With a mixtape coming out, a new musical and talks about a new movie, Lin-Manuel Miranda is having a great year. We caught up with the performer, writer and actor to get the 411 on his busy schedule and what it takes to make it on Broadway.
How’s The Hamilton Mixtape coming along?
“It’s coming out great. I’ve been working on-and-off on it since we did that concert at Lincoln Center. My goal is to have an album of songs, at least written, by the end of the year. My focus right now is making sure I have a bunch of killer songs that tell the story well. I’m just starting to think of the business side to it and the best [time] to release it. I think that the trajectory of a lot of hip-hop artists is really that myth of the American dream, of really pulling yourself up by the strength of your work and pull yourself out of your circumstances. And Hamilton is the first of this American story that has those echoes.”
What was it about Alexander Hamilton that screamed hip-hop to you?
“He literally wrote his way out of poverty in St. Croix, where he grew up. He wrote a poem about how bad in his island it was, and his poem was so good that they sent him to the mainland. He sort of became indispensable because of his speed and good writing. He also used that strength and that gift to fight. He used to publicly [duel] against Jefferson and John Adams, against their ideas. This is a guy who fought a war with words and it got him killed. There are echoes of B.I.G, in that his wife thought that he was cheating on her with her sister. There’s echoes of Tupac in which he embodies a lot of contradictions because he could really speak responsibly about the future of the country, but he could also engage in reckless behavior that got him in trouble. He would also sometimes go beyond the pale to take an argument way past civility. I know those guys that can be brilliant and at the same time self-destructive as well.”
Are you excited about Bring It On [the musical]?
“We start rehearsals [soon]. We are sort of 'full-systems go' with that, in terms of writing, and they shot a commercial yesterday with the cast. It’s crazy because you never know when a theater becomes available and 'it’s go time.' We are throwing these girls 20 feet in the air, we need a theater that the sightlines can do our show justice. There were other theaters available, but we were waiting on one that suited us best. We are now opening August 1 and we are ready to go. We are really excited. We are opening in the St. James Theatre on 44th St.”
Which MC do you think would do well as a Broadway actor?
“Mos Def has done Broadway. I think Common is a really strong actor. The trick about Broadway is that it’s eight times a week. I think Common, Eminem... I am thinking of these well-disciplined rappers that have released album after album. It really is about stamina.”
Do you think it would have been harder to break out as a rapper than on Broadway?
“Yes, it would have been. I never considered myself a rapper, I consider myself a lyricist. I like writing hip-hop lyrics, but I also like writing in other genres, too. It’s all storytelling to me, I’ve dabbled in that stuff. I once won a freestyle rap battle... but the whole thing just gave me a stomachache and the whole thing is so stressful. I just rather prefer to be writing for characters in my house.”
What’s the update on the In the Heights movie?
“We have people that are working on that, and we have a script that we like. I don’t think that it will happen this year. I have a pretty [busy] summer as it is and I feel that this movie is the type of movie that has to be shot in the summer.”
Stay tuned for part two of the Lin-Manuel Miranda interview, where he talks about his new movie, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, in theaters August 15.