May 19, 2023
From church choir to Broadway tour, VCUarts alum Tyler Fauntleroy let passion lead him to ‘Hamilton’
Once a shy kid, he now commands the stage in a dual role of the smash musical, with gratitude for how VCU helped shape him.
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Growing up in Hampton, Tyler Fauntleroy didn’t like attention and did what he could to avoid the spotlight. But when he joined his church choir, something changed.
“That was where I cultivated a love for singing,” said Fauntleroy, who graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in 2017. “I was a very shy kid, scared of my shadow, that whole thing. But I found myself at an early age enjoying something.”
But even with this passion, he wasn’t moved to perform onstage until a friend convinced him to attend a musical at his middle school.
“I was blown away,” Fauntleroy said. “I was like, wow. These kids … I see them in the hallways, I see them all the time, but they’re making me feel things right now.”
So he took up theater, doing school musicals in seventh and eighth grade and throughout high school – and now on much bigger stages. Today, Fauntleroy plays a lead role in one of the biggest Broadway productions in the world, “Hamilton.” As a member of the Philip Company, one of the North America tour casts of the smash musical, Fauntleroy stars in the dual role of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton.
Describing the job as a “blessing,” Fauntleroy notes that his path has been a challenging yet rewarding journey.
Although he loved performing in early theater productions, Fauntleroy still did not know what he wanted to pursue as a career. He considered going into law, but in the summer before his junior year of high school, during a month away from family, an intensive acting program offered him formal training for the first time.
“I was taking acting classes all day. ... We were getting into the nuts and bolts of acting and the craft,” Fauntleroy said. “A lot of what acting training is, especially in the beginning, is tearing down the walls that you might have that hinder you from accessing parts of you that you’ll need to play certain characters. So a lot of that meant doing exercises that were very, very emotional.”
The training was an exciting and emotional experience, but the relationships he built with other young actors helped solidify his desire to pursue theater.
“That component was what made me be like, OK, this has changed my life because I’ve learned so much more about myself and I feel closer to others and the people around me,” Fauntleroy said. “I felt like it unlocked something in me as a person. [I thought] if those are the experiences that also await me in a career in acting, I want to experience that.”
With the support of his family, he decided to attend VCU to hone his acting skills.
“The theater faculty was very supportive and was very, very, very wonderful,” he said. “At my audition and interview process there, I felt ... like they were really hearing me. I felt like these people were really seeing me.”
During his senior year, Fauntleroy landed a final callback for “Hamilton.” The accomplishment did not go unnoticed, and many in the VCU community became invested in the outcome of his audition.
“VCUarts did a senior spotlight on me,” he said. “I had just come back from my first in-person audition from ‘Hamilton.’ The story was all about me doing the thing and auditioning for ‘Hamilton’ because it was the biggest [show] back then.”
But Fauntleroy didn’t book the role at that time. “It was hard because I’ve heard no’s in my life before as an actor, absolutely 1,000 percent. But [the audition] was so much pressure, and then to say, ‘Ugh, I didn’t do it’ – that was tough.”
After graduating, he moved to New York City to continue acting and began to make a name for himself, meeting actors, directors and producers and expanding his repertoire and résumé. And he continued to audition for “Hamilton.” In 2022, he got the call he had been waiting for since 2017: He was offered a lead role.
The offer came as a bit of a shock to Fauntleroy, who had not had a callback for the show in nearly two years. “It was a thing where they remembered my work and wanted me,” he said.
Being cast in “Hamilton” brought on complex emotions. Fauntleroy recalled “extreme joy and extreme happiness. And then … extreme imposter syndrome.”
In April of this year, the “Hamilton” tour brought Fauntleroy back to Richmond for about two weeks for performances at the Altria Theater. Many of his family, friends and former professors came out to support him.
“I was overwhelmed with love – to know that you mean that much to your friends and the people around you,” he said. “Especially when those people — my family and friends and my church family — they’ve all been there since day one, cheering me on, rooting for me in this profession to be an actor. ... I owe them some part of me.”
While in Richmond, Fauntleroy and other “Hamilton” cast members participated in a panel discussion at VCU. It was moderated by fellow VCUarts graduate and award-winning actress Mikayla Bartholomew, who also is a close friend of Fauntleroy. During the panel, the cast spoke with students and community members about the entertainment industry, their careers and what life on the road is like while working on “Hamilton.”
Fauntleroy said that while he is grateful for landing a role in “Hamilton,” he actually is glad he didn’t book the show when he first wanted it back in 2017.
“If I had booked ‘Hamilton’ as soon as I had gotten to New York, which could have happened, I would’ve never experienced all the other shows I got to do,” he noted. “All the Shakespeare I got to do, that would’ve never happened. I would’ve never known that I love Shakespeare, would’ve never known that that was a skill I had. I have met some of my best friends at regional theater jobs, friends that I will have for life. … And I cannot imagine my life without those experiences.”
Fauntleroy also shared some advice for young performers at VCU.
“Let nothing about your ability be a mystery to you,” he said. “Leave no food on the table. See all that you’re capable of and push yourself to just explore.”
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