Anthony Ramos Makes a Name for Himself With 'She's Gotta Have It' (Exclusive)

Marzena Szymanska Photography

The former ‘Hamilton’ star talks to ET about his breakout year onscreen and working with Hollywood legends.

“Everyone in the room knew immediately: This is special.”

Hamilton star Anthony Ramos is talking about that room where it happened. From workshop presentations at The Public to sold-out crowds at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theater, Ramos was part of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical phenomenon from the beginning in 2014, playing John Laurens and Alexander Hamilton’s son Philip for over two years. “We knew we were about to be a part of something that was going to change all of our lives,” Ramos tells ET.

Now, like other stars from the original cast, Ramos is seeing his life change dramatically as his career reaches new heights. This year, the 26-year-old actor and musician landed his first starring role on TV, working with filmmaker Spike Lee, no less, playing Mars Blackmon on the Netflix TV adaptation of She’s Gotta Have It, based on Lee’s debut 1988 film about a polyamorous woman artist living in Brooklyn. Lee originated the role of Mars in the movie, but Ramos definitely makes the character his own.

“Spike really let me fly,” the actor says of filming the series with Lee. “He really just let me take this character and reinvent it… It was the most creatively free space that I could have asked for.” Though Lee gave him the movie for background, Ramos waited until halfway through the shoot to watch it, after he’d already established the character in his head.

Of Nola Darling’s three male lovers, Mars is the most eccentric and free-wheeling -- and is never without a smile. In the series, Mars is Puerto Rican and from the projects, like Ramos, who was born in Brooklyn just a few years after Lee wrote the movie and just blocks from where the series was filmed. “Mars is the voice of that kid from the neighborhood who has been here,” Ramos says. “Watching the neighborhood change over the course of my life and getting to be that character… It means a lot to me to be able to be the voice of those people.”

On the set of She’s Gotta Have It and behind the scenes of Hamilton, Ramos was inspired by the fierce work ethics of the creators driving his breakthrough projects. “To see these cats work as many hours and dedicate as much time as they do to their craft,” he says of Lee and Miranda, “that’s the No. 1 thing I picked up. There’s no such thing as ‘I know that already’ or ‘I can’t learn something new today.’”

Ramos felt a similar admiration for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga on the set of A Star Is Born, the American Hustle actor’s highly anticipated directorial debut. “Watching Bradley was something else, too; the way this man focuses is on another level. It was inspiring,” Ramos says, adding that he’d stick around after filming his scenes just to watch Cooper in action. Ramos plays aspiring dancer Ramon, the best friend to Ally (Gaga). “That woman works so hard, it’s incredible,” he says of his co-star. “I cannot wait for the world to see her in this.” The movie is set for release in May 2018. The following year, Ramos has his next blockbuster appearance lined up, in Warner Bros.’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters opposite Millie Bobby Brown and Vera Farmiga.

This year also saw Ramos paired up with seasoned pros when he appeared on three episodes of the Will & Grace revival as Grace’s assistant Tony. For his first appearance on a sitcom, it was quite the set to join. “These people are on another frequency,” Ramos recalls of the efficiency between the cast and crew, who’ve worked together for years. He also admits to nearly stanning out on Megan Mullally when the two improvised a dance together that was later cut for time. “I had to keep myself together. I was almost like a fan watching this legend in the sitcom world. I had to tell myself, ‘Yo, Ant, you’re also in the scene with her. This is a team effort. Let’s get it together!’”

Filming the NBC series was an “awesome” way to close out “a crazy year doing all the stuff I was blessed to do,” Ramos says.

His appearance was also a welcome moment of inclusion on what has generally been a pretty white show. “To have them incorporate me and have me work in the office, it was a win,” he says, pointing to opportunities like this to broaden representation on screen. “We can have more diversity and it won’t take away from the show,” he says.

“Latinos, I think we have to be fearless,” Ramos says about breaking through in Hollywood. “Any shows you think you may not be right for, still go for it. Any stories you want to write, we gotta write them… Someone’s gonna bite. But we’ve gotta do the work.” Ramos is doing his part with the music he’s written and released this year ahead of his first EP, which was inspired by the turmoil following the 2016 election and is set to drop in January 2018, one year after the presidential inauguration. Three of his songs are also featured in She’s Gotta Have It.

“I pray that I can be a part of that movement of Latino actors and artists who are inspiring other young Latin artists to really get out there,” he says. “Working with Lin inspired me to do it, so hopefully I can do that for somebody else.”