Spare a thought for future casting directors who hope to work with Sami Afuni. The 25-year-old has never worked a day in musical theatre but finds himself joining the principal cast of Hamilton in the role of Hercules Mulligan/James Madison.

“Hamilton is my first time in a musical or doing theatre, so the bar is pretty high,” he says.

“Honestly, I’m still pinching myself – obviously I auditioned, and I’m confident, but never in a million years did I think this would happen.”

Afuni, who was born in Brisbane but grew up in Kuwait, has a background in music and previously appeared on The X Factor in 2016. But his musical theatre experience is limited to, well, watching Hamilton on Disney+.

“So Hamilton’s actually the only theatre show I’ve ever seen, like in full,” says Afuni. “But I loved watching it; straight away, it all made sense to me.”

Afuni joined the cast in rehearsals last week and will make his Hamilton debut on September 27, taking over from previous Australian cast member Shaka Cook.

“I’ve met Shaka, and he has been helpful; he was in a similar position to me in that Hamilton was his first show too, which made me more comfortable about my role,” says Afuni. “He also encouraged me to bring my unique story to the role; I come from a different background, and that’s important with a show like Hamilton.”

Shaka Cook (far right) as Hercules Mulligan in the Australian production of Hamilton.Credit:Daniel Boud

Part-Egyptian and part-Jordanian, Afuni spent his childhood bouncing between Brisbane and Kuwait.

“I was born in Brisbane, but then I left at a very young age, and we moved to Jabriya [in Kuwait], which is quite a low socio-economic area,” says Afuni.

“But at the same time, my mother was a nurse at a local school attended by a lot of nephews and grandsons of the princes of the country, so I met people from both sides of the coin, and that helped me understand more and become interested in hearing and telling stories.”

Afuni sees parallels between his upbringing and the inspirational message of Hamilton.

Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony-, Grammy-, Olivier- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical follows the remarkable life of Alexander Hamilton, an orphan born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, who became one of the United States’ Founding Fathers.

“Growing up, I never saw my people up on stage or in films or TV shows, or, if you did see representation, it would always be in a negative light, so I never had a reference to look up to,” says Afuni.

“So the possibility of there being someone in the audience that feels like I did, but now they can look up and be inspired, not only with my culture, but so many cultures represented in the cast, that brings me a lot of joy.”

With a little over a month until Afuni steps onto Her Majesty’s Theatre for the first time, he is showing no signs of being overawed by the occasion.

“I’m already feeling super excited, I’ve only been in rehearsals a few days, and I find myself picturing opening night,” he says. “But all I can do is, you know, take it one step at a time and learn my material, so I can deliver a performance that proves taking a gamble on me was the right call.”

Hamilton is playing now at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne.

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