Sean Green Jr.

The Triple Threat
Former Pace University student, Sean Green Jr.

A Conversation with Sean Green Jr.

From his not-so-great audition to get into Pace to the phone call that changed his life to the stress that comes with eight performances every week, we sat down with Hamilton’s Sean Green Jr. 

Pace was not your first choice originally. How did you end up here?

I had a long list of 12 colleges that I was planning on applying to. And then, I started to visit schools and shadow people's classes, and as I did that, my list got shorter and shorter. I started to refine what it was that I really wanted. And I found that, with the big schools, I had no interest in being swallowed by the thousands and thousands of kids. I wanted someone to see me, work with me, and I wanted to feel like I was really valued in a space. In musical theater, you get lost so much if you go to one of those big programs where they're just churning people out. I was not attracted to that. Pace was small enough and close enough to home, being a Philly kid. In my head, it didn’t make sense for me to go further away from New York City if, ultimately, I wanted to end up in New York City. I neededto be in New York. After I prioritized the location, Pace is the one that stuck out.

Did you have a mentor at Pace?

Amy Rogers, who's the director of the musical theater program. She knew of me through Broadway Dreams Foundation, which was a summer training program that traveled around the states, with week-long intensives. The director of that program was friends with Amy and was like, "Hey, there's this kid, who I've seen since he was 15, and has a lot of potential. He really is interested in studying in New York City. He's really interested in Pace. Look out for him." So then I got here for my audition, she was like, "Oh, I know who you are. I've heard all about you." I thought, "Oh God, what is this?" My audition day was actually the worst day of my life. 

How come?

I was three hours late and didn't have a headshot or a resume. I was by myself because my mom had basically thrown me out of the car and was like, "You're late, you need to go. I need to go find a parking spot." It was just a mess. I got there, I sang my songs, and got myself together. They gave me some notes and some adjustments and worked with me. I think it was like a five or ten-minute audition. At the end she said, "So we have a spot for you here, if you want to come." I was like, "Huh?" It wasn't like most college auditions and processes. You audition and leave, and weeks later or months later, you get an envelope in the mail that's like, "You made it." Pace was my last audition. It was down to the wire. I actually had a deposit sent in to a different school already.

Which school?

Point Park. I was in route. She was like, "Do you want to come here?" I was just blown away. I said, "Yeah, I want to come here." She said, "Okay, well stay a little after and we'll talk to you and your mom." I had already gotten into the University, academically. She was like, "This is a no-brainer for us, it really is up to you." The door was just open. To me, it was a no-brainer. I wanted to be in New York City, had a list of requirements that I needed to check off. A small school, I would be able to audition outside of school, which was important to me. It was so easy. I just came back home and packed my stuff.

What kind of shows did you do while you were a student?

I was in Once on this Island, at Pace. That was a big deal because there were only a handful of freshmen that got into the show. My best friend and I both booked it together, which was cool. That was important show—it was an all-black show, on a university campus. That's almost unheard of for a university to do a production with an all-black cast, because I had done Once on this Island in high school, and I was the only black person in it. It was such a gift for me to be able to take this piece of art that I had grown up listening to, and had done with a less diverse cast feeling like I was the outsider, and then coming to a university that celebrated diversity. That was a big thing for me. Everyone at Pace was different. I knew that I was going into a program where I was not the one black person in the program, which was the case for a lot of other theater programs. Pace was not like that. For me to be able to do that as a freshman, I was like, "I'm in the right spot." That year I also did a reading of John Doyle's The Visit, which was a musical that ended up on Broadway, but he work-shopped it here, which was really cool. I also played Sebastian in The Little Mermaid in Wisconsin. 

How was that experience?

I almost died. I had pneumonia in the middle of the contract. I performed two shows with pneumonia and I didn't know I had it. They had diagnosed me with a muscle sprain. I ended up in the ICU for five days. Half of my lung was full of fluid and they thought they were going to need to do surgery. And I was there by myself in the middle of Wisconsin. I had never been away from home for that long. Both my parents were freaking out. My mom is a pharmacist and my dad is a doctor. They were calling the hospital every hour. That's why I was like, "I'm okay. You guys are in communication, nothing's happened. There's nothing you could do other than provide me with some company, and I'm okay. I'll be okay." I eventually flew home after I got out of the hospital, took a few days to let my mom take care of me, and went back. In my head, I had no idea that you could quit a musical. Now that I'm in the business, people quit things all the time. I thought I signed a contract, so I have to stay. I wasn't represented by a union or anything, it was a non-equity production, and I was 20 years old and really bold. 

