Brandon Victor Dixon wasn’t going to throw away his shot to speak his mind to the man leading Donald Trump’s transition team.
Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in “Hamilton: An American Musical,” said he expected his message to Vice President-elect Mike Pence to reverberate in some way but did not expect it to reach the magnitude that it has. The attention, he said, was a testament to the fact that the message was “powerful and needed.”
“Our show is about the American Revolution. It’s about our countrymen standing up to demand the protection of their rights, so it was wonderful to have the vice president-elect there to receive our story, to receive it from the wonderfully diverse group of men and women that we have telling it. And we really appreciate that he stayed and respectfully received what we had to say,” Dixon said this week in an interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric.
Dixon said he didn’t consider anything he said to be provocative, so he was surprised when some people, including Trump, saw it that way. Citizens voicing their concerns to their elected officials, he said, is perfectly legitimate and not controversial, though tone and diction can be.
“There’s really no way to take the words that we said as controversial. That’s democracy,” he said.
But Trump was infuriated. In four tweets spanning two days last weekend, Trump repeatedly attacked the “overrated” musical and claimed that Dixon had “harassed” Pence. He twice demanded an apology from the cast of the show.
But did he really harass Pence? After Friday night’s performance, Dixon read a message from the show. He thanked Pence for attending and said the show’s cast represented the “diverse America that is alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.” He added that he hopes their show would inspire him to work on behalf of all Americans.
Dixon’s speech was widely covered in the press, inspiring popular hashtags among conservatives and liberals alike. The “Make America Great Again” crowd denounced the message as inappropriate and called for a boycott of the show. Liberals said Trump had attacked freedom of speech, and they mocked the president-elect, who’s no shrinking violet, for being thin-skinned.
Despite Trump’s loud complaints, Pence said he wasn’t offended by Dixon’s words and praised the show.
“I want to assure people who were disappointed in the election results, people who are feeling anxious about this time in the life of our nation, that President-elect Donald Trump meant exactly what he said on election night, that he is going to be the president of all the people of the United States of America,” he said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
In Dixon’s conversation with Couric, the actor said the cast members’ emotions about Trump’s victory were on the surface so soon after the election. They were surprised to learn just an hour and a half before showtime that Pence would be in attendance, and thought about what this meant for the show, he said.
“When we heard that he was coming, everybody just kind of thought about what it meant for them and what it meant for the show,” he said. “We met, and I read to the group what we were going to say at the end of the show. Everybody kind of had their reactions. Some people chimed in and wanted to make some adjustments. We all kind of combined our powers.”