From the Barricades to Yorktown: A Chat with Hamilton's Kyle Scatliffe

Kevin Ray Johnson

Kyle Scatliffe is currently starring in the second National Tour of Hamilton, playing the roles of Marquis de Lafayette/ Thomas Jefferson which recently began performances in Seattle at The Paramount Theatre. Mr. Scatliffe is known for playing Enjolras in the 2014 Broadway revival of Les Miserables, and Harpo in the 2015 Broadway Revival of The Color Purple.  He also has performed on the West End in The Scottsboro Boys playing the role of Haywood Patterson which earned him an Olivier Award Nomination for “Best Actor in a Musical”.

I had a chance to chat with Kyle about his journey as an actor. But first, I had to ask him what went through his mind when he got the call that he was cast in Hamilton. 

“Excuse me. *clear throat* AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”  

So far his experience has been something he will never forget.

“Amazing. It’s the hardest show I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the most rewarding shows I’ve ever done. I don’t think I will ever get used to hearing 3000 people cheer for “Immigrants, We get the job done”, he said. 

 Kyle Scatliffe as Enjolras and the cast of Les Miserables / Michael Le Poer Trench

Kyle Scatliffe as Enjolras and the cast of Les Miserables / Michael Le Poer Trench

I had the privilege to work with Kyle last year in an industry reading of my play Reginald (formerly Reginald: From Baltimore to Billionaire). It left me really curious about his approach when taking on a non- fictional character compared to fictional characters and if there is a difference.

“Not really.", he said. "They are all people regardless of if they were made up in a book or actually walked the earth. They all had desires, wants, and needs. It only changes for me if there is no source material for a character. Then I have to make up all of those things myself”.

As an actor and writer of color, I am very excited to see where our industry is headed when it comes to more opportunities for ethnic performers and women, Kyle agrees. When I asked if he thought better opportunities are getting better for people of color he stated,

“Absolutely. I also feel a bit lucky because I have had the privilege to work on Broadway and the West End when these theatrical revolutions were happening. Especially something like Hamilton that is a major storytelling vehicle for everyone on stage. We are in the midst of a theatre revolution. Hamilton is incredible but I can’t wait to see what gets made because they were inspired by this show.”

Kyle Scatliffe has had a great career from West End to Broadway and now touring with Hamilton, playing wonderful roles throughout. I was curious if a certain experience stuck out and/or was near and dear to his heart. “Haywood Patterson in Scottsboro Boys will always be near and dear to my heart", he remembers. "It was my first big leading role professionally and I got to work with Colman Domingo, Forrest McClendon, and Susan Stroman. I learned a ton from the three of them. It was also impactful because the cast was an all-black cast except for the interlocutor. So there was a lot to learn not only about theatre but being a black man in this world.”

 Danielle Brooks and Kyle Scatliffe in The Color Purple / Matthew Murphy

Danielle Brooks and Kyle Scatliffe in The Color Purple / Matthew Murphy

I currently serve as the Creative Artistic Advisor at Rise Above Performing Arts in Florida where I have the honor and privilege of working with a lot of young talented performers. I asked Kyle what advice he would give to any young performer.

“Let your own personal light shine. That’s why they cast you. They don’t cast you because you can imitate Brian Stokes Mitchell(Laughs). They want to see you when you walk in the room. They want to see you when you perform. We are all the characters we play. Even if it’s a very small part of us. I just take that part and magnify it. Or as Spinal Tap said, “This one goes to 11”.

The second tour of Hamilton recently kicked off in Seattle at The Paramount Theatre, playing now until March 18th. To learn more about Hamilton and to see when the show is coming to a city near you please visit – www.hamiltonmusical.com