And really resilient. How did Hamilton happen? 

I worked all through college. I was always the person that was weighing my options and pushing the limits and being like, "This concert is important because I know this casting director is going to be there and I know that I'm going to want to do this project that I know they're planning to do next year..." My brain was always working that way. I was always doing new readings of musicals, and concerts, and workshops. I did audition for Broadway shows and national tours as a freshman. I was in callbacks for The Book of Mormon, my first and last year. I didn't know what I was doing. I literally was just running around just because I was excited to be in New York. That was something that really was important to me. I guess it paid off because the music director for Hamilton was a music director for a concert that I did the summer before, and that was something that I had to call out of work at my retail job and my restaurant job to get to. Then three months later, I was in an audition for Hamilton, and look who's behind the table. That guy that was the music director for that concert that I had to call out of several different jobs to do. That practice that I had in school, being like, "sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice and you have to make some choices that aren't necessarily right." I had to miss some class, but ... 

You were thinking long term?

was thinking long term. You know my mom wasn't always that lenient about it, so I didn’t tell her I missed class. I told my dad. My dad was a little more open because he understood my plan. Pace was definitely flexible because if I were at a different school, somewhere like a conservatory program, if you miss one or two classes, you're out. No questions asked. I would go to Amy and be like, "Amy, I really..." It was a conversation. We're not just churning out actors to go sing and dance. We want people that can think for themselves and create things for themselves. That was something that I really was interested in. These professors, they cared about the students more than anything else.

So you did musical theater, acting, and dance. Triple threat? 

That's a thing. That's what they say. 

Which one's your favorite? 

People say I'm a singer. I grew up singing and dancing. But I feel like they are all just tools for me to express myself. I hate to minimize it that much, but they're definitely, to me, equal. It ebbs and flows day to day. Some days I'm like, "I don't want to sing. I just want to act. I just want to tell a story." Some days I don't want to speak to anybody, I just want to move my body. I think that's why I wanted to study musical theater as opposed to straight acting. Because I wanted to be able to take the three things that I'm good at and do my own thing.

When did you join Hamilton?

The day that I started rehearsal or the day I debuted on Broadway? Because I know all of them. The day I got hired was Friday, October 13, Friday the thirteenth. That was the day my manager called me and told me that I was going to be on Broadway.

Where were you when you got the call?

It was so crazy. I was actually down here, sleeping at my friend’s apartment in the Gehry Building. It's funny because I was at Pace when it happened. That was the day I got hired. I started the following Wednesday. They were like, "Can you come in to see the show on Tuesday? Can you start rehearsals on Wednesday?" And I was like, "Yeah, let me quit all four jobs that I have right now." I had to call everyone and be like, "I'm so sorry I cannot come in ever again." I couldn’t even give them two weeks, which was hard for me because I get anxious about letting people down.

Did you tell them why?

Yeah. I told them. Everyone was so happy. I was working at the front desk of Equinox, and I actually continued to work there. I would say, "I don't need to be here but I'm here because I want to be." And that was such a nice feeling. That was amazing. I remember I walked in on Christmas Day and the manager was there opening, because she was afraid I wasn’t going to show up.

As part of the ensemble, you’re on stage almost the entire show, but you also understudy George Washington, Aaron Burr, and Hercules Mulligan/James Madison. What's your favorite character to play?

I’ve done Washington and Mulligan/Madison, but I haven’t played Burr yet.

Had you seen it before you performed in it?

30 times.

Wow. How does a college student get tickets to Hamilton?

You know the right people. (Laughs.) The day I got back from Wisconsin my best friend from that contract called me. I was walking in front of Pace and she called me and said, "What are you doing tonight at 7:00? Nothing? Cool, I won two tickets to see Hamilton." We sat front row. The tickets were $10. Now it’s a national lottery, so I go off stage sometimes to greet the fans, and they say "I won the lottery, and I flew here from California." 

