Original Broadway Production of ‘The Color Purple’ Musical & Starred in ‘Shuffle Along’ in 2016
Dixon is an experienced Broadway performer, having starred in the original Broadway production of The Color Purple musical as Harpo. That performance earned him a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. In 2003, Dixon played the adult Simba in the Lion King national tour.
Dixon also starred as Berry Gordy Jr. in Motown: The Musical in 2013. Earlier in 2016, he starred in Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All Tat Followed, which earned him another Tony nomination.
He has also worked as a producer, co-producing the 2014 productions of Of Mice and Men and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
“Shuffle is such an emotional show,” Dixon told Rolling Stone when asked to compare Shuffle Along to Hamilton. “That level of layering is expressive in such a powerful way. With Hamilton, I had really just met with the music team, getting the songs into my head, into my bones, but I’m looking forward to understanding the syntax there, the colors and the expression – the tools to illuminate the story. Now, in rehearsals, I realize how complicated of a show it is. It’s all about taking two steps to the left because someone’s leg is swinging through the air here.”
4. Dixon Said He First Auditioned for ‘Hamilton’ During the Initial Workshops, so He Could Hit the Ground Running
In an interview with Vulture, Dixon said he was familiar with the Hamilton material since he had auditioned for the early workshops when Miranda was first putting the musical together. He said that the producers called him and asked him if he was interested in the job.
At first, he was a bit cautious, but when Shuffle Along surprisingly closed, he accepted.
“They’ve known me for a long time, and I think there was an overall level of confidence in my abilities — and they know I can get in there in the amount of time they need,” Dixon explained. “I had to think about it, but once the situation at Shuffle became clear, it was a fairly immediate yes.”
Dixon said the most challenging part of the role is singing “Wait For It.”
“That’s my favorite, the one I listen to the most, but I also realized it’s lower than I thought. I’ve had to recalibrate how I approach it,” he said.
5. Dixon Doesn’t See Burr as the Villain or Asshole in ‘Hamilton’
Burr is the “damn fool who shot” Hamilton, so some might consider him the villain of the musical. In his Rolling Stone interview, Dixon said he doesn’t see the character that way.
I’ve never seen Burr as a villain or an asshole. He was beloved by many and extraordinarily charismatic. There’s just a difficulty in coming to terms with this someone else in your life. Burr is a lot like Hamilton, but there’s almost an envy to how Hamilton plays the game, his freedom.
Dixon is a native of Gaithersburg, Maryland and graduated from St. Albans School and Columbia University. He also went to the British American Drama Academy in 1999. He also has a group of nieces who were really excited to see their uncle in the musical.
“I have nieces — 11, 9 and 5 — in elementary school in Richmond. They have done most of the announcing. They are so excited,” he told Rolling Stone.