Javier Muñoz took over the title role in Broadway s Tony-winning, hip-hop hit Hamilton from the show’s creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda on Monday. But years before playing the American founding father, Muñoz played another iconic character: a Reese s Peanut Butter Cup.
The 40-year-old actor stepped into the sweet shoes of the tasty treat while working at Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark theme park as a struggling actor. “For extra money, you could be a costume character, so I was the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup – who was quite dainty,” he tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
“It was like a month’s rent for those gigs,” he says, adding that he also dressed as a Hershey chocolate bar and an unidentified costumed character in the park’s holiday parade. “I dressed up and did my thing and entertained the kids and got paid really well. You do them because that’s what’s going to allow you to have a little more flexibility to go to those auditions and callbacks, or that acting class, or that dance class you need, or that voice lesson.”
WATCH: Hamilton‘s Javier Muñoz Talks Performing in Front of Prince!
It may not have been as prestigious a gig as performing for President Obama or Beyoncé – both of which Muñoz has done in Hamilton – but he still approached the part with the same integrity.
For much more on Muñoz, pick up the latest issue of People on newsstands Friday.
“As an artist, you have to have integrity,” explains the native New Yorker. “Integrity doesn’t mean being arrogant. It means everything you do is done with excellence, no matter what it is. As much as you don’t want to be there or you feel it’s demeaning because it’s not your art, treat it with excellence. That’s the energy people want around.”
After his recent scary battle with cancer, the actor, who is also HIV positive but undetectable, has a humble, appreciative perspective on life and his career.
“I respect the opportunity that’s given to me to be employed in this moment, whatever it is – whether I’m a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or I’m Hamilton. I’m gracious about it,” he adds.