What was it like signing your first autograph? 

It depends on the day. Some days I’m just so wiped out that I want to go home. Other days I know the one thing that's going to make me happy is going out to see these people who are just so excited to being able to see the show. The best are the teenagers. They're like, "Oh, I've wanted to see this show forever and my mom bought me tickets and I'm here." And I'm like, "That's it!" Sometimes I open the door for people that are like, "I didn't actually see the show but could you sign this book?" Those people I love. It's like, "Oh, no you just want to be here. You just want to be in this space. You just want to do this."

Did you have that feeling for a show when you were growing up?

HairHair was the first Broadway show I had ever seen. Hair is different because you got to go up on stage. I met Sasha Allen. 

How supportive were your parents? Performing Arts isn’t always the most lucrative career choice.

Anything I needed—whether it was voice lessons, or the Broadway Dreams camp, which is $1,000 for one week. Luckily, I got a scholarship which paid for most of my tuition, but anytime I needed something, whether my parents had it or not, they figured it out. Even visiting colleges was expensive, but any college that I needed to visit, they took me. Any college audition I needed to go to, they took me. All the fees that go along with college auditions, because even at Pace you had to pay $50 just to apply.

So, here we are five years later, is it everything you thought it would be?

No, it is a job. (Laughs) I laugh all the time at the theater. Somebody told me Broadway was going to be fun, and this is not fun—it’s work!

Was Hamilton your end goal? Where do you go from here?

I don't know, because in the beginning, even before I started I was like "I can quit the business right now, because all I really wanted was the phone call to be like ‘You're gonna be on Broadway.’” (Laughs) After that I was like, oh…I did it!

It definitely changes every day. Some days I walk into the theater and I'm like "I could do this show for five years, I could do this show for 10 years. This could be the one and only Broadway show I ever do.” Some days that's how I feel. I thought that being on Broadway was going to be this big, lavish lifestyle of diva celebrity. Before this, I would say "I'm an actor." "Well, what do you do?" And I'm like "Well, I sing in concerts and I do new works and I work in retail." Telling people you're an actor sometimes doesn't come with as much pride as you want it to. So, I thought that I would get to Broadway, and I was just going to turn into this magical thing, and it doesn't feel like that. It feels like I'm at work. I'm using my gift and the talents that once were my hobbies. The things that once were mine. The things that I would come home from school and just sing for fun, because it made me happy. It's not the same anymore. Now it is: you wake up, and you go to sing, and you go to dance, and you go to perform, because it's your job.

It definitely takes some adjusting. There are a lot of new things happening for me. I'm making my Broadway debut, first and foremost. Second, I'm in the biggest show of all time. There's a lot of pressure from people outside of the theater. I was a social butterfly, I fed off of being social. That was my thing. I can't do it anymore. And that's something I have to adjust to. Where will I spend my time and how am I keeping up with myself? I'm taking a lot into consideration every now. I used to think "All I have to do is go do a show for three hours a day, I don't need to rest.” 

People don't see that side of it. They're like "Oh you get on stage, and you dance, and you sing, and you're living the dream."

I have to warm up for two hours before. I have to make sure I work out, so my body's in shape. I have to make sure that I'm hydrated and that I'm going to see my therapist so I'm not having a breakdown. You’ve got to take care of your mental health, first and foremost. You’ve got to take care of your physical health and your spirituality, you’ve got to make sure that you are well in terms of how you exist. And that's how I take care of myself. Some people, they don't need as much as I need, or aren't necessarily conscious of it, but I am recognizing right now that I am in a shift, holistically, everything around me is changing and I can either grow and change with it and use this opportunity as a time to expand, or I could just do the thing that I'm used to doing. As a college student, you learn how to cope, how to make sure your paper's in on time, how to get things done, and it's definitely a different type of thing that I'm doing now. How can I get myself into the theater every day, and be fully present, fully well, and able? That’s my goal.

After all those years encouraging you and watching you grow, how have your parents reacted to your success? Have they seen the show?

My dad saw me as George Washington. My mom saw me in the ensemble. It was my mom's first time seeing a Broadway show. My show.

