Book Review | Hamilton and Me

Olivier Winner Giles Terera to Publish Hamilton and Me: An Actor's Journal  in 2021 | Playbill

by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Audience members don’t always appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a West End or Broadway performance. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work. The months spent learning lines, choreography and music, lengthy rehearsals, techs and previews are only a small part of it.

Actors ask themselves many questions during this process: How does one interpret a character? And, how do you make your interpretation unique? Why does the character says a line, how do they say it, and what are they doing when they say it? And, what are they thinking? In Hamilton and Me, Giles Terera shares his personal story and relationship with Hamilton and his character, Aaron Burr. It covers how he auditioned for the role of ‘the villain’ and the journey he went on in order to understand and embody him on stage.

Hamilton in the US is one thing, but to a British audience it’s very different. We haven’t grown up learning the history of the Founding Fathers. Many of us only know who Alexander Hamilton is because of this musical. The pressure for the West End cast to learn this history was immense.

I was there on opening night. I hadn’t listened to the soundtrack, and I was skeptical of the whole thing. And yet, the minute the show started with Terera asking ‘How..?’, I was blown away. Terera is a truly wonderful performer, but in this book we really see him as an actor, son and friend. He shares his methodical and detailed approach to becoming Burr, along with the excitement, the fear and the frustration. It’s a rare insight behind the scenes, and it’s fascinating.

Compiled from notes he kept throughout his time with Hamilton, from the audition to afterwards, his journal is raw and refreshing. The mask is off and we see the true meaning of a professional performer. The book is well-written, relatable and engaging, with plenty of photographs to help visualise the whole experience. If you’re a fan of Hamilton, an aspiring actor, or just a lover of history, this book will inspire you to take a look at those characters and performers you admire and see them in a different way. 

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