Up Next

CulturePlay

Michael Luwoye on his new role on NBC’s ‘Bluff City Law’

Luwoye, who starred in the Broadway musical ‘Hamilton,’ discusses his move from theater to television

Michael Luwoye studied lawyers in action to make his civil attorney character on NBC’s legal drama Bluff City Law relatable.

“I would go to court and just watch when I was in New York,” he said. “The courtroom is like theater, it’s so calculated. Your audience is now the jury.”

The 28-year-old performer landed his part on Bluff City Law as he wrapped up portraying title character Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway musical Hamilton in February. Luwoye, a Nigerian American who was raised in Huntsville, Alabama, is the first black actor to play both Hamilton and Hamilton’s rival, Aaron Burr. While performing in Hamilton, Luwoye landed spots on Syfy’s The Magicians, Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It, Fox’s The Gifted and HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Luwoye chatted with The Undefeated about his evolution as a performer, the difference between performing for stage and screen, and what makes Bluff City Law, which is filmed throughout Memphis, Tennessee, different from the legal-themed television programs that preceded it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

On Bluff City Law, your character, Anthony Little, is a family-oriented attorney. Are you close to your own family?

It’s strange. There’s so much life and growth that’s happened for me over the last six years. I’m growing into my own person. I feel really good, but then I go back home and I’m the baby again. Because of what I’ve been doing, there’s a maturation inside of my family. Everybody is noticing the person that I am in New York and in my career. Everybody is proud and happy for what I’m doing.

You went from starring in Hamilton to doing network television?

It’s a big shift. When I was shooting The Gifted in Atlanta. I remember having the lines ready, then getting to the set to do a wide shot. It was intimidating. With Bluff City Law, it feels better. You have to think about where you’re playing, too. The Richard Rodgers Theatre for Hamilton has over 1,300 seats, so you have to make sure you articulate the words from the script to ensure that anybody in any seat can hear and understand what you’re doing. TV is intimate. It’s talking to you.

Was there ever an “aha” moment in your career?

I was an apprentice at Flat Rock Playhouse, a theater in North Carolina. The first summer had an impact on me because it was the first time when I’d been part of a theatrical experience that was not focused on being an actor but enriched the concept of community over competition. You did all the jobs: cleaning up, doing backstage work, props, costumes, and worked the kids show during the morning. Then, we’d come back and set up the show, parked cars. A lot of the stories you hear about actors are usually self-focused, losing the fact that you’re not the only one doing this.

Has being on the show changed your perspective on injustice?

When I think about the ways we might construct a narrative about something or somebody, you might miss who that person is. Approach things without the judgment you’ve heard from somebody else. Being inside of Memphis and doing this show has allowed me the opportunity to lead some people into those places where things are happening.

What sets Bluff City Law apart from other legal-theme television shows?

What I think is different about this show is there’s a preconceived notion about Memphis. To some people, Memphis represents what the South represents: not a lot of progression or versatility. We’re bringing in real civil law cases and different things on the palette of Memphis. The underlying theme is that there are parts of Memphis that you would not expect to see. It’s not just this place where Dr. King got assassinated or the burden for the fight for civil rights. There’s so much more than just barbecue or music.

Christopher A. Daniel, M.A. is an Atlanta-based, award-winning journalist, cultural critic, ethnomusicologist, Prince enthusiast, and multimedia journalism professor at Clark Atlanta University.