Former Pace University student, Sean Green Jr.

A Conversation with Sean Green Jr.

From his not-so-great audition to get into Pace to the phone call that changed his life to the stress that comes with eight performances every week, we sat down with Hamilton’s Sean Green Jr. 

Pace was not your first choice originally. How did you end up here?

I had a long list of 12 colleges that I was planning on applying to. And then, I started to visit schools and shadow people's classes, and as I did that, my list got shorter and shorter. I started to refine what it was that I really wanted. And I found that, with the big schools, I had no interest in being swallowed by the thousands and thousands of kids. I wanted someone to see me, work with me, and I wanted to feel like I was really valued in a space. In musical theater, you get lost so much if you go to one of those big programs where they're just churning people out. I was not attracted to that. Pace was small enough and close enough to home, being a Philly kid. In my head, it didn’t make sense for me to go further away from New York City if, ultimately, I wanted to end up in New York City. I neededto be in New York. After I prioritized the location, Pace is the one that stuck out.

Did you have a mentor at Pace?

Amy Rogers, who's the director of the musical theater program. She knew of me through Broadway Dreams Foundation, which was a summer training program that traveled around the states, with week-long intensives. The director of that program was friends with Amy and was like, "Hey, there's this kid, who I've seen since he was 15, and has a lot of potential. He really is interested in studying in New York City. He's really interested in Pace. Look out for him." So then I got here for my audition, she was like, "Oh, I know who you are. I've heard all about you." I thought, "Oh God, what is this?" My audition day was actually the worst day of my life. 

How come?

I was three hours late and didn't have a headshot or a resume. I was by myself because my mom had basically thrown me out of the car and was like, "You're late, you need to go. I need to go find a parking spot." It was just a mess. I got there, I sang my songs, and got myself together. They gave me some notes and some adjustments and worked with me. I think it was like a five or ten-minute audition. At the end she said, "So we have a spot for you here, if you want to come." I was like, "Huh?" It wasn't like most college auditions and processes. You audition and leave, and weeks later or months later, you get an envelope in the mail that's like, "You made it." Pace was my last audition. It was down to the wire. I actually had a deposit sent in to a different school already.

Which school?

Point Park. I was in route. She was like, "Do you want to come here?" I was just blown away. I said, "Yeah, I want to come here." She said, "Okay, well stay a little after and we'll talk to you and your mom." I had already gotten into the University, academically. She was like, "This is a no-brainer for us, it really is up to you." The door was just open. To me, it was a no-brainer. I wanted to be in New York City, had a list of requirements that I needed to check off. A small school, I would be able to audition outside of school, which was important to me. It was so easy. I just came back home and packed my stuff.

What kind of shows did you do while you were a student?

I was in Once on this Island, at Pace. That was a big deal because there were only a handful of freshmen that got into the show. My best friend and I both booked it together, which was cool. That was important show—it was an all-black show, on a university campus. That's almost unheard of for a university to do a production with an all-black cast, because I had done Once on this Island in high school, and I was the only black person in it. It was such a gift for me to be able to take this piece of art that I had grown up listening to, and had done with a less diverse cast feeling like I was the outsider, and then coming to a university that celebrated diversity. That was a big thing for me. Everyone at Pace was different. I knew that I was going into a program where I was not the one black person in the program, which was the case for a lot of other theater programs. Pace was not like that. For me to be able to do that as a freshman, I was like, "I'm in the right spot." That year I also did a reading of John Doyle's The Visit, which was a musical that ended up on Broadway, but he work-shopped it here, which was really cool. I also played Sebastian in The Little Mermaid in Wisconsin. 

How was that experience?

I almost died. I had pneumonia in the middle of the contract. I performed two shows with pneumonia and I didn't know I had it. They had diagnosed me with a muscle sprain. I ended up in the ICU for five days. Half of my lung was full of fluid and they thought they were going to need to do surgery. And I was there by myself in the middle of Wisconsin. I had never been away from home for that long. Both my parents were freaking out. My mom is a pharmacist and my dad is a doctor. They were calling the hospital every hour. That's why I was like, "I'm okay. You guys are in communication, nothing's happened. There's nothing you could do other than provide me with some company, and I'm okay. I'll be okay." I eventually flew home after I got out of the hospital, took a few days to let my mom take care of me, and went back. In my head, I had no idea that you could quit a musical. Now that I'm in the business, people quit things all the time. I thought I signed a contract, so I have to stay. I wasn't represented by a union or anything, it was a non-equity production, and I was 20 years old and really bold. 

