10 Things to Know About Hamilton Star Jonathan Groff

Culture

Jonathan Groff’s King George III has three brief solos and less than 10 minutes onstage in Hamilton. But his impact—and dramatic ability to enunciate—is felt through the entire musical, a filmed version of which hit Disney+ on July 3. But it isn’t the first major musical role the 35-year-old actor has played. In fact, you’re probably already familiar with his work.

Ahead, what you need to know about the multi-talented performer, from his award-worthy roles to his explanation for the onstage habit everyone is talking about.

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Groff has stolen the show on Broadway before.

Prior to his Tony-nominated stint as the stridently unbothered King George, Groff appeared in several stage roles. He was nominated for a Tony in 2006 for Spring Awakening and starred in an Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors following his time in Hamilton.

Born in rural Pennsylvania, Groff always had his sights set on musical theater. During an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert last October, the actor even showed a clip of himself dressed as Mary Poppins for Halloween at age 3.

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Later, Groff postponed his admission to Carnegie Mellon University to accept the role of Rolf in a national tour of The Sound of Music, per the New York Times.

He says he had no idea what he was doing when he joined Hamilton.

The actor says he signed onto Hamilton with minimal preparation, stepping in for Brian d’Arcy James when he opted to star in Broadway’s Something Rotten in the same season. “It’s this idea that [Lin-Manuel Miranda] had that King George would sing the equivalent of kind of a break-up song,” Groff told NPR. “I had no real rehearsal. I rehearsed for about a day, and then went into the show. And so when I went into the show, I had no British accent….It was like I was doing the high school play. I just had no sense of character. I just came out in the costume and sang the song and walked offstage.” Over time, Groff would develop an accent, walk, and motivation for the character, earning a Tony nomination for his performance.

He’s aware of his onstage habit of spitting during performances.

One of the reasons viewers can’t take their eyes off Groff in Hamilton is that, well, he spits a lot while playing the British monarch. Reliably, Twitter had a field day pointing out the actor’s onstage habit.

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Including Miranda himself:

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The actor is well aware of his acting quirk. “I spit a lot onstage,” he admitted to Variety last year. “I’ve always been a spitter…I start sweating. I just get wet when I perform onstage. It is just what happens.” While speaking about his run as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Groff told the outlet, “For the first couple weeks of the run I felt bad, because I’d walk down to the end of the stage in the second song of the show, ‘Skid Row,’ and I can’t help it, I’m just, like, spitting on everyone. And they’re either enjoying it, or they’re laughing, or they’re holding up their programs to block their face…I don’t care anymore, but it made me feel self-conscious at first. I’d never been so close to the audience where I was actually seeing the reaction on people’s face while I spat on them!”

When he wasn’t onstage in Hamilton, he was backstage reading.

Considering Groff’s limited stage time as the mercurial King George, many have wondered what he did between his saliva-filled solos. According to Groff, he spent his downtime fulfilling his reading list.

Between the World and Me

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“I read all the books I always wanted to read but never did: The Agony and the Ecstasy which is a biographical novel about Michelangelo, [I reread] To Kill a Mockingbird and then Go Set a Watchman, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates,” he revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. “That one, I was weeping in the dressing room, my mind was so blown, and then I had to go out and play this white king, and I thought, ‘Oh God, I am white supremacy right now,’ and it seriously affected my performance.”

Naturally, he has a Beyoncé story from backstage.

Almost every major A-list figure has been spotted at Hamilton, from Meryl Streep to J.Lo to President Obama (twice!). But when asked about his favorite celebrity guest, Groff told The Hollywood Reporter it was Queen Bey herself. While speaking with him about his performance, Groff said the Grammy winner complimented his walk and re-enacted it herself. “This is going to sound so weird and stalkery, but I just feel blessed to have been in her presence and shaken her hand,” he later told The Guardian. “Nothing that I could have said to her could have articulated the depth of my feelings for her.”

celebrities visit broadway   october 21, 2015

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Groff has led TV shows including Mindhunter, Glee, and Looking.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Groff on the New York stage, you may have watched one of his three major TV shows. He recurred as the deviously ambitious Jesse St. James on Glee. Then, he led his own HBO series Looking, which chronicled the lives of a group of gay friends living in San Fransisco. (A 2016 reunion movie followed, leading to Groff taking a brief hiatus from his Hamilton run.) Currently, Groff stars as serial killer-obsessed FBI agent Holden Ford in Netflix’s Mindhunter, which has left viewers in the dark about a third season.

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Groff as Holden Ford in Mindhunter season 1.

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He’s also in a little franchise called, Frozen.

On the film side, Groff has appeared in projects including American Sniper, The Normal Heart, and will star alongside Keanu Reeves in the upcoming fourth Matrix movie. He also auditioned for the role of Sean Parker (eventually played by Justin Timberlake) in The Social Network, he told Out. But most viewers will recognize him as the voice of Princess Anna’s sweet-natured love interest Kristoff in Disney’s Frozen franchise.

world premiere of disney's "frozen 2"

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“It’s hard when you meet a kid, to say, ‘I’m Kristoff in Frozen,‘” Groff told Jimmy Fallon while appearing on The Tonight Show last fall.They’re like, ‘You’re not blonde, you’re not a cartoon, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ But then I make these little voice memos on my phone,” he explained, referring to charity recordings he makes for young children as Kristoff. Groff then recorded a memo in-character for Fallon’s two daughters.

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The actor grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania.

Groff was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and still remains connected to his roots when not working in Hollywood. In a LancasterOnline piece last December, it was reported that Groff purchased a sprawling property near his family’s hometown farm. Not only will the actor have a place to stay when he visits loved ones, but he has larger plans for the space. “I want to turn the barns into creative spaces—a recording studio, an editing suite, a place to write, or a place to have small workshops,” Groff told the local outlet. “I want it to be inspiring, quiet and peaceful.” His artistic renovation would ideally happen in the next 10 years, the outlet reported.

Groff has been honored for his work in the LGBTQ community.

The actor is heavily involved in working with the LGBTQ community. He has spoken about coming out at age 23, and since then, he was a grand marshal of New York City’s Pride parade in 2014, named an Out entertainer of the year in 2017, and was honored with the Point Horizon Award in 2015. “I was immediately drawn to their mission of supporting extraordinary LGBTQ students,” Groff told Vogue of the Point Foundation, which gives scholarships to deserving LGBTQ youth. “I feel humbled being surrounded by these young scholars. I wish that I had even a small amount of their bravery and vision when I was at that point in my life.”

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Groff at the New York City Pride March in 2014.

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Groff has previously been romantically linked to Broadway’s Gavin Creel and Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto. The Times reported last October that he’s dating choreographer Corey Baker, whom he met while teaching at a summer musical theater program in New Zealand.

He has no public social media.

Although the actor has made a name for himself across stage and screen, you won’t find his moniker on social media. There is no official public Twitter or Instagram page from the actor. “I did have AOL Instant Messenger when I was in middle school,” he jokingly told GQ. “But the idea of curating my life just seems like so much work. The one time I almost did it was when I was doing Looking on HBO. But then I thought about all the people with millions of followers that have flop projects.” Groff’s resistance to social media hasn’t stopped the internet from branding him with a viral nickname. An Urban Dictionary entry titled, “groffsauce,” reads: “The nickname for the actor, Jonathan Groff. The term was first coined by Groff’s costar in Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda.”

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