Len-Manuel Miranda created and starred in the musical Hamilton, which opened on Broadway in 2015. The show, about Alexander Hamilton, an American founding father, is based on hip-hop and more traditional musical forms, and won many awards, including 11 Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama from 2016. Miranda’s songs appear in Disney animation Moana, played Jack in The return of Mary Poppins and the aeronautical Lee Scoresby in Its dark materials, which returned to BBC One earlier this month.
How does Lee Scoresby’s character change in this series of Its dark materials?
He does everything he can to protect Lyra. And it takes him to some pretty wild places – it takes him outside of the world he exists in, to witch councils and beyond. In his short time with Lyra, he has changed. He has made the tactical decision that “my life is what it is, but this child’s life could be better. We were both dealt a rotten deck and I’m going to do what I can to make sure I have a better future. “
In children’s stories it is important that parents are not present, is it not? It gives the child freedom …
That’s true, but there is an incredibly deep loss that comes with losing your parents. I remember when my dad’s parents passed away, my dad was 50 years old and he said, “I’m an orphan.” The way that I handled it in Hamilton, [Alexander] Hamilton and [Aaron] Burr both have this early loss and Hamilton decides to go a mile a minute, and Burr is terrified. He’s paralyzed by it, because he doesn’t want to spoil the time he has. It’s not just about how the loss is an engine of the story, it’s also about how that character is marked by it.
You have described Lee Scoresby as a bit like Han Solo, but it is also Indiana Jones, No?
It certainly has the look: the leather coat, the hat that somehow gets stuck in a damn hot air balloon. We owe a lot to Harrison Ford, for his lonely characters finding a cause. Most of my summer I was in a hot air balloon with “hot priest” Andrew Scott [who plays Colonel John Parry in His Dark Materials]. We got very close. Andrew loves Judge Judy, We laughed a lot. It’s the way you meet someone – you start off talking about work and then at the end you’re saying, “Have you seen this viral video of this cat doing this?”
Hamilton has received criticism from the Black Lives Matter movement for not exploring the fact that the main characters were slaves owners. If you were writing Hamilton Now would you have changed your focus
It is impossible to look back at it. I read the reviews, all valid, I am aware of what is not on the show, and a lot of this criticism also came up in 2015 and 2016, but, you know, I have these guys singing and dancing and I’m trying to present them as imperfect and complete as possible, and still get you out of the theater sooner Set Let’s go. What comforts me is the fact that the show is a starting point for conversation. We have always seen Hamilton like a front door, not a complete story. It cannot encapsulate everything.
There was a rap battle over slavery that was removed from the show, right?
Yes i released it about him Hamilton Mixtape. It couldn’t happen on the show. Within the context of the show, that rap is just four minutes of people saying “This is a problem, we don’t know what to do,” and their various opinions. It was enormously cathartic to write to Hamilton calling Washington for being a slave owner, but he doesn’t get the ball onto the field, he doesn’t move time and history. It can’t work, because none of them did enough [to stop slavery]. We have the civil war as proof that none of them did enough. And that’s what this conversation is about.
You seem more political on your social media these days, what changed for you?
Honestly, the world has changed. My beliefs haven’t changed, but I think of Twitter as a very loud megaphone, and that’s a responsibility. Twitter has gone from live-tweeting Buffy while I’m sick in bed, which is how we all start with Twitter, to everything I write on Twitter now is a press release or article. So how do you deal with it? Write 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 genuine friends I have made. And it was an amazing parallel muscle as I wrote Hamilton, because I was writing at home and then I had this audience in my pocket that I could talk to, when I wasn’t working to the bone to get two couplets. 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 account won’t be hitting a nearby movie theater anytime soon. I need my brain back!
Your work is positive …
I do not know anything about that. The musical I’m most famous for ends in a shooting and everyone dies, so …
OK, well, how do you think about it?
I think we are a product of what we consume. My dad likes action movies and escapist musicals, he’s not here for your drama Merchant Ivory, and my mom likes four-hour movies about two people who almost have a relationship and then one of them dies. That is your happy place. And so I think my work is in the sweet spot between that. I will try to make you feel very good but you will go crying.
Your dad, Luis A Miranda, works in politics and has a documentary coming out on him …
Although I am known to have no chills, I always say that I am the softest member of my family. When you meet my dad you understand everything, because he is really unforgiving. When he finishes a task, ask, “What other tasks could he be doing?” He pushes everyone around him to do their best and as much as they can. He is an extraordinary character. Writing Hamilton It was like writing about him, because Hamilton is also relentless. They both came from the Caribbean at age 18; my father also came without speaking English, got a scholarship like Hamilton, and his life sped off in many different directions. When I play Hamilton, I play my dad! That “You have to listen to me!” – That’s Luis Miranda.
Is to know that death is coming part of your attitude to life?
I think so, I think that permeates my work in a pretty big way and part of that is just growing up in New York. They educate you to believe that that is around every corner and if you take the wrong step on the subway platform … I see my work as quite morbid at all times, and I think the secret of why Hamilton it has had the success it has had, it ends in two big questions: it ends with the word “time”; and it ends in who lives, who dies, who tells your story? It forces you to think, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” If you’ve spent the day watching Netflix and then walked over to the Victoria Palace Theater and watched Hamilton, you’d be like: “What did I do today? Look what they did! “
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.