‘Hamilton’ star Javier Muñoz speaks on activism, acting during pandemic

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Photo Courtesy of Drake Lambright

Muñoz speaking with SLLB Chair Drake Lambright. Muñoz virtually visited campus on Wednesday, March 10 to speak on his personal journey, dealing with COVID-19 as an actor and his activism in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Cayla Smith, Campus Editor

In honor of Pride month, Student Life Lecture Board virtually invited “Hamilton” star and LGBTQIA+ rights activist Javier Muñoz to speak on Wednesday, March 10, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

Being a New York City native, Muñoz didn’t leave when the pandemic hit — he wanted to help in any way that he could, so he founded the “Broadway Relief Project” to raise money for the “Actor’s Fund” and “Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.”

It had only been a week after Broadway shutdown when Muñoz realized that there were artists all over the city, so he got to work. The project created two million medical gowns for New York public hospitals and raised $30,000 from the project alone.

The project not only gave stitchers employment, but it also gave hope and provided PPE for frontline workers.

“The fact that it was received, and it was successful. It was the best news in the world to hear that we were bouncing back as a city and getting it under control,” Muñoz said.

Besides the creation of a foundation, amid a pandemic, Muñoz also experienced a personal setback because he wasn’t creating.

“My activism and art are the same. I can’t separate them and I don’t. For weeks I didn’t know what to do — I wasn’t hopeful that we were going to come back as an industry after conversations with people on the frontlines,” Muñoz.

The pandemic got to the point where it began to pivot with figuring out new ways to film and create amid COVID-19. But not everyone could get up and get back to set, even with precautions and bubbles in place.

Muñoz is one of them with his compromised immune system, so he couldn’t take the chance like other actors.

“I couldn’t go take a test and take a chance on set with folks,” Muñoz said. “I’m so glad other people can do that, but I can’t do that.”

Muñoz is a cancer survivor and has lived with HIV since 2002. He is a Global Ambassador for (RED), which fights to end HIV/AIDS, and stresses the need to continue talking about these things because it erases the stigma around HIV/AIDS.

This led to the creative compromise of the short-film he created with GQ during lockdown.

“They [GQ] sent me all of this equipment, and via Zoom we shot a mini movie that was 3-4 minutes,” Muñoz said. “I was an actor, lighting, costume, set design and they were on zoom directing me on where to put the camera, where to light, what to add to the set, what to take away, if I could rig something to make it look like a table but it wasn’t.”

Even with his success that came from being in the theater performing in shows like “Hamilton,” and “In the Heights,” Muñoz didn’t initially see himself pursuing it professionally. He actually wanted to be an astrophysicist until he stumbled into the theater to meet up with friends one day in high school.

When the world shifts back into the world we all knew pre COVID-19, he hopes that the industry embraces balance.

“Yes, I want to work, and I want those opportunities — but yes, I come first, too,” Muñoz said.