And really resilient. How did Hamilton happen? 

I worked all through college. I was always the person that was weighing my options and pushing the limits and being like, "This concert is important because I know this casting director is going to be there and I know that I'm going to want to do this project that I know they're planning to do next year..." My brain was always working that way. I was always doing new readings of musicals, and concerts, and workshops. I did audition for Broadway shows and national tours as a freshman. I was in callbacks for The Book of Mormon, my first and last year. I didn't know what I was doing. I literally was just running around just because I was excited to be in New York. That was something that really was important to me. I guess it paid off because the music director for Hamilton was a music director for a concert that I did the summer before, and that was something that I had to call out of work at my retail job and my restaurant job to get to. Then three months later, I was in an audition for Hamilton, and look who's behind the table. That guy that was the music director for that concert that I had to call out of several different jobs to do. That practice that I had in school, being like, "sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice and you have to make some choices that aren't necessarily right." I had to miss some class, but ... 

You were thinking long term?

was thinking long term. You know my mom wasn't always that lenient about it, so I didn’t tell her I missed class. I told my dad. My dad was a little more open because he understood my plan. Pace was definitely flexible because if I were at a different school, somewhere like a conservatory program, if you miss one or two classes, you're out. No questions asked. I would go to Amy and be like, "Amy, I really..." It was a conversation. We're not just churning out actors to go sing and dance. We want people that can think for themselves and create things for themselves. That was something that I really was interested in. These professors, they cared about the students more than anything else.

So you did musical theater, acting, and dance. Triple threat? 

That's a thing. That's what they say. 

Which one's your favorite? 

People say I'm a singer. I grew up singing and dancing. But I feel like they are all just tools for me to express myself. I hate to minimize it that much, but they're definitely, to me, equal. It ebbs and flows day to day. Some days I'm like, "I don't want to sing. I just want to act. I just want to tell a story." Some days I don't want to speak to anybody, I just want to move my body. I think that's why I wanted to study musical theater as opposed to straight acting. Because I wanted to be able to take the three things that I'm good at and do my own thing.

When did you join Hamilton?

The day that I started rehearsal or the day I debuted on Broadway? Because I know all of them. The day I got hired was Friday, October 13, Friday the thirteenth. That was the day my manager called me and told me that I was going to be on Broadway.

Where were you when you got the call?

It was so crazy. I was actually down here, sleeping at my friend’s apartment in the Gehry Building. It's funny because I was at Pace when it happened. That was the day I got hired. I started the following Wednesday. They were like, "Can you come in to see the show on Tuesday? Can you start rehearsals on Wednesday?" And I was like, "Yeah, let me quit all four jobs that I have right now." I had to call everyone and be like, "I'm so sorry I cannot come in ever again." I couldn’t even give them two weeks, which was hard for me because I get anxious about letting people down.

Did you tell them why?

Yeah. I told them. Everyone was so happy. I was working at the front desk of Equinox, and I actually continued to work there. I would say, "I don't need to be here but I'm here because I want to be." And that was such a nice feeling. That was amazing. I remember I walked in on Christmas Day and the manager was there opening, because she was afraid I wasn’t going to show up.

As part of the ensemble, you’re on stage almost the entire show, but you also understudy George Washington, Aaron Burr, and Hercules Mulligan/James Madison. What's your favorite character to play?

I’ve done Washington and Mulligan/Madison, but I haven’t played Burr yet.

Had you seen it before you performed in it?

30 times.

Wow. How does a college student get tickets to Hamilton?

You know the right people. (Laughs.) The day I got back from Wisconsin my best friend from that contract called me. I was walking in front of Pace and she called me and said, "What are you doing tonight at 7:00? Nothing? Cool, I won two tickets to see Hamilton." We sat front row. The tickets were $10. Now it’s a national lottery, so I go off stage sometimes to greet the fans, and they say "I won the lottery, and I flew here from California." 

