Meet West Orange, New Jersey’s ‘Hamilton’ star Okieriete Onaodowan

"Hamilton" Broadway Opening Night - After PartyPhoto by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Actor Okieriete Onadowan is enjoying a flurry of success with his dual star turn in Hamilton, the buzzed about musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which swept the 2016 Tony Awards with 11 wins. Okierette plays the roles of spy Hercules Mulligan along with James Madison, and his co-star Daveed Diggs cited him in a recent interview as his favorite cast member, no mean feat in a standout field.

Of helping to develop the role of Madison, Okierette said he appreciated the chance to do more than simply recite lines written by someone else. “It’s great to have that freedom. It feels good to create, and to actually have input, and your choices are your choices. My walk is my walk because that’s what motivated me to move.”

Madison y Madison. #bam4ham #Presidents #whiteHouse #KatyPerry

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Okierete grew up in West Orange, where he was already avidly interested in performing as a teenager. His West Orange High School teacher and mentor Craig Champagne told, “He just needed to perform. I don’t mean that in terms of ego. You have to eat, sleep, drink, have sex. He needed to perform.” The talented actor went on to attend Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers and performed various stage roles before being cast in the hit show. In April gave an inspiring speech to students at his high school alma mater, letting them know there are parallels between the skills they’ll need as actors and those they’ll need in their daily lives.

What will he do next? He told, “I want to exercise all my muscles. I want to do plays. I want to do everything,” and with the success of Hamilton, he will surely have endless opportunities awaiting him. (Hamilton cast contracts will expire in July.) Plus, he dropped a not so subtle hint on Instagram about wanting to act on Inside Amy Schumer. What are you waiting for, Amy?

Watch the Hamilton cast performance from the Tony Awards, which were introduced by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, approrpriately, since Lin-Manuel Miranda debuted what became the show’s opening song at the 2009 White House Poetry Jam.