Tony Award-winning actor James Monroe Iglehart is a class act. He’s best known for his larger-than-life characters in Broadway’s “Aladdin” and “Hamilton.”
Many years ago, at a Tony Award nominee brunch, I wanted to speak with the very gifted Iglehart but his publicist tried to whisk him away but in true superhero, genieesque fashion, the vivacious man stopped to speak with me and it made me feel seen, heard, and respected. I’ve been a fan ever since.
We caught up via Zoom to discuss his hosting duties for the new HGTV’s “Biggest Little Christmas Showdown”—a four-part “mini-sized” holiday house tournament-style series. In this new series, the nation’s best miniaturists are charged with creating the merriest mini-holiday houses, complete with all the festive, tiny trimmings.
It’s a competition and each week, only one team will wow the spirited panel of judges, including designer, Genevieve Gorder and miniatures experts June Clinkscales and Dave Asling, to advance to the next round of this cheerful competition.
In the final round, the top contenders will craft their most extravagant mini-holiday houses ever for a chance at the ultimate victory: a grand prize worth $50,000 and the surprise of a lifetime when their winning miniature is super-sized into a magical vacation home decked out for the sea-son.
“Biggest Little Christmas Showdown premiered Friday, November 27. The second episode is scheduled to air on Friday, December 3 at 9 P.M.
But back to Tony Award winner Iglehart, the San Francisco Bay area native most recently appeared on Broadway in two productions simultaneously – in the aforementioned smash-hit “Hamilton” playing Lafayette/Jefferson, and with Freestyle Love Supreme as their special guest star. No stranger to the Broadway community he made his debut in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Iglehart then originated the role of Bobby in Memphis on Broadway before landing the role of Genie in “Aladdin.” For his work as the Genie, James won both the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. James made his sold-out solo de-but at 54 Below in a show entitled “How the Heck Did I Get Here?” He was brought back for a sold-out return engagement shortly thereafter. James has brought his act to concert venues across the country. He recurred on the Netflix series “Maniac” opposite Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” as Coriolanus Burt, the rival of male protagonist Titus Andromedon played by Tituss Burgess. James also guest-starred on “At Home with Amy Sedaris”, the Fox television shows “Perfect Harmony” and “Gotham” and on CBS’ “Elementary” and “The Good Wife”. He voices the role of Lance Strongbow on all three seasons of the hit Disney ani-mated television show “Tangled.” He recently made his feature debut opposite Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage, and Julianna Margulies in the “Three Christs.”
Here is what the uber gifted Tony Award®-winning actor James Monroe Iglehart had to share about his new hosting gig on HGTV’s “Biggest Little Christmas Showdown” and the resilience of Broadway.
Los Angeles Sentinel (LAS): Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Many years ago, at a Tony nominee brunch, you made it your business to speak with me after your publicist passed me by. Thank you.
JAMES MONROE IGLEHART (JMI): You are welcome. You know what. I think I remember that?
LAS: Hahaha, it’s the hair. So, tell me, why did you say yes to hosting HGTV’s ‘Biggest Little Christmas Showdown?’
JMI: First of all, it’s a wonderful, holiday competition show. Basically, we have these amazing artists — they are called miniaturists and they build miniature houses. We gave them a Christmas theme and there are three teams and the best teams go to the finale and they work their butts off competing for the prize of $50,000.
LAS: James. I wish I could win $50,000 right about now. Feel me?
JMI: (laughing) I do. I do.
LAS: Are you a crafty man? Is that why you wanted to be the host of HGTV’s Biggest Little Christmas Showdown?
JMI: No, actually I’m not very crafty at all. My mom is a crafty one. I am one of those people, late at night, after a show, I eat dinner with my wife and what are we watching? We are watch-ing programs on HGTV.
LAS: Me too! I begin to believe I could renovate something. I can’t but HGTV makes me believe that I can.
JMI: (laughing) Seriously. This is the kind of show that I would watch.
LAS: Confession. Me too.
JMI: When you see the amount of detail you will be amazed. They make real food. They make vases. They have running water. It’s ridiculous.
LAS: You had me at making real [minature] food.
JMI: (laughing) We have amazing judges: designer Genevieve Gorder and miniatures experts June Clinkscales and Dave Asling.
LAS: Sweet. So. Broadway is still dark. Thoughts on this?
JMI: What I love about theater is that over the centuries … theater has always been shut down. Now we have a pandemic but other times [theater has been shut down] it was because people didn’t want free-thinking. People have always shut books, theater, and the arts down. The great thing is theater has always risen bigger and better like a phoenix. So we are down but when we come back it’s going to be even better.
JMI: Because not only do we still have all the talent that we had in our theater community but we will have safety precautions that will make even Disneyland blush.
“Biggest Little Christmas Showdown” Premieres Friday, November 27, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.