Lin-Manuel Miranda created and starred in the musical Hamilton, which premiered on Broadway in 2015. The show, about Alexander Hamilton, an American founding father, draws inspiration from hip-hop as well as more traditional musical forms and has won numerous awards, including 11 Tonys and the award Pulitzer 2016 from the theater. Mirandas songs appear in Disney animation Moana, he played Jack in Mary Poppins returns and balloonist Lee Scoresby in Its dark materials, which returned to BBC One earlier this month.
How does the character of Lee Scoresbys change in this series of Its dark materials?
He does everything to protect Lyra. And that leads to some pretty wild places: it leads him out of the world he exists in, to witches councils and beyond. During his short time with Lyra, he changed. He made the tactical decision that my life is what it is, but this children’s life could be better. We’ve both been given a bunch of rotten cards and I’m going to do what I can to make sure she has a better future.
It’s important in children’s stories that the parents aren’t there, isn’t it? It gives the child freedom
It is true, but there is an incredible and profound loss that comes with the loss of your parents. I remember when my father’s parents passed away, my father was in his fifties and he was like: I’m an orphan. The way I handled it Hamilton, [Alexander] Hamilton and [Aaron] Burr both have this early loss and Hamilton decides to go a mile per minute, and Burr is terrified. He’s crippled because of it, because he doesn’t want to waste the time he has. It’s not just how loss drives the story, but how this character is marked by it.
You described Lee Scoresby as being a bit like Han Solo, but hes also Indiana Jones, no?
He certainly has the look: the leather coat, the hat that sort of stays in a hot air balloon! We owe a lot to Harrison Ford, for his lonely characters who find a cause. Most of my summer I was in a hot air balloon with the hot priest Andrew Scott [who plays Colonel John Parry in His Dark Materials]. We have become very close. Andrew likes Judge Judy, we laughed so hard. It’s the way you get to know someone: you start by talking about work and then, at the end, you say: Have you seen that viral video of that cat doing that?
Hamilton was criticized by the Black Lives Matter movement for not exploring the fact that the main characters were slaves the owners. If you wrote Hamilton now, would you have changed your approach?
It’s impossible to look at the quarterback with hindsight. I’ve read the reviews which are all valid, I’m aware of what’s not on the show, and a lot of those reviews also surfaced in 2015 and 2016 but, you know I got these guys singing and dance and I try to present them as imperfect and as complete as possible, and always get you out of the theater before The set leave outside. What I console myself with is that the show is a starting point for the conversation. We have always seen Hamilton like a catwalk, not like a full story. He cannot sum it all up.
There was a rap battle over slavery that was dropped from the show, right?
Yes i posted this on the Hamilton Blend. It couldn’t happen on the show. In the context of the show, this rap, it’s only four minutes of people saying it’s a problem, we don’t know what to do, and their different opinions. It was extremely cathartic to write Hamilton calling out Washington to be a slave owner, but that doesn’t get the ball rolling on the pitch, it doesn’t move time and history. It can’t work, cause none of them did enough [to stop slavery]. We have the civil war as proof that none of them did enough. And that’s largely the topic of this conversation.
You seem more political on your social media these days, what has changed for you?
Honestly, the worlds have changed. My beliefs haven’t changed, but I consider Twitter to be a very loud megaphone, and it’s a responsibility. Twitter has gone from me who tweeted Buffy live while I was sick in bed, that’s how we all started with Twitter, to everything I write on Twitter now is a press release or an article. So how do you deal with this? You write down the things you believe in.
Have you ever thought about handing over your Twitter feed to someone else?
I love Twitter for the connections and the true friends I have made. And it was amazing parallel muscle while I was writing Hamilton, because I was writing at home and had this audience in my pocket that I could talk to, when I wasn’t working through to get two verses. But I find that as I work more in film, as I write and do everything, I need the mental bandwidth for my creative projects. My Twitter feed isn’t coming to a movie theater near you anytime soon. I need to get my brain back!
Your work is positive
I do not know. The musical I’m most famous for ends in a shootout and everyone dies, so
OK, how do you think about it?
I think we are the product of what we consume. My dad loves action movies and breakout musicals, he’s not here for your drama Merchant Ivory, and my mom loves four hour movies about two people who almost have a relationship and one d ‘them dies. This is his happy place. And so I actually think my job is in the middle ground. I’m gonna try to make you feel really good, but you’re gonna leave crying.
Your father, Luis A Miranda, works in politics and has a documentary get out of it
Although I am not cold on the streets, I always say that I am the sweetest member of my family. When you meet my father you understand everything because he is truly relentless. When he finishes a task, he asks: What other tasks could I do? He pushes everyone around him to do their best. He is an extraordinary character. Writing Hamilton It was like writing about him, because Hamilton is also relentless. They both came from the Caribbean when they were 18. My dad also came in not speaking English, got a scholarship like Hamilton did, and his life went in many different directions. When I play Hamilton, I play my dad! That you must listen to me! it’s Luis Miranda.
It’s knowing that death is coming is part of your attitude to life?
I think so, I think it permeates my work in a pretty big way and part of that comes from growing up in New York. You are tricked into believing it’s on every corner and if you take the wrong step off the subway platform I see my job as pretty morbid everywhere, and I think the secret to why Hamilton has had the success it has had, does it end with two main questions: it ends with the word time; and it ends with who lives, who dies, who tells your story? It forces you to think: what am I doing with my life? If you’ve spent the day watching Netflix and then headed to the Victoria Palace Theater and watched Hamilton, you would be like: What did I do today? Look what they did!