Miguel Cervantes on Returning to Broadway 5 Months After Daughter's Death: It's 'Upside Down'
"It’s all very familiar, but it didn’t quite feel like it did before," the Hamilton actor tells PEOPLE
On October 12, life for Hamilton actor Miguel Cervantes and his wife Kelly changed irrevocably when their young daughter Adelaide — who had spent nearly her entire life battling seizures — died just days before her fourth birthday.
Her parents found themselves thrust into the unfathomable grief that comes from losing a child too soon. But then the phone rang, calling Miguel back to Broadway.
“The call came just four days after Adelaide’s passing,” Miguel, 43, tells PEOPLE exclusively. The actor will return to Broadway to play the title role in Hamilton full-time starting March 3. “We are not overly religious people, but the timing was almost unbelievable.”
“Grief changes you, but there was never a doubt he would accept the job,” adds Kelly, 37, who was there in the crowd as her husband performed the role of Alexander Hamilton for the last time in Chicago back on Jan. 5. “He just had to take it.”
And while Miguel agrees that the chance to get back on the Broadway stage is an opportunity of a lifetime, it has not been easy as he and Kelly continue to grow accustomed to a world without Adelaide in it.
“It’s so weird to be here back on this stage,” admits Miguel, who played the role originated by Lin-Manuel Miranda as an alternate in the Broadway cast before heading off to lead the Chicago cast in September of 2016. “I got here on Monday and kind of felt upside down, you know? It’s all very familiar, but it didn’t quite feel like it did before.”
He pauses for a moment as he grows emotional.
“I guess its another reminder of how different life will be and how different life is now,” he says. “I went and stopped by our old house [in New Jersey] and was flooded with memories of our old life and who we were when we were here last. But that was three and a half years ago, and much happened in those three and a half years.”
Not only did the couple experience the birth and death of Adelaide, but they also experienced the love of the Windy City, a city that comforted the couple as they dealt with the unimaginable.
“Even though doing Hamilton on Broadway is going to be an amazing experience, nothing will ever compare to what our experience was with Hamilton in Chicago,” says Kelly, who has long worked alongside Miguel to raise awareness and funds for the Chicago-based Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). “The way that city embraced us and gave us a platform was just incredible.”
But as they say, the show must go on.
For now, Kelly and the couple’s son Jackson, 7, will stay in Chicago as he finishes off the school year, while Miguel takes his place on the stage on Broadway.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a rougher time because they still have each other and I’m alone,” says Miguel, tearfully. “I’m struggling out here. But we will be OK. My wife is a superhero and my son is a rock star and we are going to be fine and we are going to get through this.”
And yes, little Jackson has long-reached rock star status, taking on what has been an emotional roller coaster and finding a way of being a source of his strength for his parents.
“He is always there trying to lift us up,” Kelly says. “I’m sort of amazed by him. I don’t know how we got so lucky to have such wonderful children.”
“I don’t know how to explain it, but he can understand so much,” adds Miguel. “I mean, he has good days and bad days, but for a 7-year-old to have to deal with so much emotion and so many changes and emotional changes.”
“We are not singular in what we are dealing with,” he adds, “but I watch him rebound and how he remains strong. It’s just miraculous to see.”
Armed with the strength of Jackson and other family, friends and fans, Kelly and Miguel have made the conscious decision to simply take it all one day at a time.
“It energizes both of us that we will now have the opportunity to share Adelaide and her story with all of these people in New York,” asserts Kelly. “They might not have met her, but they will feel her energy through us. There is a whole city of people who can benefit from that and I’m excited to share her and her memory and all the lessons she taught us.”
Miguel adds, “Adelaide will color everything we do from this point forward. Her story and her struggles will have an unbelievable effect on who we are and how we see the world and how we move through space. We will always have her life in our life. Now it’s about how we use that experience to go out and change the world. That’s how she will live on and how her story will continue.”