‘Hamilton’ star Pierre Jean Gonzalez on living his truth

"I’m so grateful to live in a time where people are respecting me for who I am and my truth."

Pierre Jean Gonzalez. Photo by Ambe J. Photography

The first thing Pierre Jean Gonzalez is going to do when he arrives in Pittsburgh is run. Getting lost is his favorite way to immerse himself in a new city. Pittsburgh will be his eighth city since August touring the country as the titular role in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s mega-smash hit-musical phenomenon Hamilton.

“The idea of playing Hamilton was never something I thought would come my way. Every day, I’m grateful to be in this position. To be a gay, Latinx man of color and to be able to do this show and be seen as who I am and to represent that… I think that’s a really powerful thing.” This realization tends to hit Gonzalez as he finishes an action-packed act one showstopper, “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”.

It’s also a full-circle moment for Gonzalez, as he was slated to take the reins of Alexander Hamilton just as the shutdown began.

Though there can be an immense pressure with taking the stage as Hamilton, it has given Gonzalez a deeper sense of confidence. “I’m a proud LGBT activist, and I want everyone to know that I am an openly gay man with my fiancé. I am a leading man, I am strong and I am powerful. I am also sensitive and soft and hard. I’m so grateful to live in a time where people are respecting me for who I am and my truth.”

Authentic representation is at the core of Gonzalez’s specific take on the iconic role and within his personal creative pursuits. He describes Hamilton as his own personal Shakespeare–not only in terms of the text’s specific sense of metronome, pace, and rhythm, but also its immersion in the complex beauty of hip hop he grew up on in the Bronx. “Hamilton’s so special and so precious to me now, because it really connects to who I am. I am hip hop, I am that New York hustle. And that’s who Hamilton is.”

Though the love, energy, and excitement of the crowd are electrifying, it doesn’t mean touring is a breeze. Gonzalez has learned the importance of balance, which feels most apparent when–after taking his bows to standing ovations–he heads back to his hotel and spends his nights alone without his friends, family, and his fiancé, Cedric Leiba Jr.

Gonzalez is in full swoon mode as he recounts their love story. Leiba Jr. happened to be performing in Carmen La Cubana in Paris with a close friend of Gonzalez’s. He peeped Cedric in some photos his friend posted on social media and instantly reached out to get the details. This introduction turned into a poking battle on Facebook between Pierre and Cedric, which became video chats and, before Gonzalez knew it, love. And now here they are six years later. They made a pact to see each other every three weeks during the tour and even got to celebrate Valentine’s Day together

Leiba Jr. and Gonzalez are not only partners romantically but in business as well. At the start of the pandemic, the two wrestled with questions like “What is my legacy?,” a theme similar to that explored in Hamilton.

Spurred by the theater industry collapsing, they co-founded DominiRican Productions aiming to see People of Color on both sides of the camera. They aspire to create content that represents the under-represented and creates opportunities for the Latinx community. Along with producing and developing their own work, DominiRican Productions also seeks to collaborate with other organizations and visionaries who seek to empower Latinx communities through their art. Along with their co-partner, Steven Luna, they’ve already created short films like release, Rhythm is Gonna Get Who?, and their latest, American Made, which has just been submitted to film festivals. Gonzalez said, “I fell in love with another artist who understands my own journey and wants to see me win, and I want to see him win. There’s a respect for each other’s artistic space. This job has only elevated our careers and our company.” He teased many exciting projects and bigger contracts on the horizon for DominiRican Productions that are both challenging and invigorating for Leiba Jr. and himself as a couple and individuals.

Gonzalez has never been to Pittsburgh before but is excited to visit with Hamilton from February 22 to March 14, as he has heard nothing but incredible things from fellow cast members and friends who have knowledge of the city. “Touring the cities is the part that keeps me the most excited about this journey. This is really the gag of it all!” He looks forward to diving into the food culture as well as exploring and celebrating our city’s drag scene and queer community.

His biggest dream right now is to produce and direct a feature with all his friends in positions on screen and off. “I want to make sure when I’m in that position I’m making sure I am taking care of my people: people of color, LGBTQ+ people, the underrepresented.” This echoes a famous lyric from the show, “Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” Who tells Pierre Jean Gonzalez’s story couldn’t be more clear. The answer is himself.

Limited tickets are still available for Hamilton, February 22 through March 13, through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Drew Praskovich is a writer and filmmaker born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Drew's work for QBurgh has been nominated for a Golden Quill Award from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. His short film, Seahorse, about a pregnant boy, has been screened around the world from the South Asia's biggest LGBQTIA+ film festival KASHISH Mumbai to NFFTY in Seattle, WA where it took home the Audience Award. His writing has been seen in TABLE Magazine, The Pittsburgh City Paper, and more. He currently resides in Beechview. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. (he / him / his)