Javier Muñoz knew he had big shoes to fill when he replaced creator-star Lin-Manuel Miranda on July 11 in the title role of Broadway’s unprecedented smash, “Hamilton.”
For now, Muñoz is taking his new gig in stride. The 40-year-old actor, who had been stepping in for Miranda once a week since the show began its run last year, is opening up more personal challenges. In a candid interview with The New York Times, Muñoz, who is openly gay, spoke about being both HIV-positive and a cancer survivor.
“I have been living with HIV since 2002, and I’m undetectable,” Muñoz, who also served as Miranda’s alternate in the musical, “In The Heights,” said. “I’m healthy, I’m strong and I’m very out about that because of the stigma still attached to it.”
Many diehard “Hamilton” fans will recall Muñoz’s diagnosis with cancer in October 2015. The actor, who missed weeks of performances to undergo radiation treatment, has never divulged what type of cancer he battled. Still, he told the Times that he’s had “a healthy fear about [his] health” ever since he tested positive for HIV and, having taught himself how conduct a self-examination, was able to detect the lump early.
“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,” he said. “But I brought it up to my doc, and that’s what led to further testing and discovery.”
Muñoz, whom New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley once dubbed the “sexy” Hamilton, initially didn’t want to tell any of his cast mates about his cancer battle. Eventually, he said he “had to own that I needed help, and I had to ask for help, and that was the hardest thing in the world.”
He said he’s received “all green lights” from his doctors in regard to his “Hamilton” run since then. His viral load is undetectable and his cancer screenings have come back negative.
“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,” he said. “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.”
These days, he’s just happy to be alive and, “for all intents and purposes healthy and well.”
“I’m grateful for that,” he said.