dishin' it

Andrew Chappelle talks boy band fantasies, being a “TV thot,” and keeping close with his ‘Hamilton’ fam

Image Credit: Phillip Van

According to his Twitter bio, Andrew Chappelle has gone from a “Broadway thot to a TV thot.” But, in our opinion, this talented performer is selling himself short: He’s a proper multi-hyphenate thot.

Actor, singer, writer, composer, creator—there’s nothing this thot can’t do!

Chappelle got his start on TV when he was just a kid, with a guest spot on Moesha. But after school, he set his sights on New York City and made his Broadway debut in Mamma Mia!, the timeless ABBA jukebox musical, before touring with a production of Priscilla Queen of The Desert.

Of course, his biggest break came when he joined a little original off-Broadway shows you might have heard of called Hamilton. Chappelle went on to perform with the Tony-winning show on Broadway for five years, remaining close with the cast to this day.

So close, in fact, that he’s still working with them! He can currently be seen in the second season of Starz’s critically acclaimed series Blindspotting, opposite Hamilton co-star Jasmine Cephas Jones and produced by Daveed Diggs. He’s also been touring film festivals with a comedic short he co-wrote and stars in called Fanatic—which happens to be directed by another one of his former “Ham” family: Taran Killam.

Busier than ever, Chappelle still found time to sit in the hot seat for Dishin’ It, our rapid-fire Q&A series. In our wide-ranging conversation, the star opens up about the TV shows that helped him come out, how his beloved dog wound up with the name Patti LuBone, and why he’s glad he believed in Santa Claus a little longer than most.

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, games, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has played an important part in exploring your own queerness? Why does it stand out to you?

Oh without a doubt there were two shows that brought me joy and answered so many questions when I was a young gay figuring things out. Will & Grace and the original US Queer As Folk. Seeing the wide spectrum of gay men on those shows was so helpful and illuminating as I started my journey of self realization.

However, neither of those shows really depicted what it was like to be BIPOC and queer. Shortly after, a friend introduced me to Paris Is Burning when I was a freshman in college and everything made sense. I live between all of these worlds and I pride myself on that. 

You’re back for season 2 of Blindspotting, which—among so many other things—is something of a Hamilton reunion. How do the relationships you built working on that off-Broadway and Broadway phenomenon inform what you bring to and get out of the Starz series?

Essentially Jasmine [Cephas Jones] and I are paying homage to the real life relationship we forged while we were working on Hamilton. As you can probably imagine, being in the original cast of Hamilton was extremely rewarding but was not without it’s challenges. Living day-to-day with friends through triumphs and successes builds trust. I can say without a doubt I trust Daveed [Diggs] and Rafael [Casal] to artfully guide the difficult stories we tell on Blindspotting with humor and nuance.

What’s something ridiculous you believed to be true when you were a kid? How did you react when you found out the truth?

I definitely believed in Santa Claus way later than my friends at school because I was an only child. I didn’t have anyone bursting my bubble at home! I remember there being a day where it obviously didn’t make sense to me. However, instead of sadness I had an overwhelming sense of appreciation for my mom who put so much effort into my happiness for my whole childhood. My father passed away when I was a small boy and my mother was such a comforting, strong, and creative force.

Your first-ever Broadway credit was in in the amazing, eternal ABBA musical Mamma Mia! Inspired by that, if you could create a “jukebox musical” from another artist’s catalogue, who would it be, and why do you think their music lends itself to a musical? What sort of story would the musical tell?

Ok, first of all thank you for putting some respect on Mamma Mia’s name! I love that musical because Jack and Will from Will & Grace loved it! I saw it on tour when I was in high school. It was the first time I ever saw myself represented onstage and I was so proud to join the Broadway company after graduating college.

The artist who MUST have a musical is without a doubt Janelle Monáe. Every album she puts out tells a story from the first song to the last. She has created this incredible world of Cindi Mayweather, an android from the future. I think visually it would change the course of jukebox musicals as we know it.

Where’s one of the first places/spaces you can remember that made you feel a part of a queer community?

I’d have to say high school. Even though I wasn’t out of the closet yet, there were so many out and proud students there that really helped me to understand how beautiful life can be when you accept yourself. Growing up in LA, I’d sneak into a WeHo club here and there with some friends and dance in the lights.

Fanatic, the short film you wrote and star in, looks absolutely hilarious, and is about two former boy band stars reuniting. What was your inspiration to tell a story like this? Are you pulling from your own memories of boy band/pop group obsession?

Oh man, ya know growing up in the ’90s, I definitely have boybands in my DNA. I can’t say I ever aspired to be in one cause I was obsessed with Britney and Destiny’s Child. However, the 2000s weren’t a time you could be out, gay and successful in the music industry. So I began to imagine a gay boyband that never made it big time and it kind of wrote itself from there.

Image Credit: Phillip Van

Your adorable dog’s name is Patti LuBone, which is just so, so brilliant. In what ways would you say she embodies the icon, Patti LuPone, herself?

I wish I could take credit for naming her. Truth is, I was going to name her Patti LuPone. But I was doing Hamilton with Lin at the time who of course is a wordsmith and he came up with the iconic pun that has been melting hearts since 2016 when she came into my life.

The main characteristic the two Patti’s share is that they are both bright shining stars that always get their way. I would also drop everything if either of them needed anything. LuBone has zero Tony awards but she still has time.

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?

Gonna have to shout out a friend of my friend Johnny Sibilly here. Trace Lysette has been an out trans performer since 2014 when she was on Transparent. 2014 doesn’t seem that long ago but it was a different time and that took mad bravery. She made an appearance in Hustlers which I’m obsessed with. But most recently her film Monica went to the Venice Film Festival which is an incredible achievement. The first trans woman to lead a film in the oldest film festival in the world. It will be out in theaters May 12th. The community should be proud of her!

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