Lin-Manuel Miranda takes off his cap and tousles his longish quarantine hair, like he’s ready to get back on stage, throw on that colonial coat and rap historical rhymes as Alexander Hamilton at a moment’s notice.
“I haven’t cut my hair and I think it’s because I miss it,” Miranda says via video interview of playing the flowingly coiffed central character of the Tony Award-winning, history-making musical “Hamilton.” “It also helps that my wife likes the hair.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the only way anyone will see “Hamilton” anytime soon is on Disney+ (starting Friday), though the upside is this filmed production of the show will be streamed by a legion of new fans.
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“What blows my mind is more people will see the show on July 3, 4 and 5than have seen it in the previous five years,” says Miranda, 40, of “Hamilton,” which began its record-breaking Broadway run in 2015 before becoming a touring attraction. “Even if that’s just the Disney+ subscribers that exist now, that’s 50 million people. I’m really grateful that the wider world can see it in this way.”
The first act of the genre-smashing musical, with Black and Latino actors playing the Founding Fathers, takes Alexander Hamilton through the Revolutionary War, where he was the right-hand man of George Washington (Christopher Jackson) and the husband of Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo). The second act shifts to Hamilton’s tumultuous political and personal lives as a rival to Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and longtime friend Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.).
Directed by Thomas Kail, the “Hamilton” movie was primarily filmed in 2016 over two live performances before original cast members began to exit – and a week before Miranda departed. The show’s brain trust wanted the musical to be more accessible to audiences after “we were strapped to that rocket ship” of being a Broadway sensation and the show became a tough ticket to get, he says.
Over the years, Miranda has found it interesting how “Hamilton” has moved through the world and through time, “from the moment I got the incredible privilege of singing the first song in the White House (in 2009), back when we had a president who invited artists to the White House, to watching the show resonate under the Trump administration.”
For example, there used to just be a laugh with the line “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Now it gets a “Yeaaaaaaah!” from the audience “as immigrants have been increasingly under attack” in the USA, Miranda says.
With the national conversation currently centered on white supremacy and systemic racism, “the lyrics about slavery – what all of these characters did and what they didn’t do – hit differently now because the show, just in telling Hamilton’s story, brushes against the origins of this country. It’s always going to have something to say,” Miranda says. “If I had any insight in the writing of this thing, it was everything that was present at the founding is still present: the sins of it, the paradoxes of it, the ways in which we fall short of the ideal ‘All men are created equal’ the moment we wrote it down.”
Having recently watched the movie, what stands out to Miranda now is how young the people were who fought in the Revolutionary War – Hamilton, for example, was in his early 20s – and how young the people are leading the charge in the protests happening as a result of George Floyd’s death.
“I’m inspired when I see a sign at a Black Lives Matter protest that says, ‘History has its eyes on you,’ ” says Miranda, referring to the “Hamilton” song in which Washington tells Hamilton about a tragic failure in his first command. The pandemic has forced “a real reckoning of what kind of country we want this to be. That’s an unexpected resonance, just young people demanding change that kind of echoes across centuries.”
Another thing Miranda noticed with the “Hamilton” film: “That’s the most tired I’ve ever been,” he says with a laugh. “I had a newborn child, I was doing two outdoor performances for a thousand people out on the street every week, and I was doing seven shows a week.”
Still, he misses it. “I’m sure I’ll jump in again,” says Miranda, who’s currently on coronavirus-forced hiatus from directing his own movie musical, the late Jonathan Larson’s “Tick, Tick … Boom!”