What was it like signing your first autograph? 

It depends on the day. Some days I’m just so wiped out that I want to go home. Other days I know the one thing that's going to make me happy is going out to see these people who are just so excited to being able to see the show. The best are the teenagers. They're like, "Oh, I've wanted to see this show forever and my mom bought me tickets and I'm here." And I'm like, "That's it!" Sometimes I open the door for people that are like, "I didn't actually see the show but could you sign this book?" Those people I love. It's like, "Oh, no you just want to be here. You just want to be in this space. You just want to do this."

Did you have that feeling for a show when you were growing up?

HairHair was the first Broadway show I had ever seen. Hair is different because you got to go up on stage. I met Sasha Allen. 

How supportive were your parents? Performing Arts isn’t always the most lucrative career choice.

Anything I needed—whether it was voice lessons, or the Broadway Dreams camp, which is $1,000 for one week. Luckily, I got a scholarship which paid for most of my tuition, but anytime I needed something, whether my parents had it or not, they figured it out. Even visiting colleges was expensive, but any college that I needed to visit, they took me. Any college audition I needed to go to, they took me. All the fees that go along with college auditions, because even at Pace you had to pay $50 just to apply.

So, here we are five years later, is it everything you thought it would be?

No, it is a job. (Laughs) I laugh all the time at the theater. Somebody told me Broadway was going to be fun, and this is not fun—it’s work!

Was Hamilton your end goal? Where do you go from here?

I don't know, because in the beginning, even before I started I was like "I can quit the business right now, because all I really wanted was the phone call to be like ‘You're gonna be on Broadway.’” (Laughs) After that I was like, oh…I did it!

It definitely changes every day. Some days I walk into the theater and I'm like "I could do this show for five years, I could do this show for 10 years. This could be the one and only Broadway show I ever do.” Some days that's how I feel. I thought that being on Broadway was going to be this big, lavish lifestyle of diva celebrity. Before this, I would say "I'm an actor." "Well, what do you do?" And I'm like "Well, I sing in concerts and I do new works and I work in retail." Telling people you're an actor sometimes doesn't come with as much pride as you want it to. So, I thought that I would get to Broadway, and I was just going to turn into this magical thing, and it doesn't feel like that. It feels like I'm at work. I'm using my gift and the talents that once were my hobbies. The things that once were mine. The things that I would come home from school and just sing for fun, because it made me happy. It's not the same anymore. Now it is: you wake up, and you go to sing, and you go to dance, and you go to perform, because it's your job.

It definitely takes some adjusting. There are a lot of new things happening for me. I'm making my Broadway debut, first and foremost. Second, I'm in the biggest show of all time. There's a lot of pressure from people outside of the theater. I was a social butterfly, I fed off of being social. That was my thing. I can't do it anymore. And that's something I have to adjust to. Where will I spend my time and how am I keeping up with myself? I'm taking a lot into consideration every now. I used to think "All I have to do is go do a show for three hours a day, I don't need to rest.” 

People don't see that side of it. They're like "Oh you get on stage, and you dance, and you sing, and you're living the dream."

I have to warm up for two hours before. I have to make sure I work out, so my body's in shape. I have to make sure that I'm hydrated and that I'm going to see my therapist so I'm not having a breakdown. You’ve got to take care of your mental health, first and foremost. You’ve got to take care of your physical health and your spirituality, you’ve got to make sure that you are well in terms of how you exist. And that's how I take care of myself. Some people, they don't need as much as I need, or aren't necessarily conscious of it, but I am recognizing right now that I am in a shift, holistically, everything around me is changing and I can either grow and change with it and use this opportunity as a time to expand, or I could just do the thing that I'm used to doing. As a college student, you learn how to cope, how to make sure your paper's in on time, how to get things done, and it's definitely a different type of thing that I'm doing now. How can I get myself into the theater every day, and be fully present, fully well, and able? That’s my goal.

After all those years encouraging you and watching you grow, how have your parents reacted to your success? Have they seen the show?

My dad saw me as George Washington. My mom saw me in the ensemble. It was my mom's first time seeing a Broadway show. My show.